My physical therapist’s office is a converted New York apartment. It is normally bustling with patients on crutches or canes. (Hmmm…”bustling” is definitely the wrong word.) It is normally hobbling with patients, but today it was almost empty. When I entered he gestured toward an exam room and I went in to strip my bottom half down to my underwear. I waited on the padded table, sitting on paper that scrunched as I squirmed.
This was my forth visit to George the PT. While I am very fond of his comforting tone and paternal nature, my haunches were raised when, during my last visit, he suggested I quadruple my recommended therapy. (See “Failure Muffins”) I was already feeling unsure about everything- my body had been failing me with extreme hip pain for over a month and my doctors had overwhelmed me with many big diagnostic words delivered in rapid succession. George was the one I trusted the most and then, blammo, he tried to sell me more sessions. When you’re a patient you quickly develop a hard protective shell, unsure of who to trust.
But I like George. And his office is close to my apartment. And I know that they’re all going to try to sell me more sessions. That’s the game. That’s the world we live in. Ho hum.
He walked into the exam room. “All right, my last visit today.” while shoving a bit of muffin into his mouth. “My apologies Alison, I have not yet eaten. You know, in Europe you never miss a meal and you never see people eating between meals.” (He was born in Greece but raised throughout Europe and has a lovely accent that I will honor poorly.) He seemed distracted as he examined my hip and left thigh. He looked at the clock three times in 10 minutes. He stopped short and took a breath in.
“My wife is having surgery right now. It is her breast.”
His last words caught in his throat for a second. “I think we are doing the right thing… but who can say? She had a surgeon who could not see her for months and finally we found another one but it’s been months of waiting and worrying. I do not understand always what they say and I think we are doing the right thing but how can you know for sure when it’s so many doctors and so many things…”
There I was, wrapped in a sheet, listening to a man IN the medical profession describe EXACTLY the same fears and confusions I had had not a week prior. I’m sure I smiled at this realization- not the most comforting move while the guy was breaking down- but I couldn’t help myself.
We are all the same. We are all lost. And while understanding that doesn’t solve all the problems of this world, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I told George I thought everything was going to be fine and he nodded eagerly like a little boy. I told him to make sure to eat a real meal and to take some deep breaths. I saw him return to his body and relax back into it. I told him I had scheduled my surgery for January 5th and he said I was very smart and he would see me after my surgery- no pushing for more sessions. He’s a good man and I’m sure his wife is going to be fine. I am honored that he shared that story with me. I think it was fate. It was too perfect to be anything else.
It was nice to get the attention off myself for a moment. I have been too focused on my pain, my stress and my quickly growing posterior region (my non-physical therapists are named Ben and Jerry). I came home and fixed a couple of incredibly healthy dishes for our dinner… using the versatile, inexpensive and underappreciated ingredient I’d picked up day before.
Behold the mighty walnut.
Kale with Sauteed Walnuts
- 3 pounds kale, stems and center ribs discarded
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Tear kale into bite size pieces and steam over 2 inches of salted water for 6-7 minutes.
- Saute chopped walnuts in oil for 5 minutes over medium high heat, being careful not to burn the walnuts.
- Add the chopped garlic and brown sugar and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add kale and stir fry until heated. Add salt, pepper and hot peppers.
Mixed Baby Greens with Warm Fennel Dressing
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 pound baby greens
- 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup shaved parmesan
- Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and honey in a small bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté half the thinly sliced fennel until it begins to soften and become light brown. Add the dressing mixture to the fennel and sauté over medium heat for another minute or two. Add walnuts, sauté another minutes and then turn off the heat.
- Toss baby greens in a large bowl with the remaining fennel and shaved parmesan and warm dressing. Season and serve immediately.