the awakening

I  am coming awake from the illness-induced numb-distance from the world, here at the middle of the 6th month of my recovery.  And hoo-boy, what I have wakened to!  It’s like coming home to find out your teenager has had a kegger in your absence and the house has had a bomblet dropped in it.  Complete disarray everywhere on top of the usual mundane furnishings.  And you keep finding snoring, drooling kids in the corners!

That’s me now.  In the holy-crap, where am I and what am I gonna do now?   Truly it was easier and gentler to be numb.  But OK, this is what I’ve got today.

experiencing life in my new skin

Last Friday, without thinking the possibilities through, a friend came over who got me out of the house.  She drove us around to yard sales and we even had lunch out.  In theory that was fine, not a lot of activity.   But I found out she is an angry, shouting driver, unaware of her own overwhelmedness, so busts forward along her path, yelling and swearing and pounding the steering wheel.  I even had to ask her to park the car if she was going to text.  Eeeeeeeek!

Lunch out seemed like it would be a chance to mellow out from the ride–the restaurant was quiet.  But the canned music from overhead made my insides shriek with pain, made my head feel as if it were being flattened from above.

After lunch I was all in, so much so that I couldn’t even find the clarity to ask to go home.  Floated through, leaning against the headrest, until I got to the safety.  Then, rested the remainder of the day, feeling like a deer in headlights.

the beach walk

On Saturday morning, I consented to go for a walk along a pebbly beach with Big.  No big deal, I’ve been there many times.  Except, this time, I had to engage fully in controlling my legs and feet, and the effort quickly became a battle.  What?!  Surprise!  Walking isn’t predictably consistent either.

Up we went to the bluff.  I rested on a bench, insides trembling, and panting slightly because I couldn’t get my anxious-breath.  Big went off to get the car and he directed me the other way over an easy, short bluff-top dirt trail to a parking lot where he could pick me up.

As I sat on that bench, wondering what to do, wondering if I could just stay there forever, an elderly couple came along the trail.  I’m good at hiding my anguish I figured, so I said hello in some easy way.  The woman looked carefully at me, you know, just a bit too long between strangers, and asked if I was OK.  Oh yes, says I, just resting.  Inside my head I was screaming No, I’m not OK!  Please let me walk with you!   (Next time I will ask!)

They went along and I sat there, bereft in a small way, easing my breathing, knowing it was best to just get walking.  I did a mundane thing–picked up someone’s trash and dropped it in the receptacle, then turned and started walking.  We’re not talking a mile or even a half-mile, but it seemed so far to meet Big.  I don’t give up easily, but the thought had stayed that I could just not go.

the irony in the overwhelmed

I took 10 steps or less and suddenly a fast-moving freight train was roaring by.  Even I could get the irony of being so terribly overwhelmed by little things and here I am faced with a freight racing by only 50 feet from me.  It’s funny, really, in a dark humor way.

May I say that I rose to the occasion?  I stuck my fingers in my ears, was not singing la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you, and turned my back to reduce the sound.  I understood that there was no getting away from that train except going back down to the beach.   That accepted, I turned around and faced the train and something new happened!

I became acutely aware of the discrete sounds of each type of car.  The empty flat-beds gave me time to breathe, the fluid tankers whooshed the air around them in a roar, the grain tankers rumbled.  I heard the end of the train coming and waited–just to be sure there wasn’t another train parked on a siding waiting to come the other way toward me!

The path indeed parallels the tracks, is the dirt filling of the ocean-and-tracks sandwich.   I made it, but with anguish and upset.  Part of the upset was coming up against the in-ability.  Oh, the life I’ve tested out before now, temps at 20 below zero F; raging oceans; hikes in heat that would never end (the heat or the hike); scuba diving with joy unabated; watching a gigantic grizzly bear amble toward my remote camp in the way-nowhere of northern Alaska.


It has taken me days, not hours, to recover from this activity that in the before-time was just a couple of things to do.

