Have you ever had that perfect storm of a day where every one thing adds on to the trouble of the last, ending in disaster? Have you ever had a lovely simple plan fall into a deep abyss of obstacles and limitations until you just had to let go?
That was last Friday for me. I had the perfect storm of physical trauma and pain landing me in the ER for the weekend. Now I’m back at Monday knowing the only thing I can do is pick up the pieces.
Resilience, the ability to recover quickly, to bounce back, is easy to measure in physical terms. It’s harder when you start looking at bouncing back from an emotional blow. The thing is, we live in our bodies and very often those physical traumas carry an emotional impact as well.
I find it helps to recognize that I have choices about my point of view. I can choose to see this as starting over from scratch, or I can choose to see it as a fresh start. I can choose to focus on the limitations or I can be grateful for all the help and support I receive. I can choose to continue to be miserable, or I can choose to pick myself up and move forward – wherever that might take me.
It’s like rebooting the computer. Sometimes things get stuck, there’s a little glitch. A quick turn it off and turn it back on again straightens the world around and gets things moving. I’d like to think that’s what this weekend was for me. A reboot. A little “enforced time out” to regroup and get my body back on track. A reminder to take things slowly and not try to do too much, too fast.
The tricky part is not to do too little either. It’s okay to get a little tired. It’s not okay to get tired because I’m bored from sitting around all day doing nothing. It’s okay to take it slow, it’s not okay to always take the easy way out. It’s another one of those balancing acts that changes every day. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised if I don’t always get it quite right!
With all this talk of surgery and recovery you can imagine I’ve spent a good amount of time in the last month sitting around at home. As soon as I was cleared to start driving again the world seemed to open up to me. So why am I feeling housebound?
With most abdominal surgeries there is a period of time when it’s important to restrict the amount of lifting you do. With this one, the general rule of thumb is “if it hurts don’t do it.” That’s really not a good guideline for me. Those muscles are not in great shape to begin with. This isn’t my first abdominal surgery. (It’s my 5th.) The likelihood of complications, even this far out, is just a little higher than “normal”.
Pain and I have agreed to pretty much ignore each other as we go about our business. One of the things I’m learning is to allow myself to pay a little more attention to how things actually feel (as opposed to how they relatively feel.). On my 1-10 scale childbirth comes in at a high 7/low 8 and I can’t remember the last time I was below a 3 without serious medication. If I notice it hurts, I’ve already done way too much.
Secondly, I have this “daily life” thing that requires unusual lifting. Daily tasks that once I start, I can’t really stop. I sat down with my Doctor at my post-op appointment and talked to her about it. You see, I have Orion. If I go anywhere I have to lift his wheelchair in and out of the car. It’s an ultralight chair, but after you add the seating system in it still weighs a little over 35 lbs. That may not seem like much, but it’s not a straight lift. It’s up and then in.
“Oh NO.”, my Doctor says, “You can’t be doing that! This was major surgery. We did a lot in there and I don’t want you pulling stiches. Don’t even think about starting to try something like that until you’re at LEAST 6 weeks out.”
Then I mentioned the other “lift” that I might do. Orion is tiny. He weighs 97 pounds. He manages most of his transfers on his own. However, there is this transfer into the tub….. I watched my hispanic doctor turn white as a sheet. I have an appointment to see her again in 3 months. She might be willing to at least talk about it then.
So my schedule is interrupted by visits from Orion’s Dad, who comes by to give him a bath. I have freedom of movement, more or less, during the few hours Orion is off to his day program. But I’m still feeling housebound.
I can’t take Orion anywhere. I need to call on someone to get him to his doctors because I can’t load the chair in and out of the car. I can’t run off to the local afternoon farmers market, a trip he usually enjoys, for the same reason. I can’t take him to the hospital to visit his Godmother, who just had knee surgery. I can’t go anywhere all day on Saturday because there’s no day program on the weekend. Orion and I can’t even go to the movies because I can’t walk that far, much less push him.
