I haven’t been feeling very much like talking or thinking or writing lately. If I ignore how uncomfortable and strange my body feels and instead fill my mind with walks, T.V. shows, books, and crafts, maybe I will feel less pain. Maybe I will feel better faster. If I think about it too much, the fact that i’ve been at this for a month now and I still feel crappy, I start to frown. And when I start to frown, my mom tells me I don’t ever smile anymore, which makes me frown more… why should I smile? There is almost nothing about recovering from surgery that makes me want to smile.
I can’t stay shut in the house forever, though, frowning and not talking to anyone. For one thing, walking is usually more comfortable than sitting, and anything is more comfortable than sleeping. For another, i’m living with my family–my sister is acting as my faithful around-the-clock nurse, and my parents help out in any way they can. I can ignore as many phone calls and emails and text messages as I want–what do I have to say to anyone, anyway? Everyone is going about their life while mine is on hold. The only thing that changes with me is the minutia of day-to-day recovery. But I can’t ignore my family. I can’t shut everything out. And it doesn’t actually help, anyway.
As much as I don’t want to think about it, as much as I want to shut myself in my room and not come out ’til I can walk a mile without feeling like I’m going to collapse and sleep through the night, what helps is going out into the real world. What helps is interacting with my neighbors, my sisters, my parents, and my boyfriend. My body may be uncomfortable and foreign to me, but in the real world, no one really cares.
My first day at home after I got out of the hospital I was wearing my largest pajama bottoms (to accommodate my extra pounds), which happen to be fuzzy black pants with white polka dots, and running shoes (because none of my other shoes fit me), and a jacket. I asked my sister if it was OK for me to go outside like that for our morning walk and she said, “It’s encouraged.” Last weekend, after a very long trip to the emergency room (more about that later), she similarly encouraged me, though slightly more disapprovingly, to go outside for a walk in my Halloween pajama bottoms. As you might imagine, they are not currently in season, nor are they attractive. On both occasions we successfully made a few loops around the neighborhood without anyone calling the police.
I think these moments when I can get outside and maybe even forget for a second that i’m sick help even more than all the encouragement my family and my friends can muster. My boyfriend came to visit this past weekend and he kept saying, “Look at you! You are doing so great. A few weeks ago you could barely keep your eyes open and you couldn’t lift your head off the pillow. Now you’re walking around and eating well and doing almost everything on your own.” Yes. All of these things are true. But how much longer til I can sleep comfortably? How much longer til I can go out somewhere and not need to sit on the couch for the rest of the day to recover? It’s hard for me to embrace how much progress i’ve made when I have so much progress left to make. As i’m tapering off on my pain medication and the haze it puts me in i’m becoming more aware of how far I have to go until i’m back to where I was before the surgery–if I ever get there. I will get there–eventually.
I have since upgraded my wardrobe to a slightly more socially acceptable sweatpants and baggy T-shirts, and I have upgraded my outings to the beach, to longer “nature walks” around the neighborhood, and thrift stores, and supermarkets, and coffee shops, and restaurants. I get extraordinarily tired, but at least I get out of the house. And sometimes, I can forget how uncomfortable I am, and I even catch myself smiling. Like this weekend, sitting on the beach, holding an ice cream cone in one hand and my boyfriend’s hand in my other. It’s not really my style to frown all the time.