I’ve had to re-orient, offer up my anguish in writing because it doesn’t work verbally, and hear solid reassurance from people who care.   Then practice what they wisely preached, to go slowly and very gently.  I feel intense gratitude for the words they offered to me, the reassurances, and even the kick in the pantalones to go slowly and be easy on myself.  (Talk to me if you have a thought.  This is takin’ a village and welcome to it!  You can share here or on the CaringBridge site I set up.  I’m listening!)  I have wisdom and caring around me and I notice!

Here’s what one observed about the helpfulness of writing:

“… And that understanding comes, through the discipline of sitting in one place and focusing, through the effort of writing, to focus on truth, authenticity, being true to where one really is, before vaulting off into more aspirational action.”

And from another:

“… But you can write. And you write well. If that is how you have to express yourself, it doesn’t seem such a bad place does it?”

on being more aware and making choices

I’ve had to figure out what the hell “slowly and very gently” means for my daily life.

I have to make choices all damn day–if I do this, I can’t do that.   Now that I’m more aware and my brain is working better, I can actually think of stuff to do.   However, the list of available fun is generally limited to the house-bound:  read, watch TV/movies, do dishes or laundry, do mosaics for an hour or maybe two, play Bookworm, bake, or work in the garden for an hour or maybe two.  I can do mosaics or work in the garden on a given day.  If I go have my hair cut, I can’t do mosaics or garden, and have only the rest of the list.

Notice that there is nothing about grocery shopping or general erranding.  Can’t handle crowds and activity that comes across to me as hyperkinetic.  I am able to drive the mile or so to the local library branch, but that’s about it.  When I go get my hair cut, the drive takes a bit longer and requires so much of me that I’m beat by the time I get home again.

My day is still composed of basics that we usually do with little thought–making coffee, breakfast, and lunch.  Getting showered and dressed.  I can’t believe how much of my day is that stuff.

When I spend time writing, it takes so much out of me that I am definitely relegated to basics.  I can see that I have a specific store of mental energy, but I can’t see what the storage capacity is until the needle slams into empty and there I am, mid-thought or mid-anything, and have to stop.  But I, apparently, must spend time writing in order to get the painful insides out into the air.

I am reminded, by yet another friend that this mess is going to take time to resolve:

“… Time time time… This is going to take a lot of time. Feel out the edges, see what you can bear, and then try again later to see if you can roll the edge back a bit.”

Is the forced choosing from a limited list a way to make me learn that I really want to use my time well while I still have this corporeal self?  To do what I want to do instead of what someone else wants me to do or something I think I should do?   Am I figuring out the equation now so that I can fill in the variables later in a fuller life, after recovery?

Have you ever felt tired, not sure why, but find that you are wishing you could just stop all the activity, not go to that meeting, not answer the phone, not vacuum, do dishes, change the linens, do the laundry, feed the cat, make dinner, mow the lawn, do yoga, or go to work tomorrow?  Is it just Americans who live with hair-on-fire as if they have to run full-tilt to do all this stuff, that it’s urgent?

Feels like running in place, to me.  I don’t want to come up against my death and start moaning that I didn’t vacuum often enough.


Full-tilt isn’t an option for me right now, well it is in the either/or sense:  either I want the chance to see if I’ll get strong again or I don’t.  My full-tilt right now is that of a toddler–limited range of activities and not much talking!

My mother used to say that as a child I rushed headlong into life, and she may still think of me that way.   When she made that statement, she often included her recollection of speedy toddler-me running away from her, giggling and giggling, even while she called me back from the brink because she could see what I was about to do, and did:  run square into the corner of a brick wall and gash my skull open.  (Uh, sorry about that ER visit, Ma!)

There is a photo of toddler-me that illustrates rushing forward even while looking back, trying to do it all.  Look closely and see that those shorts are neither going nor returning, just in a twisted rush!

toddler-me rushing headlong

I’m going to skip the skull-bashing and try just hanging around this recovery at a leisurely pace.  Do as someone very dear to me said:  Do a lot of nothing slowly.


