Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Self Care’ Category

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. In making changes, both small and significant, I have realised that it takes a team to keep me sane, and upright…well, unless gravity intervenes.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the chiropractor for my bi-weekly visit. At that visit he was going through diagnostic tests that are done twice a year. They measure my biochemistry among other things, and can show cause and effect to how I’m doing. I’m not sure exactly what it measures, but he can read my stress, and life balance, in the results. Needless to say, given how the last couple of months have gone, the results weren’t great.

So we talked about it. About what’s been happening in my life. About how I need to make changes within myself before I can expect anything else to change.

My physiotherapist is also an amazing resource. And she’s a parishioner. She, her husband and their lovely dog join us by Zoom for Worship some Sunday mornings. And it’s great. She and I also talk about how my body responds to stress and what I can do to help with physical and joint issues, which right now, are many.

I have the best family doctor. She is much younger than I am and we have a very open relationship. She knows I will advocate for myself and she will call me out when I’m not doing what I should be doing. A couple of weeks ago I was not doing well at all. And she called me on it. So, now I’m taking a pill to help relax me enough to sleep. The pill works well…when I remember to take it at the best time, not four hours later. Ugh.

My Spiritual Advisor is a former mentor and current close and trusted friend. She lives in Ontario and will also challenge me when I’m not at my best, and will call me out, on what I need to do to be at my best. The other night we spent a couple of hours crying together over the phone, as I realised that I need to make myself a priority. I need to be as much of a priority as my Parish. Now where you, kind reader may be saying “Well, duh”; to me, this was an extraordinary realisation.

I also realise how fortunate I am to live in Canada, with universal health care and a great set of medical and dental benefits from my employer; to enable me to visit the chiropractor, and physiotherapist without going bankrupt. To be able to talk to my family doctor, or go to the emergency room and not need a loan to do so.

Each year I am required to write up a set of Goals and Objectives, for myself and to measure my parish leadership. At the end of the year I go through them with a committee, whose sole focus is ensuring I feel supported. When I sat down to go through the goals for 2019-2020, I was certain I had not achieved most of them, because of medical leave early in 2020 and because of COVID-19. When I stepped back to look at what we did accomplish I was astounded. Which is fodder for another blog post…

I came up with just two goals for 2021-2022. The first is to maintain status quo with respect to my workload. Focusing on Worship, Liturgical and Homiletic Preparation, crisis Pastoral care and other life milestones, such as baptism, weddings and funerals. In other words: hatch, match and dispatch. The second goal is to be more mindful with how I care for myself so I don’t end up on the knife’s edge again. Both goals were received enthusiastically.

I’m learning that I need to follow a routine if I’m going to be at my best. I need to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day, regardless of what day it is. I can nap in the middle of the day, but I need to observe the same waking and sleeping times.

I’m learning that my body is unreliable in triggering hunger. In the morning I tend to feel nauseous, a side effect of medication and M.E. On days when I’m at the office, I don’t pack myself lunch or snacks or anything. And sometimes I find myself walking through the door at 4:00 pm feeling unsteady and somewhat lightheaded. Well, duh.

SO, the plan is that when I am going to be working at the office, I will pack (mostly) healthy snacks in my work bag as well as some water. I will endeavour to eat in the morning, and will aim for two meals a day. On days when I’m working from home or enjoying the Sabbath, I will again aim for two meals a day, plus snacks.

Every day I will go outside. Even if it is to smell the air and walk around the block, I will get outside and move my body.

I will take breaks when working, rather than pushing through, then realising it’s 9:00 pm and I haven’t eaten or moved in several hours.

Priority one is sleep. Once I have that balance achieved, it should help the other priorities fall into place, such as journaling daily, intentional daily prayer, intentional meditative practice, stretching and breathing exercises. Being gentle and loving with my body. Curbing negative self-talk, and treating myself with the same kindness I treat those I love.

My hope, is that in six months, I will be feeling and looking much better. Right now I’m weary and look as though I’ve been “dragged through hedge, backwards” as my Mam is fond of saying. In other words, I look as lousy as I feel.