Luckily I do have friends who are sympathetic. I have so much to be grateful for that way. I’m looking forward to a trip to the movies this week with a friend and Orion. I’ve got a dinner date planned (sushi is a soft food, right?) I’ve even been encouraged to make arrangements for Orion so I can spend a day sailing.
September is coming soon. I’ll still need a hand with Orion on the distances and rough terrain, but I’m sure my friends will come through there as well. The best cure for cabin fever – get out with a good friend.
As much as I love food I’ve always been a casual eater. I eat when I read. I eat watching TV. I go to a party and sit next to the food while I chat with everyone who walks by. I grab pickles and olives off the table before everyone sits down. I lick the spoons.
As I progress out of a totally liquid diet into eating pap I have found out the hard way that these behaviors have got to stop. Don’t feel bad for me. I’m thrilled to have an egg, or some cottage cheese. Spices aren’t a problem so bland is not an option. Paying attention is also not an option.
I don’t even remember what I was doing. I could have been reading, talking to Orion, watching TV, reaching for my computer. It doesn’t really matter. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating. I did all the right things. I measured and weighed portions. I put everything (like there was a lot!) on a small plate. I ate one bite at a time (I think – here’s where the attention part creeps in.)
I don’t know if I ate too much or too fast or both. Before I was finished with my doled out portion I knew I was in trouble. I’ve been avoiding that “too much” place. Everyone I know who’s had this surgery says that it’s horrible and not worth it. They’re right. I knew I needed to go there once. Now I have and I’m happy to avoid doing it again!
I tried everything to settle myself down. To deal with the pain. To deal with the “hot flashes”, it almost feels like coming down with a fever the body is working so hard to do too much. I walked. I tossed what was left on the plate. I rubbed my belly. It took a half an hour, but I was finally defeated and headed for the bathroom.
In retrospect it could have been my food choices as well. The fish was a little firm rather than flakey. Figs might not be the best bet for a side, with all those little seeds. I’ve taken a half step back. I’m sticking to things that look a little more like baby food and a little less like small gourmet portions. Eventually I’ll get there, but not just yet. First I need to focus on paying attention.
There is so much out in the world about Mindfulness. There are writings about meditating and about being present in the moment. These are not easy things for anyone used to multi-tasking through their days. But these are also the things that have become necessary for me to be successful in this process. It’s time to be more aware of my body. It’s time to be more aware of how I am actually feeling. It’s time to give up the notion of meeting a “goal” and simply respond appropriately in the moment.
The work is only beginning.
This is my fourth posting about this time of year. You might think I’ve “said it all”. I call my page Spiral Visions for a reason. It seems every time I come around I am never quite in the same place. There is a shift in perspective. Sometimes there are new things to see. Some things take on more importance and others fade into the background. The beginning of August marks First harvest, the Wiccan holiday Lammas and for me always Corn on the Cob.
Because of my surgery I don’t get local corn this year. I did “cheat” and have a couple of cobs shipped up from Georgia right before I started my liquid diet. I ate it reverently and with a nod towards this time of year. It was a feast meal, for me, in advance. It didn’t get me off the hook though. I still had to do something to acknowledge coming around the wheel of the year again. So I meditated for a vision.
I saw a cornfield. Flying high above the corn was the Thunderbird. The Corn Mother walked out from rows and I asked her for rain.
She said, “What you are looking for is balance. Three weeks of rain and three weeks of sun is even, but it is not balance. It is balance the crops need to grow, balance the people need to thrive. You have no sense of balance. You delude yourselves with notions of “fair” and “equal”. You believe that balance is static, stable. You are only fooling yourselves. Balance is like standing on the water. It is always shifting, but the movements are small. Large shifts will dump you into the deep. You need to climb out of the deep you find yourselves in and learn again to stand in balance upon the earth.”
She reached her arms up and corn silk streamed down from her sleeves like wings. She reached for the Thunderbird, and he swooped lower. She did not fly and he did not land. That night, there was no rain.
It is balance I am reaching for, yet again. Specifically a balanced relationship with food and nutrition. More globally it is a balance about making heathy and sustainable choices.
Enjoy your first harvests.
