For the past three years, the end of November has meant two things: I’d 1) be furiously and joyously and manically finishing up my 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo, and 2) be going all gangbusters on the house, setting up the tree, getting out the decorations, hanging the stockings, and stringing up the advent calendar, painstakingly filled with 25 carefully planned out activities to do with the kids.
This year, I decided against Nano about 5 days in, just a couple of days before my surgery. In hindsight, I’m very glad I made the decision when I did, because I would have been forced to make it anyway. Even now, three weeks later, typing for any great length of time is still painful and exhausting.
And as for Christmas preparations? We have no tree. Our decorations are still safely abiding in their boxes in the garage. We haven’t bought one present for the kids. I haven’t planned a single advent activity. And if I can be totally honest, just the thought of doing any of the above is, well…. painful and exhausting.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I signed on the dotted line for this surgery, I really don’t. I just so very badly wanted to be better, wanted this 7 month ordeal to be over. But it’s so much easier to tell you what I did NOT expect:
I didn’t expect the pain to be this bad, and this persistent. As it turns out, knowing intellectually that I was facing a 3+ month total recovery time is a very, very different thing than to feel the stark reality of the pain and frustration of week three, knowing that I still have several more weeks (and possibly months) to go.
I didn’t expect to need powerful narcotics, beyond a day or two. Again, I’m at three weeks. The one night I tried to sleep without Percoset, I woke up in tears.
I didn’t expect to be so incapacitated. I don’t know why I didn’t, because the past several months have shown me very clearly how instrumental our shoulders are in our day-to-day tasks. But I didn’t. I can dress myself (with some pain), shower (with some pain), brush my teeth (with some pain), and as of a few days ago, drive (with some pain). But five minutes ago I had to call in the 12 year old to open a can for me, because the can opener was just too much. There are multiple can opener-esque scenarios throughout the day, and it frustrates me. Which brings me to:
I didn’t expect to be so frustrated. With the pain, with the situation, with myself, with the need to just HURRY UP AND BE PATIENT ALREADY.
I didn’t expect the big black dog of depression, who’s once again been flirting with me for months now, to not just embrace me but engulf me… to suffocate me… to consume me… like an unwelcome old friend who won’t take “no” for answer. A friend whose presence is so familiar and so easy that I’ve let myself fall deep, deep into its depths before I even realized it’s happened. Because there’s a sick kind of safety in the darkness, and because it’s just too damn much work to take that first step to start climbing my way out.
But. (And may I just say, thank God for buts?)
I expect that the pain will lessen, and God-willing, eventually go away completely. I’ve learned that healing is very much a one step forward, two steps back process. I can’t compare to yesterday, but I can compare to two and a half weeks ago. Just because today is a bad day, doesn’t mean tomorrow will be a bad day too.
I expect that I’ll eventually be able to rest without the aid of any prescriptions.
I expect that with time I’ll be able to open cans again. And do a downward dog. And pick up my daughter. And be even stronger than before.
I expect that my current frustration will teach me great lessons, and that if I allow myself to feel it, that it too will go away.
I expect that I will take that step, and the one after that, and the one after that, until there’s not so much darkness. And I expect that if I rest in the presence of where I am – fully rest, and lean, and breathe – instead of fighting, that it won’t seem so hard. I expect that if I allow myself to feel how I feel – without letting it define me – that the promise of something better will find me, and meet me halfway.
Finally, I expect that this coming month, and the Christmas holiday in general, will be different than years past…. but that different is okay, even good. This is a season of great growth and learning to be sure. If the past three weeks are any indication, the lesson is HUGE. And that’s better than a perfectly executed advent calendar any day.