Monthly Archives: August 2014
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.