This weekend I received my “Happy Anniversary” notice from WordPress. Apparently I’ve been blogging weekly for 3 years! Who knew 3 years ago that I’d still be doing this?
Last year I wrote about 3 years being like a trilogy. If that’s true this past year has certainly been a climax. It also implies that this next year is a new start. That’s definitely the feeling I have in my life, so why not in my blog?
I have so much to be grateful for in this past year. You, my loyal readers, have been incredibly supportive of my journey! My second book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deist Perspective, was published (and is available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon :) ). The ending, and new beginning is marked by the bariatric surgery that went so much better than I had any reason to expect.
So here I am at a new beginning looking forward to another year of weekly blogs. What will I write about? Will there be new insights? New friends? New adventures? I hope so. And I hope that you will continue to read along as I write about my journey.
Thank you again for all the support.
There are a lot of ways to look at initiation. The Online Merriam-Webster defines:
: the process of being formally accepted as a member of a group or organization : the process of being initiated
: a ceremony or series of actions that makes a person a member of a group or organization
I’ve always been attracted to potential. It’s part of the reason I’m so bad at “partner relationships”. Always looking at, and comparing to, potential takes me out of the moment. But that doesn’t make potential a bad word. In fact, this week it’s the word I will cling to.
I go in for my surgery Tuesday. Doing this is banking on potential. I am opening the door to possibilities that wouldn’t exist in my current situation. The challenge is going to be living up to it. Paying attention, learning new body cues, staying alert and in the moment will be the only way I will reach that potential.
I am enlisting the aid of my inner child. I want to play again. I want to not be afraid to try things that I may not yet be able to accomplish, and not give up until I can succeed. I want to dance through the next part of my life, regardless of the music or the lack thereof.
There’s a part of me that’s afraid of being that open and out there. There’s a part of me that is afraid of what I will give up to achieve those goals. There’s a part of me that’s afraid I won’t be able to succeed. There’s a part of me that’s afraid I will.
Life is an adventure in becoming. Thank you all for staying with me on this journey and for your well wishes and support.
UPDATE: Surgery went well. All the magic, prayers and well wishes worked and they were able to do a laproscopic procedure. Thank you for the support!
UPDATE UPDATE: Surgery was Tuesday and I got to come home on Thursday evening. That seems so quick, but it would be what someone who expected to go in for a laproscopic procedure would have been told was normal. Again, despite the complications, I seem to be doing remarkably well. Thank you again for all the good thoughts and support!
Preparing for this surgery I’m maintaining a low-calorie, high protein, liquid diet. My mind dreams of salty crunchy, but that’s not on the menu. Whoever would have guessed I’d get hungry for a protein supplement? But my diet is not the only thing I find myself needing to “liquidate.”
As I prepare myself for this new adventure I’m inclined to shift a few things around in my environment as well. I got this computer desk years ago. It was the center of household expenses, school records, medical reports and any project I or any member of my family might take on. I don’t need all that anymore. Orion’s day program doesn’t generate the same level of paperwork that school did. Karina is on her own. I have a whole room devoted to my writing. Really I just need a clean space to pay the bills.
You can see, the clean space was hard to come by on the old desk. That is one thing gone and something else to take its place. In the kitchen the 40-year-old blender and the coffee pot have been replaced with the Vita-mix. In my bedroom I’m looking at my clothes differently. I don’t really need to keep every t-shirt as it ages “for gardening”. If a sweater has a little hole in it, it probably won’t fit me anymore next winter anyway. Those stretched out sweat pants with holes in the knees are going to fall off and should probably land in the garbage. I find myself rearranging my life as I prepare to make room for more living.
I much prefer cooking to cleaning. I find cleaning easier than this sorting and removing. On the bright side, I have noticed that not cooking makes it a lot easier to keep the kitchen clean. I’m hoping that making things less cluttered will open up more than space. I’m hoping it will help open me up to the possibilities that await on the other side of this endeavor.
