On walking

Walking is in my blood. My father was never one for it, but my mother is a walker. It wasn’t unusual for her to walk for hours for the hell of it, with unfailing regularity. Now in her mid 60s, with troublesome knee joints, she still possesses enough enthusiasm to out-walk many people half her age.

For me, learning to read while walking sealed the deal. As a child, taking the meandering route home from school instead of the bus, meant I had at least an hour more a day with my book. Then I too, discovered that walking is catharsis, growth, clarity, pleasure, refuge, salvation.

In early November, a few days after my father’s funeral, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee, as so many others have done, playing basketball. I limped into surgery in mid January so they could construct me a new ligament from strands of my own hamstring, marvelously, through three little holes around the knee.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Chinatown, Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Chinatown, Singapore

The road to recovery: Two weeks on crutches, fighting a black plastic brace I eventually ditched a few days early. Then hobbling around with one crutch for a while afterwards. Regular physiotherapy. Not being able to bend or straighten my knee much. Moving slowly, for frustratingly short periods of time. Icing fifteen minutes out of every hour. All in all, the first three weeks post surgery were reminiscent of the two months before it, except for the copious amounts of cling wrap I used (to keep the dressing dry when i showered).

Then one day, I could straighten my leg completely again. Later, hit the ground heel first, bend the leg normally, push off on toes and bear weight without flinching. Climb stairs. Walk for a whole day without feeling it.

Colours got brighter, and smells, more evocative. The rest of my body registered sensation, not just knot of discomfort that was my recently operated-on knee. I started to mark minute, but noticeable progress in recovery everyday. I stopped being overwhelmed by everything. Because I had mobility – and thus, independence and capability – back.

I’ve got another six or so months of rehabilitation my full range of movement comes back, but this is the first time in five months that I’ve been able to walk normally again.

I am alive. It feels wonderful.

Across the causeway to Kuala Lumpur. Tuas link, Singapore
Across the causeway to Kuala Lumpur. Tuas link, Singapore


  1. Patrick says:

    Many, many years ago I dislocated my patella… Stupid accident really, I just twirled (seriously) and half of my leg stayed put, basically splitting in half at the knee before bouncing back in. It felt like I was being torn to pieces. Within minutes it had swollen to the size of a football. Fun. It’s a cliché but man is it ever crazy how fragile we are… I spent over a year getting back on my feet: crutches, physiotherapy complete with electrodes to stimulate the muscles, rehabilitation, then a cane for months and months.

    But strangely enough, when I look back I realize this incident sent me on the path that led me to where I am today. I won’t go into details but let’s just say it allowed me to change course. Forced it really.

    Glad to hear you’re getting better. I’m sure you’re both going crazy from wanderlust ;)

    1. Charlene says:

      Patrick, oh my! I feel your pain. Ouch ouch ouch. But I am glad to hear about what came of it. I too have had this bloody knee drama change my path for one I am thankful to have been taken down.

      Here’s to making the best of a situation. May we never stop being grateful for the lessons in adversity :)

  2. V. Opoku says:

    ouch! good to know that your getting better now :)

    1. Charlene says:

      Thanks Vincent :) It’s definitely good to be walking around normally again.

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