But hey, I’m grieving after suppressing that grief. Grieving takes time, and so does healing. And because it’s written down and shared with several people, you included, dear reader, I will now be more accountable, to myself and to you.

So, you can expect more frequent posts, I won’t commit to how frequent, but definitely more than once a month.

And now I will wash my face, brush my teeth and head to bed where I will journal and listen to a daily meditation. And then hopefully fall asleep to the sound of my cat purring.

Read Full Post »

This is the time of year when social media feeds are filled with resolutions and promises for new life and new living. A time to say “out with the old” and “in with the new”. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught me is that we cannot possibly imagine what the future holds.

In January I prepared myself to have surgery. I was spayed in the middle of the month, and had to take six weeks off. I’m not good at sitting still to start with. And doctor’s orders made it only marginally more do-able. So, I had surgery, all went well, waited on biopsy results. Ovarian cancer. The good news was that those were biopsies of already removed ovaries. So, yay! I stayed with a friend for the first four weeks and struggled with pain management, sleep management and trying not to do too much. So I came home and the Parish gifted me with a meal-train meaning every evening between 5:00 and 6:00 pm a freshly cooked meal was delivered to my door. That lasted for two weeks and was fabulous!

February I was back to work and dove in with back to back AGM’s. It was Lenten Planning, Book Study, Bible Study and Worship Services. Worshipping at 9:00 am at the Anglican Church and 11:00 am at the United Church. Learning a new hymn book and new ways of worshipping. Celebrating Communion in a different yet familiar way. And just when we were getting into the swing of things there was a virus that was developing and spreading in China.

March saw us ramping up for Holy Week and Easter, listening to the news with fear as it seemed that this virus was now in Europe and would eventually make it’s way to North America. Discussions were held with respect to suspending Worship and investigating online Worship. Zoom. And then all hell let loose. On the 18th of March we were ordered to shutter the buildings. Pivoted to online worship, then added slides, all the time thinking we were going to be back in the building in time for Holy Week, then for Easter, then for Pentecost. Then someone finally said it…it will be months, if not years.

April, May, June all went in a blur and it was obvious that I would not be able to go to Ontario in August to visit my family, friends and my Beloved. I was gutted. I visited a friend on the other side of B.C. and was more hyper-aware of everywhere I was going then ever before. I brought home a friend’s senior cat, Vinnie, who has been a constant companion since June.

The summer meant taking some vacation but not going far. I took two weeks, then another week, and banked a fourth week, hoping I could travel in the fall or at the end of the year. Nope.

My Beloved and I talked by phone every week, sometimes more often. We were both struggling with what would happen if either of us contracted COVID-19. He had respiratory issues and I am immuno-compromised. My M.E. was out of control due to the constant stress on the body and mind.

I felt as though I was running as fast as I could and remaining, firmly in the same place. My mental health was suffering. Sleep began to be affected and I heard the word “Self Care” used a lot by my family doctor as well as my new therapist. September loomed and the Joint Church Committee made a decision to celebrate our First Anniversary of Shared Ministry the last Sunday in August in what would be a communion service. The first communion for us since the 14th of March. It was a simple, yet powerful online service with a half dozen people in the Church providing worship leadership.

Those same words had been used to describe the Holy Week and Easter Services, simple, yet powerful. We would send out a Zoom link for Worship every Saturday and on Sunday we would have 20 – 25 people, with those numbers steadily climbing to close to 50. We have folks from Fernie, from the Elk Valley, from other parts of B.C., and other parts of Ontario. We have folks from Alberta, Montana and even England. And over those ten months we have become a Parish Community. We have become family.

Every Saturday night I would hear from my Beloved. We would talk about his email reflection and I would read him my Sermon. We would talk about the state of the world, the rioting, Black Lives Matter, white priviledge, systemic racism, the upcoming U.S. election and what the world was looking like. On the 20th of November we chatted in the afternoon. Neither of us were feeling great, so we said goodbye and agreed to talk that next day. Except we didn’t talk that next day. He died.

