Mastering the art of “resting”

Heading into my third week of recovery after my bi-lateral explant surgery, I have discovered the truth about myself:

I am an absolute utter and complete failure at the art of forced “resting”.

Now it’s silly because after sixteen prior surgeries, I understand the importance of physical rest in surgical recovery.

Rest equals healing. Healing equals getting back to life sooner than later.

But rest, true rest, is so much more than just closing my eyes.   It’s about shutting off that internal motor that powers my brain around the clock, creating to-do list after to-do list, until it runs out of gas.

In my recovery, I have support and plenty of it.  But I find myself day after day, night after night, pushing my mind at a fever pace to problem solve, to plan, to create, to design, to negotiate. As the lists in my head grow longer and longer, my stress level mounts.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

Now you might be thinking I’m talking about not wanting to let go of control of my routine.  I’m am not. 

I truly have no problem letting others take control while I recover from my latest surgery and I am grateful that I have people I can count on to do just that. It is a luxury I know not everyone is blessed with and I do not take it for granted.

But, somewhere in my wiring, I’m not good at shutting off the planning department in my mind: the forward thinking minions racing around in my brain looking ahead.

In other words, I never fully allow myself to live in the moment when I’m just plain ol’ me, with no agenda, nothing to do but rest, physically and mentally.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?  I mean I know people understand I’m out of commission for a bit and they are doing their very best to help me, expertly in fact.

So why don’t I just let them do their thing and leave the planning department shuttered in my mind while I heal?

Why does my mind race all the time, forever spinning through a growing agenda of imaginary problems and issues and things I should tackle? Why is it so hard for me to accept that shutting down and powering off for a bit isn’t a negative for me?

The other day my husband came home from work and asked if I had rested.  I said, “Yes!  I had a wonderful two hour nap with the cats.” 

I then proceeded to tell him that before that nap with my fur babies, I had scheduled window cleaners, household painters, tree trimmers, sorted through some paperwork my occupational therapist needed, had a friend over, texted with my parents and my brother and one of my kids and worked on my blog. 

He looked at me like I was …Well, let’s just leave it that he looked at me funny, shook his head and began to make dinner for us and a martini for himself! I honestly don’t blame him. What’s wrong with me?

Just as an aside, my husband is rock solid when it comes to housework and cooking and any honey-do projects.  We are a team and when one of the team is down, the other team member steps up to the plate without asking. It’s worked for thirty-one years and so why I felt the need to push through an agenda of projects that would make the Property Brothers on HGTV sweat and my husband need a martini, I have no idea.

Later that evening, as my husband and I finished the absolutely amazing meal he had prepared, suddenly the weight of all I had done during the day began to feel like an anvil on my shoulders. 

Yes, I had physically rested, had napped. But mentally, I hadn’t rested at all.

Uncertainty about whether or not I was going to be able to follow through on all I had scheduled, all I had planned, all of my forward thinking, was like an anchor around my neck, slowly pulling me into the abyss. 

I began to cry. I cried as if a dam were breaking and it hit me that to fully recover from this surgery,  I had to let go of this idea in my head that just because a part of me is on mandated rest, I needed to activate, full throttle, all of my other abilities, specifically my mind,  to compensate.  

No one is asking this of me, so why am I asking this of myself?

My wonderful husband pulled me close and told me not to worry. 

“Everything is going to be o.k.!”

He also reminded me that I’ve been through a lot in the past three years and that it was perfectly fine for me to check out of the “agenda in my mind” while I recover.

Life would go on whether we painted the interior of the house, had dirty windows or an overgrown tree.  He’s right.

I need to figure out a better way to push the pause button in my mind completely.  I need to give myself the gift of healing not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and in all ways that matter. 

Well, I’d like to say that I cancelled all of the honey-do projects, but I didn’t.  The window cleaners have come and gone. The tree trimmer is scheduled to show up on Friday and as I write this, I’ve been sealed in my office by plastic and painter’s tape. The painters assured me they would let me out in five to seven minutes after they get the ceiling outside of my office painted.

It’s now been 45 minutes! 

Damn, I really do need to pull the plug in my mind, power off and embrace my faulty wiring, let life go on for a bit without my input.   Then maybe, I’ll be able to say truthfully that I’ve finally mastered the art of “resting!”

“Hey Painters, it’s getting hot in here!” 

“Guys…c’mon guys…anyone there???…Hello???”

PositivelyAnne

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No More Doubts!

Heading into my second week, post bi-lateral breast implant “explant” surgery, I’ve discovered that recovery, whatever we are recovering from, in my case recovering from yet another major surgery associated with my breast cancer journey, takes an enormous amount of faith in an outcome that is at the mercy of a lot of things beyond our individual control.

For someone like me, who likes their life rather tidy and orderly, it is a difficult thing to have to ride a roller coaster of pain, emotions, and uncertainty in yet another surgical recovery, and it becomes even more complicated when “doubt” creeps in to cast a shadow on what has, in essence, been a text book recovery for me so far.  

I want to talk about my “doubt” because it has little do with recovering from an actual surgical procedure.   It’s more complex than that. 

