People Are Not Much Different Than Trees

July 15, 2017

 

During this 6-week recovery, I decided to make the most of it. Or whatever that actually means. I had no expectation of being a good or quick recovering patient. That notion came from fear of the unknown (for  my first surgery), and knowing that I have absolutely no ease when it comes to hospitals, sickness or anything remotely gruesome – meaning blood and any other bodily fluid. None of this was not because I had no faith in myself to be strong; I simply didn’t know how to forecast how I would be after the surgery. Also, since this surgery came on the tail end of the most difficult chapter to date of my life, I thought I am getting what I asked for, some serious time off, but I should have been more specific on exactly how that would happen. But I was still grateful for the time, and learned the lesson to be careful what you ask for in the universe. I must be clear that there should be no strings attached.

 

My time off time started with only recuperating. My mornings were spent in bed with my mother checking on me, and asking me what I wanted for breakfast. Every morning, she delighted me with her smile and generosity to make sure that I was taken care of. Never have I had to have anyone take care of me to this degree, except when I was a baby. It made me a little uncomfortable at first, to be dependent on someone. In these moments I thought about my grandmother in her bed, using the same table that I had borrowed, and how my mother too tenderly helped her the last years of her life. It saddened me and at the same time, it made me extremely grateful for my relationship with my parents, and most importantly made me think that it could be possible that things happen for a reason. In this particular instance, the “thing” that happened for a reason was deciding to move into my parent’s home to save money for the documentary.  When I think about the arc of time and events that has happened for me (yes, “for” that is something new that I am working on), I know I couldn’t have done it without them. There was plenty of support from friends, family and professionals, but fundamentally, my parents have been rock. Without knowing how much I would depend on them post surgery, I still knew that I had a lot to thank them for in case I had not expressed it enough already. In my mind, I knew if anything were to happen to me in surgery, I wanted them to know that my depth of gratitude for them had been beyond anything I could physically repay them with. I decided to write my thoughts down on a card and give a small token of my appreciation the day before surgery.

 

The first weeks or so were pretty much the same. I was told by my doctor to limit my trip up and down the steps to only once. That takes a little bit of planning recovering in a multistory home. I was surprisingly feeling pretty good from the first day, nowhere close the bumbling nightmare patient scenario I thought would be possible. My one trick was not looking at the incision. I didn’t mind showing it, but I knew it was there. Every day I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Anticipating excruciating pain, anything that would be more in line with the fact that I had undergone major surgery; only my mother’s confirmation that if I hadn’t felt it yet, I am in the clear.  The thing that also concerned me was taking the medication I had been prescribed for the pain. Even in the hospital I was concerned about taking heavy medications, and only stuck with an oral dose of Ibuprofen.  That seemed to be good enough and I stuck with only that for a while. Addiction to opioids has shaken the nation, making it seem that the exception is not getting hooked.  My many attempts in the past to escape the pain and grief had lead to me to drinking more, and empathizing with other substance abusers. If there had been a way that I could have numbed the pain to escape on a grander scale, I would have. Or at least, I would have considered it, if my consciousness of consequences had let me slip. But I could understand why someone would want to find a way to not feel. Sometimes the act of feeling jails you in your own personal hell. I was worried that if I started taking the Percocet in the orange vile sitting on the nightstand, I would find myself blissfully enjoying that chemical reaction, finding that nirvana I desperately wanted before. After some hesitation for a week, my mother finally convinced me to take the medication that I was given. I had it, so I should take it. I only took one at time, waiting for me to turn into either a monster or a mime. Neither happened. Apparently I can assume that I have a high tolerance for pain and for medication. After taking the medication, I can honestly say that I felt no different taking the Percocet vs. the Ibuprofen vs. taking absolutely nothing.

 

Once I gained some mobility, I had more places to roam, and felt more up to speed and less dependent. Although I was feeling pretty good, I had to remind myself that I still had to heal. The fact remained that my body was separate than my mind; I was just fortunate that I was at worst, uncomfortable. I am officially down to 2 weeks remaining, and I have begun to officially freak out. Have I done the best I could with this gift of time? Were there other things I could have done while I had this time? Did I do enough work on the documentary since time is always me enemy while I am working a full time job? Have I done the exercises and reflecting needed to heal my mind? When I told my mother this, and I asked her what have I done with my time, she calmly responded, very matter-of-factly, that I was healing. I think that part keeps getting lost on me since my physical pain had been extremely minimal.

 

I am happy to say that I have finally read books that had been sitting on my nightstand for what seemed like ages. Books that people have given to me as gifts, or loans. It had been ages since I read a book in a matter or days. I also worked on applications for documentary opportunities, watched documentaries. But not as much binge watching as I expected. I feel guilty for some reason, as if I had taken this time off, and was squandering it, not being truthful to myself about the fact that this was not an option that I made, or was any fault of mine. I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and I shouldn’t go overboard.

 

On my mini vacation before the surgery, my friends and I watched a few shows that I had never watched before. Needless to say, now that I have seen them, I get what all the hype is about. Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday,” and Iyanla Vanzant’s, “Iyanla Fix My Life,” were both very powerful shows. I say that because no matter who the subject, or guests are, if you are open, you can learn something about yourself and others, no matter how relevant the topic. I have since watched a bunch of these, or at least when they came on, and I have cried at least 50% of the time. In a summary, people do not do things out of a vacuum. Every life experience has had some effect on who you are as a person today. Forgive yourself and others. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know that you are enough and believe it, and last, be present. Don’t look back into the past, it has already happened, and don’t look into the future, because its ahead of you, and you don’t know what it holds. All you have for sure is the here and now.  The last statement is what I am trying my best to work on. Being present to what is around me. That is precisely what prompted my picking up the computer again to write. Today, moments after a temporary freak out about where the time has gone, and wondering if I have done the best with the time, I came outside on the deck. There was only one goal before I started reading, and that was to be present. When I opened my eyes fully, I looked ahead into the standing trees that fence the row of homes. I examined the trees, and noticed their demanding height, and how they branch off the higher it extends, reaching for the sky. Then I noticed how the higher branches, swayed and bent in the breeze, while the trunk stood almost unaffected. It moved and waned while the leaves reacted. But it came right back. I thought about how people aren’t much different than trees; both our roots, the thing that we start off with in life that is what keeps us grounded. We need the nourishment of the earth to help us grow. And as we grow to reach for everything that we can be, life makes us more complex, and we branch out. Storms and strong winds blow that can move us or potentially cause us danger, but if we are firmly planted, we will always come right back, never wavering. We stand tall, and strong.

 

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Copyright © 2014 Carla Joelle Brown All Rights Reserved.

Sponsorship provided by:

The Rubys Artist Project Grants were conceived and initiated with start-up funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and are a program of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

 

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