His death broke me open as I couldn’t make the trip to his funeral. I was devastated that I couldn’t be there in person. I had made him a promise a decade ago that I would arrange his funeral and would preach/deliver the eulogy. It was the most difficult thing I have ever written, and delivered. I told the truth, which is what he wanted me to do.

The night of his funeral, a parishioner died by suicide. He was someone who struggled with depression and was bipolar. We would talk about depression with gallows humour, as one does. When his wife called me I was in shock. She wanted the funeral to be on their wedding anniversary, the 24th of December. So, that’s what we did. His funeral at 10:30 am, following a procession of fire trucks from his home to the Church, passing their studio one final time. It was a poignant service with people tuning in by Zoom from Canada and England.

Christmas was very different. Three completely different services on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas Day. By the time I got home from Christmas Eve Service at 10:00 pm I was shattered. I tried to watch a movie, but couldn’t settle into it. So I gave up, went to bed, woke up the next morning and after washing my face and brushing my teeth, I celebrated Christmas Day Communion with 30 people online, broadcasting from my flat.

My mental health is fragile. I’m resting as much as I can. I’m working at a slower pace. This was solidified when I fell down a flight of stairs (only about 6, indoor, carpeted stairs) on Tuesday. December has always been a difficult month, gravity-wise. I scuffed up both knees and landed on my nose. It’s not broken, but I will have lovely bruises under my eyes. I will find out just how skilled I am at concealer makeup.

What I have learned is this…no matter how much you do, there will be someone who is in awe of what you’re doing. No matter how much you do, you will feel insignificant in comparison with someone else. The entire world is in a state of stress and prolonged stress isn’t good for anyone.

Over the past week I have set up an office at the United Church and at the Anglican Church. I have reference books and files there that I don’t have at home, which means if I wake up in the middle of the night and want to work, I can’t as easily as before. I’m hoping this will mean I can try new things, read fiction, listen to a podcast, take up drawing. Learn some skills and hobbies rather than working all the time. Learn to balance life and work.

Learn that taking a nap is important and sometimes necessary. Learn that eating proper food is important. Learn that having friends in important. Learn that grieving takes a long time and, like God, works on it’s own time (much to my obvious chagrin).

My body hurts. My nose is swollen. I ache everywhere. And I feel numb. I miss my Beloved. I write in a journal every night to him. It helps. I haven’t yet cried for him. I know it will come, when the time is right. Last Christmas, among other things, he gave me a cloth cozy for hot drinks. It’s green quilted fabric and I take it everywhere with me. It’s amazing. Except I’ve lost it. Now, usually I don’t freak out about physical things. However, this thing I am freaking out about.

I’ve checked the pocket of every coat. The inside of every handbag. In my work bag. I’ve checked the nooks and crannies of my car, my flat, both Church offices. I asked a friend if I left it at her place when I was last there. I pray to St. Anthony that it is there because if not I will be devastated. Not because of what it is…but because it came from him, and he’ll never be able to give me another.

It feels like, if I have lost it, I’ll have lost another piece of him.

Anyway, I will keep looking, if I am meant to find it again I will. Hopefully my friend has it and all shall be well. And if not, I’ll learn the lesson in that too, eventually.

SO, here’s to balance. Here’s to finding joy in the small things. Here’s to plodding along one step at a time, one day at a time. Here’s to remaining kind. Here’s to therapeutic naps, weighted blankets, new bedding and purring cats. Here’s to 2021.

Read Full Post »

I’m not sure if it’s COVID-19 fatigue, if it’s mental exhaustion, if it’s too many hours in front of a screen, if it’s too little hours asleep, if it’s a CFS/ME flare or just what it is…but I’m weary.

I talked to my counsellor two weeks ago and she asked how I was doing. I default to talking about work, and she always steers me back to how I am doing, outside my vocation. Outside the busy-ness of my life. And I told her I was exhausted. And she gave me the BEST advice.

You see, many of my colleagues, from both denominations, talk about being outside and active. They talk about hiking and boating, of running and kayaking…and I have difficulty finding the energy to shower. My get up and go has got up and gone.