Everyone I’ve talked to has assured me that what I’m doing is life-changing. I can see that already, in the small things. Even with the few pounds of weight I’ve dropped in the past 6 months I find myself more able to do things. It’s easier to get up and get out.
This week my women’s group is celebrating Vishnu. The invitation says “Bring something to burn in Vishnu’s fire”.
The idea is to make room for Vishnu to bring abundance into our lives. Cotton t-shirts will burn, won’t they?
It feels like my “to-do” list is miles long. The garden is a mess. (I still haven’t thinned those radishes.) It seems like when it’s raining I have time to weed, but can’t get out. When it’s a beautiful day for gardening I have errands to run and places to be.
Last weekend Orion and I went to Gilda’s Club to celebrate Gilda Radner’s birthday and we had a great time. I got to introduce him to all the people I know from volunteering there. He’s still talking about it! We got home minutes before the rain started. Life is just like that sometimes, but it doesn’t get things done!
Tomorrow I officially start my pre-surgery diet regiment. I went to a class to learn what to expect and got a shopping list of things I might need in the next few weeks and for a few weeks after the surgery. I anticipated a few of those items, but there are still several that have been added to my “t0-do” list. It seems like every time I turn around it gets longer!
I went to make toast this morning and the toaster didn’t work. No electricity. No electricity in the entire bar that is the primary electrical source for my kitchen. It’s not the circuit breakers, it’s the uncanny old wires. Add hire an electrician (which may become an electrical contractor) to the list of things “to-do”.
In the next few weeks I have several doctor appointments, including a pre-op. I have questions that I need to ask the surgeon that came up during the “what to expect in surgery” class. I have to get Orion ready for the changes coming up in his schedule. (Helping with transfers will be a BIG no-no for me for awhile. I’ll even have to work up to tossing the wheelchair into the back of the car, and that doesn’t weigh nearly as much as he does!)
And then there is coordinating support. I can’t tell you all how much I’ve appreciated the kind words, thoughts, and prayers from my readers. The comments cheering me on are invaluable. They mean the world to me and brighten my days. They just don’t get the grocery shopping done. Yet another thing to add to the “to-do” list.
Merriam-Webster says a sacrifice is “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”
But SACRIFICE is a word that holds meaning beyond its simple definition. It carries an emotional response. It begs the question, “why?”. It needs a context in order to be fully understood in its usage. Therefore it needs all context to be fully understood.
As a teacher of spiritual practices my students are often surprised when they get a question they feel they’ve already answered. In my experience, spiritual growth depends on asking the same questions over and over. We hope to find a new perspective and new insight each time. One of those questions is “What is Sacrifice?”.
I’ve touched on this topic before in the blog. I’ve talked about harvest and about corn but I’ve never written about it here directly. I do talk about sacrifice in my book, Manifest Divinity. There’s a whole chapter on “The Hart of Sacrifice” in When Gods Come Knocking:An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deist Perspective. The idea of sacrifice and how I feel about it pops up pretty regularly for me. It’s one of those markers that says “time to take another stab, or acknowledge the success, at spiritual growth”.
I find myself exploring this question again as I prepare for my upcoming surgery (see last week’s blog). I am definitely “giving up something in order to get or do something else.” I want to get healthier. I want to be able to do more things. I want to have more energy. I want control of my relationship with food. It’s the giving up part that’s ambiguous. I feel like I’m writing a blank check to the universe. This surgery is my “whatever it takes”.
In order to justify that act of giving up I need to have faith that I will see positive results. In order to be 100% behind the “whatever it takes” I need to recognize the sacrifice. I need to acknowledge that this is a sacred act. I believe I’ve got a talented surgeon. I believe I’m capable of following the protocols and going through the motions. That’s not enough for me. I need this to be a ritual of sacrifice, a holy undertaking, a sacred act.
Small sacrifices can have large results. Large sacrifices often set us free to follow a new course. They mark a new beginning, a different way of being in the world. That is my adventure. And apparently the sacrifice that is called for is the willingness to write that blank check. I don’t know what I will be giving up in the long-term. I do know that whatever it is, invoking the sacred helps to ensure it will be worth it.
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