18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jacquiefioramonti
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 10:44:47

    It sounds like a very challenging journey of recovery but I admire you tremendously for making an effort to still get up and do things and will yourself well. You’re an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story.


    • lahgitana
      Jul 25, 2012 @ 13:45:37

      Oh gee Jacquie–your words have brought me to tears. Thank you for being here.

      I didn’t really think about the fact that I AM making an effort, because I’m just plodding along, not always sure which way is up. So many thanks for your thoughtful reflection–and for being a part of my village! –Laurel


  2. minlit
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 11:15:47

    “It’s like coming home to find out your teenager has had a kegger in your absence and the house has had a bomblet dropped in it. Complete disarray everywhere on top of the usual mundane furnishings. And you keep finding snoring, drooling kids in the corners!”…..perfect description of every day I wake up and come down stairs.


  3. IsobelandCat
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 13:36:25

    You describe your experience as eloquently as ever Laurel. it sounds raw and painful, yet your writing is full of life and energy, so it seems like a very healing thing. I am starting to wonder about Big and to ask myself what support he is getting. This is a journey you are taking together. A journey neither of you signed up for. I imagine that it must be frightening and lonely for him too. As you have writing to express your journey, I do hope he has somewhere too, and that you come out of this stronger and closer than ever.


    • lahgitana
      Jul 25, 2012 @ 13:54:58

      Oh Isobel, I’ve been worrying about him, too! (He’s going to read this, but too bad!) We’ve talked about the loneliness for HIM, and I boot him out of the house as often as possible so he has some fun. My eyes glaze over only when he starts telling me of the discoveries of engines and motors and their parts!

      Yes, this has hit the family–we don’t do the things together we had done, and have no idea what’s coming or even what a single day might bring. Too, he is in charge of much of our life. Sigh…

      If you have any ideas to support him, please say! We’re at the time in illness where other folks return to their lives, as it should be, but how do we get the support we need?

      Ooo, I know! If you feel like it, leave a message for Big on Caring Bridge!

      Thanks, Isobel, for the reflections about my writing. Yes, writing is removing the silence of sadness and letting me feel the sadness and get on with my days!


      • IsobelandCat
        Jul 25, 2012 @ 14:39:15

        Does he talk to anyone neutral about how he is feeling?


        • lahgitana
          Jul 25, 2012 @ 14:55:49

          I don’t know. I really hope so. He didn’t even tell anyone when I was hospitalized–he tends toward the independent, stoic guy. I hope that in the **recent** telling he has been doing, he is getting some comfort or at least relief. arrrgggh!


  4. Big Mister
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 18:03:02

    Sticking my fingers in my ears and going “La La La La La La!!!!!!”


  5. Kathryn McCullough
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 21:50:23

    Glad to know you’re feeling better, Laurel. I remember your mentioning something about this photo. Too cute!


  6. neowatercolour
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 01:14:07

    a very moving and inspiring post,Laurel, I’ve read it a few times now, but for me, the photo seems to reflect your current situation and struggle (a picture paints a thousand words ?!), the after-effects of your illness maybe feel like being unable to move freely, be yourself, and being held back. But you ARE doing so much, reward yourself for this :-) Best, Victoria x


    • lahgitana
      Jul 26, 2012 @ 08:33:37

      Victoria–thank you thank you. You’re right about that photo being a reflection of today. Coming and going … And truly noting that I AM being held back.

      You know what flummoxes me sometimes? I know I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t land in ICU, my organs came back to life within a day, I got to go home. So if I didn’t land in ICU, how can this be taking so damned long?

      I shall think on your last line, Victoria, about doing so much. Thank you for your reflections here. My village is saving my sanity!

      Best, Laurel


  7. heretherebespiders
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 14:17:37

    I’m finally here… I said I needed time to cogitate but it seems I lied. I love ya, L, and I am around even if I’m a bit quiet lately… I note you are quiet, too? Hope you’re okay.


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