My counsellor told me I need to rest. I need to sleep. I need to listen to my body and when my body tells me to rest, that’s what I need to do. And to stop comparing myself to my colleagues. Also excellent advice.

I’m an empath. It’s difficult to live into this reality when we are not in a time of pandemic. Besides feeling my own “stuff”, being an empath means I feel other peoples “stuff” too. In the last month I’ve had four funerals (three of them in 10 days), and many of them were very challenging.

I learned today of the death of a colleague by suicide and it broke me open. Many of the people I am in contact with in this small community I call home are struggling with mental exhaustion. A colleague framed it this way…he said mental illness is something that can be treated, while mental exhaustion is something completely different. It is something for which there is no cure or fix. And that’s exactly what I’m feeling.

I’m planning a week’s retreat time at the end of November where I’ll escape to the magical place of Away. Vinnie has been interviewing sitters and he’s found a lovely young lady (and her Mum) to order around while I’m away.

My flat is a mess. I have chores to do. And usually these chores would be done in a couple of hours. But it takes me days to do what I could do in little time. I will get it done, because I do not do well in chaos.

Tomorrow I have another appointment with my counsellor which I know will be good. And tomorrow night I’m attending a COVID compliant community event that I’ve been really looking forward to. And that means I will need to rest myself during the day so I can function to make it to the event.

These times are challenging. They are downright exhausting. But I’ll get through them. Because even though I’m weary, I’m hopeful.

And that’s got to be worth something, right?

Read Full Post »

Both are very important to me. I feel my best when I know what my schedule is. I function best when I know what is expected of me. Rituals help calm my mind and help me to focus. So, as you can imagine, the last month has been a great challenge as my schedule is in constant flux, there is an influx of emails demanding attention as well as phone calls, Zoom meetings, text messages and many more distractions.

I’ve never been good at managing boundaries, yet I am determined to come through the other end of COVID-19 with my marbles intact. Wish me luck.

I was lamenting with a friend that I’m feeling overwhelmed with the amount of contact that is demanded these days. I’m quite certain that I’m receiving at least twice as much email as I did before. And I’m attending 1000% more meetings by Zoom then I did before (that may be a slight exaggeration).

When I came back from medical leave I created a workspace in my flat so I could separate my home life and my work life. With the increase in Zoom, I’m finding there is a very blurry line between the two.

So what I (attempt to) do every day is turn off technology for part of the day or at least not respond to everything immediately. Constantly re-prioritizing is tiring, but necessary so I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I have discovered a feature on my mobile phone that when I place it face down it goes into Do Not Disturb mode. So texts, phone calls (unless from a specific list) and emails do not make any sound until the phone is turned back over.

I will be taking Friday and Saturday as my Sabbath Days as of next week. This week is Holy Week and I have Worship every day. My Sabbath Days will be marked with no electronics. No email, Slack, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom or Skype. Disconnection. An opportunity to be intentionally outside for more than half an hour.

If I need to sleep the day away, I will do so. If I want to clean my flat from top to bottom, I will do so. If I want to pack a lunch and take a drive, I will do so. With no guilt.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a waterfall about an hour’s drive from here. When I arrived there was not a soul in sight. I walked around to the other side of the falls and on the way back I noticed a dozen cars arriving. Everyone kept physical distance, we waved and smiled and got out of the way of each other. It was a lovely sunny day and I put the windows down in the car.

On the way home I stopped at one of my favourite hikes. There were three cars in the parking lot. I started the hike, realised after about 20 minutes that the trail was icy and not safe for me. So I turned around. I met a couple who stepped off the trail and asked how it was further along. I told them it was icy and with safe distance, they turned around as well.

I’m doing my best to take one day at a time. I’m doing my best to eat well and drink lots of water. I’m doing my best to go to bed early so if I have a rough night it’s not as bad come morning.

And of course, there’s the menopause, which will be a reflection for another day.

I hope you are all doing your best to take care of you.

We will get through this. And I do, truly believe, we will be stronger for it.

Take one day at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then try one hour at a time, unless that feels too hard.

Then take one minute at a time. We’ll get there.

