It was Monday. February 6, 2017. I was driving down the grade toward a town near us, Grass Valley, in my precious white 4Runner I long ago named Izzy. My husband was caravanning behind me in his truck. Izzy had been having occasional trouble starting, so we were taking her into Grass Valley to our trusty mechanics at Arch’s Automotive.

It was the first time I’d driven since my second total hip replacement seven weeks earlier. It was my left hip, and Izzy is a sexy five speed, so I hadn’t wanted to rush any renewal of our relationship. Beyond the clutch, I needed to ditch the pain meds for a safe drive. I’d driven a few times between surgeries in 2016, but even driving to the Post Office in the Juan was exhausting. Even getting in and out of Izzy was exhausting. So I’d stopped driving and gone on modified medical leave so I could work only from home. My son took temporary custody of my car so she wouldn’t just sit there.

When I hopped in her on the morning of February 6, the first thing that struck me was how easy it was to get in. She has a six-inch lift, so it’s a bit of a stretch for a short person like me. I couldn’t get the key to even turn in the ignition. My husband handed me his key and it worked; she started right up. Later my husband said I’d been using his key; it had been so long I’d forgotten. We were worried about her stalling so he got the gate for me and I was off.

Not even the fact that I couldn’t get my iPod working dampened an effervescence I felt within my body. The bubbliness began at my feet, which were working the pedals so well I was reminded of the bicycle cliché. It was just like getting back on a bike. I kept an eye out for my husband’s truck but I was way ahead of him since he’d stopped to get the gate. I was alone on the road for the first time since I could remember. I finally got the c.d. to work, and it was the Traveling Wilburies. “And if you need your oil changed, I’ll do it for free.”

About half way to the state highway the bubbliness had reached every chakra. This is the happiest day of my life, I found myself saying inside my head. Really? I countered with a certain degree of judgment. What about the births of your three children? What about when you got married? The last time. No, each time.  Dutifully I scanned each of those beautiful experiences, the anniversary of one had only been two days before. I smiled inside my reverie. “Nope, I’m pretty sure this is the happiest day of my life,” I repeated aloud. Hmmmm, I countered silently.

As I headed into the mossy, gleaming Yuba River Canyon, I remembered a therapy session I’d had at the height of my immobility, before my first hip surgery. Sariah was illustrating to me that for some reason I’d been stopped in my tracks, literally unable to take another step without intense pain and even danger. Why? She pointed out the “coincidental” location of the hips with the first and second chakras, and drew a parallel to child birth. “It’s time,” she said in her gentle yet penetrating way, “To give birth to yourself.”

“I’m not worth that much trouble!” I blurted out, then looked at her, shocked. I hadn’t any idea such a phlegmy, acerbic, cancerous thought was inside me. I am the person who usually drives other people to therapy when they say such things. But those six words sat there in the room staring at us like an infographic on Instagram. And a new layer of our work began.

My husband caught up with me on the way to town, keeping his distance like the excellent driver he is. I rolled my window down despite the rain, and I let my left hand do a thumbs-up-happy-dance that rocked my whole body gently. This is the happiest day of my life, I repeated internally, amazed, feeling my body move with ease in Izzy’s seat. Somehow, through the fears and phobias and pain and exhaustion, I had been reborn. I had made it through the black hole and I was on the other side.

Not surprisingly, Izzy needed her starter rebuilt. I pick her up tomorrow and when I head out of Arch’s driveway on to East Main Street, I’m not sure where I’ll go first, or whether I will turn left or right. I won’t decide until then. As my old pal Jo Carol Pierce once said, “I’m going to let the beat keep me.”

Izzy and I in 2008 on another happy day.              I feel like this again.