With a Little Help from My Friends (Mary Strand)

This month’s theme is perseverance: how each of us deals with the very human speed bumps of life and, impliedly, how we keep writing through them.

Talk about speed bumps:  I’m writing this right before I head to the hospital for a partial knee replacement.

(Tragically, even though every medical professional who’s seen my knee report has burst into laughter, the triggering event for the partial knee replacement occurred 18 months ago, when I tripped over the inflatable penguins in my front yard.)

(The penguins are now dead to me.)

My whole life is one long series of speed bumps, although I usually pretend otherwise.  Most I handle quietly.  Thanks to social media, quite a few I don’t, in some cases because my speed bumps often tend to make people laugh.  (Damn those penguins.)

How do I survive the speed bumps?  Sheer guts, adrenaline, an ability to go without sleep (for a while!) . . . and a little help from my friends.
Sure, Ringo sang lead vocals on "With a Little Help from My Friends," but let's face it: Paul was the cute Beatle.

My orthopod and I agreed in mid-March that I needed a partial knee replacement immediately.  I live for sports but haven’t been able to play them (understatement) since January, and since March I haven’t taken a single step without pain.  The problem: my frantic schedule.  My orthopod actually had to flip through my calendar to believe it.  Seven weeks of mostly travel, one band gig, and my daughter’s graduation meant that the earliest possible date for surgery would be June 7, or three months later than either of us wanted.

Sometimes, speed bumps sound cool to others.  While I waited for a knee that works, I made five trips.  DC.  Greece and Norway.  Maryland.  Milwaukee.  NYC.  Typically, I had three days between trips, two of which were spent recovering from the trip I’d just taken or preparing for the next trip.  At first I traveled with my AlphaSmart and travel guitar, but my days were jam-packed, and I was exhausted.  I finally realized that preparing for my gig was more important (as in, crisis), so I focused on guitar in my limited free time.  As a result, I went four weeks without writing a word.

Two weeks ago, after my gig, I started writing again.  Truth?  The break from writing was actually great for me.  I had missed putting down new words and telling a story, and I was thrilled to be back at it.  I also realized that I could take a break if the speed bumps of life simply became too massive to roll over.

But three months of speed bumps also reminded me how much I appreciate my friends.
My bandmates didn’t give me crap (much) for being gone every weekend when we were rehearsing for our gig or for my occasional struggles to learn new music when I was exhausted and in pain.  My other friends didn’t give me crap (much) for my “fabulous” life of travel (ha) when it was obviously killing me.  Actually, most of the travel was fabulous: I just wouldn’t have scheduled it back to back, week after week, if I could’ve helped it.  Also, it was literally killing my knee.  A day after the final trip, to NYC, my knee shrieked its refusal to take another walk—anywhere—and I’ve been in ghastly pain ever since.

So my friends took me out for fruity cocktails.  To listen to live music.  To eat at fun restaurants.  They texted and emailed.  They didn’t ask how my book was coming (because good friends don’t), but they came to my gig.  They’ve offered to visit when I’m in the hospital and afterward when I’m laid up at home.  One keeps volunteering to let me drive her minivan while I’m recovering, and she’ll drive my two-seater convertible sports car.  (Nice try!)  We’ve laughed so much that sometimes I forget how much pain I’m in.

Through it all, they’ve been there for me.

To me, friends are a crucial component to perseverance and even survival.  Yeah, I can do a lot on my own, and I do, but when it’s crunch time, friends show up and help get me through it.  Even when I protest (as I usually do) that I don’t need help.

My friends: quite simply the best.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.


  1. Boy did this resonate with me. I have a partially torn ACL...not bad enough to get surgery, but enough to remind me frequently that part of my body isn't happy with me. I'm also knocking on lots of doors every day to talk to voters, so perseverance is a daily companion. Great post and I'm sharing it on my Facebook page.

    1. Hugs on your ACL! Perseverance is indeed a daily companion!

  2. Wow!!! You have been duct tapping it together--so glad you're going to get the knee fixed and that you have great friends to support you. <3

  3. Inflatable penguins'll getcha every time. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery, Mary!

  4. Thanks, Holly! Damn those penguins! :-)


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