Read Full Post »

can be really difficult. Growing up I was allowed to be happy and, within reason, sad. Never angry. One of the “fun” side effects of that kind of upbringing is that I never learned how to identify the majority of emotions.

I know happy, sad, angry, sarcastic and frustrated relatively easily. Nuances beyond those are often difficult for me to pick up on. *shrug* It is what it is.

My emotions have been all over the map this past few weeks. I was doing really well…eating well, taking care of myself, working smarter rather than harder. Getting back to full speed after surgery and the subsequent recovery.

And then a virus was discovered in Wuhan, China. Which then made it’s way…well…everywhere. I watched in fear as it seemed unstoppable. Surely it wouldn’t get to Canada, not to my small corner of creation, would it?

Surely we’d be able to continue gathering as Church?!?

Two weeks ago I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. I was inundated with information…on the news…by email…from the denominational head offices, concerned parishioners, family and friends.

There was so much information, but how much was accurate? What was I supposed to share? What was I allowed to share?

And the decisions to be made…are we allowed to gather? If so, under what circumstances? How do we get this information out quickly, appropriately and calmly. Then I got a tension headache that made it difficult to think, never mind do anything.

Then I lost the ability to sleep.

I was feeling as though I was running as fast as I could…but getting nowhere. I was frantic. And I couldn’t figure out the emotions.

Turns out, it was a combination of grief, of anger, of frustration, of sadness. It was churning my insides and making me ill. So I made a decision.

I sat down with my day planner and looked at all the Zoom calls I was expected to attend. I made a list of all the ways I need to communicate with my congregation and community. I unclenched my jaw. I drank more water. I went for a walk. And I took a nap.

Friday I had to run an errand at a local hardware store. Keeping physical distance has made me afraid of crowds – well, that’s not exactly true, I’ve always been uncomfortable in crowds, NOW it’s reinforced. Red lines delineate where to stand while waiting.

I picked up the two items I needed and saw the most beautiful dog and his person. I commented on the beautiful pooch and lamented that I couldn’t say hello. The dog’s person said “Why not?” and gestured for me to walk to the other end of the aisle. Which I did. He then called the dog to sit and took off the lead, telling him to “go say hello”. I knelt down and this magnificent beast walked towards me, wagging his nub of a tail. He put his head against my chest and I gave his neck and ears some loving.

He looked up at me with these huge, beautiful brown eyes and my heart broke into a million pieces. I started to cry. He licked my tears away. Eventually I settled and stood up. I patted his head and back and thanked his person who said “You’re most welcome”, and called his dog to him.

Through tears I made my way to the checkout, paid for my purchases and walked to my car. I let the welled up grief out and cried for what felt like a very long time. When I was finished my head felt much better.

I’m doing the best I can. I am reaching out as I am able to everyone I can. I can’t do it alone and I have a wonderful group of folks who are checking in on each other and checking in on me. There was no course for this at Seminary. Yet I expect there soon may be.

I’m seeing lots of posts on social media about “being happy”. And of “bucking up and making the best of things.” And I’m tired of it.

A friend of mine is going through a really difficult time. She said she needs to stop crying and smile. I told her to feel her feelings for as long as she needs to feel them. Because when you swallow them; when you push them down they will build up until you end up on your knees in a hardware store, with a stranger’s dog licking your face.

I’m making this up as I go. I’m doing the best that I can. This is all uncharted territory. And I need to give myself the grace that most everyone else has offered.

So, I will feel those feelings. I will do my best. I will be the best I can be. And the rest will sort itself out. Priorities will continue to change. People will continue to challenge me. I will continue to hang on and do what I can every day. I will take time for me, every single day. I will take days off.

Without guilt. Without shame.

I’m just going to feel the feelings, and try to figure out exactly what they are.

Read Full Post »

I reached a major milestone this week…I drove home on Wednesday. Loading the car was an adventure as I overthought about putting the back seat down or what order to load things in. I made sure everything was at a weight I could safely lift so I put twice as many bags into the car to come home as I did when I left home.

