In the quiet of early morn, my mind flits…like a hummingbird darting from one flower to another, not staying long enough to really drink much in or resolve a thought.
This is how I know I’m feeling better.
In the early days home from surgery, there’s a single-minded response to pain. All energy goes to managing the intensity of what one feels. Dishes in sink? Who cares? Cat vomiting on the carpet? stupid cat. Someone else will have to clean it up. Ideas for the next children’s book I’d like to write? Not even on a mental back burner. Discomfort, pain, healing requires all our mental faculties. Aside from the obvious dislike of this reality, it actually brings a quietude of mind in the singular pursuit of feeling better.
But as the pain level decreases, the mental chatter increases. It’s as if, for a time, the stove’s oven has been the only thing turned ON. As the oven temp reduces from broil down to a more manageable 350 degrees, the top burners begin to light up, one at a time. Creative ideas begin to glow again, to-do lists of all kinds begin filling up at an alarming rate. All of it fueled by a well-worn thought which had disappeared in the post-surgery days, but now roars back to life in the space between my ears:
“I can do this!”
Now that all the burners are ON as well as the ongoing, but more temperate, oven, it’s really quite annoying! This is the hard part, the in-between bit. This is the segment of recuperation I dislike the most because it requires such discipline. I must constantly gauge my energy level and what my body needs. I must turn down, even OFF, certain burners so that the healing work can continue. Even though I “can” do the dishes and the laundry and dinner and clean up cat vomit…I NEED to pace myself and ask others to help do these tasks so that I can choose rest–the most vital pain medicine and healer there is.
This is all happening at the holidays. And to be honest, the “I can do this” mantra is a familiar holiday refrain. Every year, even without undergoing surgery, December feels like that stove with all burners on HIGH and the oven set to Broil. Typically I’m well enough in body to actually convince myself of my can-do-it-all super powers. Then I crash and burn just after Christmas Day either in exhaustion or some virus takes hold to wrestle me to the ground for some much needed rest. Despite my disciplined efforts, I still tend to over do. Pain from surgery is not a bad alarm system, letting me know when I need to slow down, close my eyes and rest.
We can’t all have surgery in December, nor would we want to. I certainly don’t want to do this again. But what I’d like to do is develop an approach to December, (and all other months of the year for that matter) that does not begin with “I can do this!” Maybe more along the lines of “I choose to do this and therefore NOT THAT.” To be purposeful about how I spend my time even if it means letting go of certain traditions I somehow feel I must continue.
Yes, December is always FULL. Full of shopping, full of making, full of wrapping, full of baking, full of partying, full of cooking, full of cleaning, full of revelling. All good stuff. But there is that saying about too much of a good thing…
The problem is that once December is over, January is on its heels and we are off to the New Year races once again with our banner “I can do this!” flying high as we run. We even make lists of how fast and how far we want to run and how high we want to jump, as if normal living of life weren’t enough for us.
So I have some ideas, I think I’ll share here in the coming days prior to New Year’s. No rocket science. Just some thoughts on how to approach a New Year with all our dreams and hopes held lovingly with the reality of our lives. I hope you’ll stop by and offer your thoughts and suggestions as well.
***The images here are from a commissioned painting I finished prior to surgery. It was to be a Christmas gift and so now I can share it with you. Commission work is always a privilege and an honor to be asked and to attempt creating something another would enjoy.