Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons in Patience

It's been a week since Stan was evicted. The hysterectomy operation happened without any major complications, which allowed me to come home the same day. (I don't recommend that. I was roaming the house at 3am, in excruciating pain, nauseous, weak from hunger and wishing there was a nurse call button). I have 3 small incisions that seem to be healing nicely, and I get a bit better every day, unless I overdo it. 

This surgery is forcing me to be patient, something that does not come easily to me. I'm used to soldiering on, teeth gritted, shoulders squared, pushing through pain, injury and whatever else my body throws at me. I don't do help. I do things myself. This time, however, my body has quietly and firmly said "no."

This recuperation is also forcing me to accept help. My momma taught me to be self-sufficient. I'm the one who supports everyone else, but I tend, as one of my very astute friends observed, to be "cat-like in pain" retiring and making do.  Even coming out of the anasthesia last week, I was saying please and thank you to the nursing staff, and apologizing for bothering them when they had to help me shuffle to the washroom.

My husband has taken over the day to day running of the house. He's competent, he knows how to cook, he's made our daughter's lunches for school and gotten her there on time.  He's had a couple of minor snags, like forgetting to send her water and milk one day in her lunch, or buying the frozen meatballs that I can't eat because they have garlic in them, but he's generally managed fine. He doesn't cook like I do, so the kid has been a little stressed, but nothing catastrophic. He's a good man and means well in everything he does.  He brought me a coffee and donut in the recovery area at the hospital, because he knows how much I love my java, and reasoned I'd be hungry. He nearly sent the nurse into a cardiac arrest, but no danger, I was too nauseated from the surgery to even contemplate sniffing the coffee, much less inhaling it. I appreciated the gesture and the love behind it.

I've had to get help with things this week, and it's been hard. Have I mentioned I don't do help? I'll help anyone who needs it, but take care of my own affairs, thank you. The first time I had a shower after the surgery, my husband had to skulk in the bathroom with me to make sure I didn't pass out. My shower time is precious to me. I ponder things. I visualize worries and stresses washing down the drain. I find solutions to the niggling bits of writer's block. I find inspiration and subjects to write about when I'm not actively thinking about it. I've let my guard down and sobbed in the shower, only to straighten my shoulders and get on with things when I pull back the curtain. To have someone else in that space, no matter how reasonable and logical it was, was tough to take. What was especially hard, was that I was spent by the end of the shower and needed him to help me step out.

I haven't been able to drive, so my husband had to pick up my medications, my new glasses and drive me to the follow up appointment with the surgeon. I'm used to getting in my car and going. He doesn't mind. I do.

I can't lift anything over 5 lbs, including 2 bags of milk (I tried, to my peril).  I can't lift most of the pots in our kitchen, so when my husband returns to work, I'll have to know what we are having for dinner so he can lift the pot out before he leaves.  Our freezer normally has things on top of it. They all have to be moved so that I can get food out. I can't lift any of them. And while stubborn and determined are my usual modus operandi, I am not stupid enough to jeopardize my recovery by lifting more than I'm supposed to. Besides, it hurts.

My mother is stubbornly self-sufficient, refusing help and doing things herself. I am my mother's daughter, and that realization is disconcerting. A couple of my friends have brought us soup or casseroles.  I am touched that they went to the effort, pleased that I don't have to worry about meal-planning and struggling with the notion that I have to accept help because I'm not quite up to it yet.  It's hard when I've often only had myself to rely on. It's hard for me to let my guard down, to be less than super-woman and admit that I am, after all (gulp) only human.

As my brain surfaces from the fog that anasthesia creates, I've been pondering these forced lessons in patience. Why do I have so much trouble accepting help? Is it arrogance-am I so confident that my way is the only way to do things?  I suppose there's an element of that. I have a certain way of doing things- folding sweaters, putting the sheets on the bed, placing the dishes in the sink-that makes sense to me. In honesty, though, I suppose it's because I never learned how. My mother took care of everyone else, but takes care of her own affairs.She stopped driving a couple of years ago when her car died and started walking instead. She hates winter, because it means she can't pull her bundle buggy through the graveyard to get her own groceries, and must take a ride instead. Both my and my daughter's birthdays are coming up and she has no way to get our birthday presents without getting a ride, and the source of that ride isn't driving right now.That is vexing her and causing her stress, which in turn causes me stress because I can't fix it right now. I am fundamentally a fixer.

From the time I was small, my mother did it herself. I learned that. It's ingrained. People love to help, for the most part, but don't like to intrude. It's the asking part that I'm still working on.  It's hard to let down the guard and admit vulnerability, even to my closest friends.  It's hard to be less than self-sufficient.

And so I make do, I ponder and I ask for help through gritted teeth.  And now, I have to go, because my small child needs help with something. I'm teaching her that it's okay to ask for help. It's a good lesson to learn.


Atlantic Writer said...

I led a champagne toast to a friend last week who's husband was coming back from a six month Afghanistan deployment. I applauded her poise and her strength and reminded all of her friends present of the lessons we learned from her experience... that it was okay to ask for help and it was okay to accept the help so freely given from all of us. I've been undergoing a self-exploration over the last year or so and this is one of the biggest things I am trying to teach myself. I hope this experience teaches you that it's okay too. I wish I was close enough to bring you a meal.

wizardofwords said...

Patience has been one of the lessons I am to learn in this lifetime. I have worked very hard on it and have come a long way. But I hear you! It's hard, when it is not a virtue one is born with.

Having a husband 25 years my senior has really helped teach me patience. Take the inspiration from someone you know in your life, Lisa. It will help.

Wishing you a speedy recovery. And more patience!

Janet Jarrell said...

niggling bits of writer's block - great line!

One would think that being a writer would teach you patience. I am not so sure though that patience is the main lesson here. Above all some of us need to learn that we deserve help. We deserve to be taken care of. We are worthy of that from others. That lesson has come to me recently - and I am glad to be learning it!

I wish you care.