My “doubt” has never stemmed from a decision to have a particular surgery, no matter the complications.  Nor has my “doubt” ever been due to a lack of trust in my surgical team’s competence.  I have been blessed with the best and brightest the medical community has to offer in every single instance.  Lastly, and most importantly, my “doubt” has never been about a lack of faith that God will help me or that He will put others in my life to help me.  My eyes have been opened to the miracle of God’s grace time and time again in each of my surgical journeys and in all aspects of my life, so I don’t for a moment doubt God’s existence in my life.

But I’ve noticed a pattern of “doubt” that manifests within me during each surgical recovery, that instead of just embracing these things as my truth, I spend an awful lot of time questioning God as to whether or not I am worthy of continuing to being blessed with yet another chance at this crazy life of mine.

Despite my faith in God, I’ve discovered that my “doubt” and “worthiness” over receipt of God’s amazing grace, time and time again, weighs on me because I am very aware that there are so many people out there suffering all sorts of ailments who have not been equally blessed.   

And the fact remains, that regardless of being a good person, many people do not have the opportunities that I have had, with access to the best in healthcare, a loving and supportive caregiver in my husband, the best support team in my kids, friends, church and extended family, and all sorts of strangers, who, along the way, have blessed me over and over again and helped me quickly get back on my feet.  

So, my “doubt” centers a lot around, “Why me?”   What is so special about me that I should be able to test the surgical hands of fate time and time again and recover in a way that affords me the opportunity to get back to life rather quickly and share that story with others, when so many others are not able to do so?

In the quiet of the night, I lie awake and ponder this question and maybe because this was surgery number seventeen, I’m pondering it now a bit more.   I mean it’s quite reasonable when you are coming close to running out of fingers and toes to count your surgeries on, that questioning God about how much longer this gravy train is going to last is a rather human thing to do, right?

Then again, I wonder if in questioning God, I seem ungrateful?

I am very grateful.  Grateful for each new day and I don’t take for granted anything about being able to wake up and go to sleep and wake up again.   There is a satisfaction and peace that comes with knowing that’s possible for me and yet, the “doubt” comes.  

Although I am grateful, I feel “unworthy” of all that has been afforded me and my mind races trying to pinpoint the exact moment when God said,

“Here is Anne, someone worthy of saving, over and over and over again.”  

I have been blessed to live a privileged life and I know it.  But I am also keenly aware that I’ve worked hard for it and continue to work hard for it.  It hasn’t always been easy and trust me, after seventeen surgeries, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with me saying that I’ve grown weary of hospital gowns and handsome anesthesiologists and even medical miracles. 

I’m kind of over the excitement of the operating room, grateful as I am for it.

As I was pondering what I would say in my blog, a thought came to me last night that maybe I’m looking at this whole thing the wrong way.   I mean a lot of times when life seems complex, God points us to the fact that things really aren’t as complicated as we humans tend to make it, so, maybe that’s the case in this instance as well?

Maybe, my health journey and my role in sharing my journey, including discovering my possible, is not rooted in the details of my own personal success stories? 

Maybe it has nothing to do with my start or my finish.  My beginning, my middle, my end.   

Could it be that it is as simple as one human planting positive seeds of faith by openly sharing their story of being a broken, vulnerable human with other broken, vulnerable human beings?

Is it plausible that God is using my journey, including my “doubts”, my wrong turns, my fears of “unworthiness” and lack of value and the sharing of the crosses that I bear, to somehow allow others to see more clearly through their own doubts, and fears, giving them the courage to share their own stories of hope in the face of despair?

“Here is Anne, someone I am using on earth to tell her story so that others may find happiness and joy in their own journey of discovery.”

I had a text from a friend this past week that, and the more I think about it, confirmed this theory.   She had shared my blog from last week with a family member who was struggling with her own breast implant reconstruction and my friend shared the response text from the family member with me.  I will leave the contents of it private except to say that the text was not about the further sharing of details of this person’s health issues, or exchanging medical advice, or about wanting any sort of resolution for this individual.  Instead, the text simply shared that my words brought this person comfort.   That my words would be shared by this person with other individuals they knew when the time was right and the circle of comfort would continue because I had chosen to share my journey in a public way.

That’s powerful and humbling and huge. 

 No wonder I feel a bit unworthy of it all!

But there it is.   This must be how God is using me.   Using my situation, every surgery, every stumble in my recovery, every scary monster that I have faced in the past few years to encourage me to help others to put one foot in front of the other and fight. 

I really do need to accept this challenge from God and move on from my “doubts.”

An image of human hands holding human hands comes to mind.  Each individual hand cold, full of doubts, and fears and feelings of unworthiness.  But join these hands together and suddenly where once flesh was cold, there is now warmth.   The warmth of human kindness.  God’s gift to us.

A circle of comfort!

I am excited to share this warmth with my readers, with anyone in need.  I am excited that though I could have done without seventeen surgeries, if this is what it takes to help me find my path, my possible, my voice in the world, and in doing so, I help others,  then God has served me well. 

I can only hope I remain a worthy, humble servant.  No more doubts! 

Won’t you join me and share your story too?!!!

PositivelyAnne