Stopping half-way at a café for a Chai Latte (first time I’ve had one of those) was quite good. I drove the last half hour home feeling determined and relatively pain-free. When I got home a friend was waiting to unload the car which was wonderful. We had a quick visit and she left.

A friend and colleague stopped by with his adorable new puppy and we had a cup of coffee and a lovely visit for about an hour.

I unpacked my clean clothes, toiletries, electronics and groceries. I took my time as I did all these things, stopping for a sit down and a cup of tea or glass of water. Then I had a lovely hot shower in my own shower, put on clean pajamas and snuggled into a freshly made bed. Bliss.

I was wide awake at 2:00 am. I wasn’t fretting about it, I realised it was because I’d had a cup of coffee at 4:00 pm and that was my first cup of coffee since I’d left home. Jeez.

Since I got home I’ve continued unpacking and making lists of chores to do, all fun little things like setting up a new recycle station in my storage cupboard. I bought some indoor plants and plant pots and plan to transplant them into pots with better drainage. I have two small sewing projects to take on.

I’ve been out to appointments, and while I’ve seen parishioners, given and received hugs, “shop talk” has been an absolute minimum. And I don’t feel guilty about that.

I’m still working on the “deep dive” and there’s still some yucky stuff to deal with, yet I’m striking a balance.

Yesterday I saw my family doctor in the morning and my counsellor in the afternoon. At the end of our session she remarked that this was the first session we’ve had where I didn’t talk about work for the entirety of the session. She said I look calmer, happier and healthier then she’s ever seen me. She said she was proud of me! I said I was proud of me too! Then she asked the difficult question…”So, how are you going to maintain this level of self-care when you go back to work?”

Fair Question.

The answer is difficult but necessary. Boundaries, communication and the realisation that I am just as entitled to look after myself as I am to look after everyone else. I don’t have to and shouldn’t have to put my needs last.

It’s taken me 52 friggin’ years, and I am finally understanding that I am a good person, a kind person, and I matter. I am going to continue treating myself as well as I treat everyone else. And sometimes even better. 🙂

My relationship with food is still a big trigger and it’s part of the icky stuff I need to work through. I weighed myself before I had surgery and again when I got home and was shocked that I had lost 7 lbs. I’m not yet back to full-strength. I can’t walk as quickly as I was able to before because of an issue with my left foot.

I have not yet learned to be bored. I’ll need to apologise to my Bishop for that. Instead I’ve begun to daydream again. To take notice of my surroundings, be fully present when I eat and drink. To sit comfortably in silence or listen to music.

I’ve started writing poetry again…which I haven’t done since 1991.

This is work I’ve needed to do for years, no, decades. It’s brutally difficult work and I’m nowhere near finished. And yet I cannot imagine making time to do this work. I’m so very grateful that I’ve taken the time.

All it took was a hysterectomy and oopherectomy to make me take the time to do it.

I’ve missed my Parish and parishioners. I’m looking forward to being back to work, and doing God’s work in our small corner of Creation.

For the first time in a very long time I feel content.

Thanks be to God.

Read Full Post »

All my life I’ve been a person who needed to be in control. I like lists and plans. I like maps and organization. At times I hold so tightly to control that I begin to lose control – and not in a good way.

A friend told me before I went into hospital that I needed to surrender. I would be on their time, not mine. Things would happen as the nurses, doctors, surgeons, etc., decided they would. As they had time for these things. It bothered me at first, yet once I began to wake from anaesthetic and realised I was not in control of anything, the word surrender loomed large.

It was my first experience staying overnight in hospital. I was not prepared for the noise – one room-mate complained about everything, loudly, all night. Another room-mate decided she was going home and there was nothing anyone could do or say to dissuade her. The compression stockings I wore made noise all night, setting off the complaining room-mate.

I tried to stay as quiet as I could, as small as I could and as comfortable as I could. It seemed it was every two hours my night nurse would come and check on me. Did I need pain meds, water, apple juice or reassurance. She was incredible in putting my overwrought mind at ease.

