Monday, January 18, 2016

Negativity as a teacher. A return to Optimism.

I wrote this last summer a few months after my hip replacement surgery.  It was a great exercise then and a good review now.  Somehow in the midst of the negativity a lesson was learned that opened the door to gratitude again. Through it all,  I discovered how much power I have- granted by the grace of God.  We are responsible for our own happiness, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.  I'm reposting because I need the reminder:  All is well, and will be well, as I head into a scary cervical spine surgery in three weeks.  Three surgeries in three years - I should play the lottery.  Lucky number 3.  Third time is a charm they say.  I am ready to be charmed and I know, this time, Optimism is my best  pre-surgery medicine. 

July 4, 2015 - I was cleared by the doctor yesterday to drive, walk, swim, and bike.  Now, you would think I would be overjoyed to be able to do those things. It was still only mid-summer. These last seven weeks have been a real challenge, especially taking my wheels away. I also wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional roller coaster ride brought on by pain, medication, surgery, isolation, and immobility.  I felt like a child, helpless and dependent on the schedules and whims of other people.   My social life, cheering squad, and shopping needs were in their control. It felt like my emotional well-being was too.   I don’t do well being dependent or asking for help.  I've been self-sufficient for the greater part of my life.  It seemed when I did reach out, my surgically/pharmaceuticaly  induced mood swings and depression was something no one wanted to deal with and I felt that terrible sting of rejection.  Abandoned, once again. Shouldn’t family and friends accept me as I was - mood swings, negativity and all?  They hadn’t just had their hip socket sawed off and a metal rod jammed down into their femur. They’d be cranky too, I thought.  

For a few moments there, instead of squealing in delight because I could drive,  I sat with my doctor and a long list, questioning him on when I could do Yoga, hit the nautilus at the gym, go back to spin class, and travel.  “Not for six months,” he replied.  He had just shown my an Xray of my perfect new hip - the one that was giving me back my ability to live my life as fully as the average baby boomer and it wasn’t enough?  Maybe I needed to relearn that art of gratitude.  I am normally a grateful person by nature so my “not enough” thinking quickly turned to jubilation as I strode to my daughter’s car and proclaimed a  celebration in order.  After she dropped me off from a cane-free walk around a store and lunch, I backed my car out of my driveway just to make sure it would start, and my new bionic gam could control the pedals.  Freedom!   I felt like a prisoner who had served the time and was sprung from a long sentence.  The sky was a little bluer, the world a lot more glorious. The air was fresh, unlike the canned air-conditioned prison laced with the smell of my isolation and, for awhile there, a limited amount of caring about appearances or hygiene on my part.  With every mile I drove, Optimism, once again, rushed through my veins.

 It appeared the road to Optimism could be found by taking the Gratitude trail. 

But, boy was it earned on a long, often lonely road.  There is something about being cooped up for an extended period of time.  I don’t care how optimistic and grateful you think you are, every little character defect (yours and others), every insecurity, every still unhealed part of you is going to show up to keep you company in the still  of your healing journey.  My traveling insecurities would come and go uninvited, sometimes just paying a short visit and other times they would arrive with the steamer trunk, packed up for a world cruise. My head had a difficult time changing course and heading towards Port Optimism. Under normal circumstances, at this juncture of my life, through trial and error, I have learned what tools to use to turn my thinking into something constructive and optimistic.  Nature works well, however, I couldn’t sit outside for a few weeks and the weeks when I could, it rained constantly.  Meditation has been my best friend for a number of years now, but those little minions in my head would rattle cages I hadn’t opened up in years and it took all my strength to keep them locked out. Reading a book was difficult - pain medication and concentration don't make good bedfellows.  I granny walked my way to the computer, pushing my metal walker with the homeless lady bag on the front, and spent hours creating my own little motivational screen-savers to reinforce all the good in my life. I practically wallpapered my phone and computer with them.  The one on this blog post was designed on a particularly sarcastic and anger infused day.  I might be an unpleasant grouch, but at least I would be authentic and embrace my grouchhood.  I think that’s when my 2016 word of the year began to take shape. Authentically a Scrooge.  I prayed to be happy, and then decided no one could possibly be happy considering my situation, so I prayed for peace, at least.   A little voice in my head reminded me, if I wanted long-term peace, maybe I should do a little work and the questions I should ask might go like this.  

What is your anger and pique trying to teach you?  What are the lessons that you will take from this experience?   

Here goes:

I was put out that I had to essentially take care of myself.  After all, I had taken care of just about everyone else in my life  and it was my turn, for a change.  I was a good human being.  A good friend. A caring soul.  As if all my goodness could be saved for a rainy day and God would grant me help because my giving ledger was full.  Wasn’t that an expectation and wasn’t it also ragingly codependent?

I was angry at myself for not taking better care of my health through the years, not making my own well-being a priority and guarding it like I had for others I loved. I had been the one that hadn’t gone to doctor when I needed to, worked long hours, and put others needs before my own.  What could I do about it now?  Absolutely nothing. Again, codependent as hell and martyrdom in its stinkiest  glory.

I was angry for expecting people who simply aren’t capable of support and thinking somehow, magically, it would be different this time.  When would I learn that some people are not dependable? Some people can barely take care of themselves.  I was really angry that I had forgotten, when people show you who they are, believe them.  However, it was a beginning in seeing that I have the power, to choose who I lean on, pick to share my secrets, and those that have the capacity to be there in unconditional love. 

Most of all, near the end of my drive through hip replacement ordeal, I was angry with myself for giving me so little credit.  I wasn’t the helpless victim.  Who better to take care of me and know what I need, but me?  Sure some things were a physical challenge during the healing process, but somehow, somewhere, the strength arrived to get done what I needed to do. 

Finally, shouldn't I have been focusing on those beautiful souls that did help me through a tough time and made sacrifices to see me through it?  Optimism might return if that's what I chose to see.  

I looked back over the course of my life.  It has been peppered with more challenges than most people can even imagine. But the real biography of my life - overcoming, diligence, faith and courage, and the right people,  always showed up when needed.  

Time spent in suffering and solitude guided me to  recognize as the Apostle Paul said, “For when I am weak, I am strong.”  

A teeny bit of negativity never hurt anyone. At least not me. It forced me to examine what was behind it. Being weak showed me how capable I was of taking care of me.  Through the crazy thinking, anger, and loneliness, there stood God guiding me through it all, making me stronger as I drew closer to Him. 

 Another obstacle  traversed on the journey to RENEW, my Word of the Year for 2015.   I am convinced, there is power in this practice.

RENEW - that was my wish, tossed out to the Universe.  It’s beginning to look like the message was received.  For starters, a new hip - RENEW: make like new.  I can feel a quickening in the pit of my stomach.  Life awaits. It’s  time to  be my own fairy godmother and head on off to the ball. I’m not looking for Prince Charming or someone to rescue me.  I wouldn't miss it for the world. I’m going  because I love to dance.