I had been texting with a friend, sharing my concerns and they replied “remember, you are just as important as anyone else in there. You deserve help as much as anyone in there. You’re not bothering the nurses, you are helping them look after you.” This was shared by my night nurse when I confided I was frightened and had never been overnight in hospital.

I was connected to a catheter and an IV. I wasn’t going anywhere without assistance. And so, about 2:00 am, I imagined the word SURRENDER and did just that.

I’d love to say there was a magic transformation that overcame me. Wouldn’t that be grand? And yet…no.

Surrender looked a lot like acceptance. There’s nothing I can do about being immobilised. I can’t fight it. There’s no point in whinging about it. When I found myself getting anxious about timelines, I realised that I needed to see the surgeon and he would decide when I would be discharged.

He came to see me at 8:00 am and we discussed how I was feeling and if I felt I was ready to go home. I told him I was very tired and wanted to sleep in a familiar bed. We decided I would be discharged at some point Friday afternoon and he left.

Catheter and packing were removed and I was able to get up and walk a bit. Trying to navigate with the IV pole was less than graceful, and thankfully I didn’t roll over anyone’s toes. Once the IV was stopped, walking was easier to do yet still painful.

I am now 6 days post-surgery. I still have pain yet it is completely manageable. I have stopped taking the narcotic medication and am using over the counter meds. I’m not moving much, yet try to move every couple of hours. I have a water bottle or tea cup at all times to stay hydrated and while that’s good, it is waking me in the night. In some ways that’s good because it means I am moving.

This afternoon I am going to the grocery store with my “responsible adult” and “service human” (one in the same), who will make sure I don’t lift, and I can have access to my favourite things to eat.

I’m cleaning up my diet. Removing processed foods. Reintroducing meat. I’m craving vegetables. I’m reading a lot about “clean eating” and eating closer to nature. I’m listening to my body more and surrendering to this slow and frightening process.

This afternoon I’m meeting by phone with my counselor. I’ve been looking forward to speaking to her for a couple of days.

I’ve surrendered to the fact that I need to take things slowly. I need to listen to my body. I need to nurture myself. And I need to go only one day at a time. I am nowhere near establishing a routine. I get up and have tea, take my meds, drink orange juice, water and then make a travel mug of tea to sip on for the morning. I eat a bit of breakfast. I relax and decide if I want to “do” something, or if I need to rest. And then I do that.

Surrendering that I am where I need to be and I need to love myself more. I keep telling myself that I’m worth the time and attention that I’m taking. And I hope, eventually, that I’ll believe that.

And until then, surrender. And breath.

Read Full Post »

Three long days ago I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I have no ovaries or womb left. I have many friends and parishioners who have been through these procedures and they have given me wonderful advice. Combined with the advice from the surgeon there is one thing in common – breath.

I remember sitting in the post-operative area. I’d walked there from the surgical screening area (Day Care) and was visited by the Anaesthesiologist who was wearing a Nascar cap. Also, my surgeon came to visit me, wearing a plain blue cap. Finally the surgical nurse came to see me, wearing a floral surgical cap. All three of them talked about what they were going to do, and at some point I’d have an oxygen mask on my face and I’d need to take deep breaths. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I breathe every day!

I walked into the operating room and it was chilly. I sat down on the table, then lay down and there was a lot of activity as IV’s were inserted, surgical stockings were installed, instructions were given, checklists were shared. One of my favourite moments was when the surgeon asked what was happening to me and I replied “hysterctomy and oophorectomy” and the Anaesthesiologist said “oophorectomy or Oopsorectomy”. I laughed. Nobody else did.

Tough crowd.

I remember a mask placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths. Then a medicine was added to my IV which I was told would take me to the Land of Nod. Took one more deep breath…

and then…

I was aware of an alarm sounding and a nurse telling me “Andrea, take deep breaths”. The alarm was an apnea alarm. I wasn’t drawing enough air into my lungs and I would stop breathing. I wear a device at night so this doesn’t happen at home. As I said I’ve been breathing my entire life, yet for some reason I had difficulty drawing a lung full of air.

I’d doze off for what felt like half an hour and the alarm would sound again “Andrea, deep breaths” I’d hear and respond and then look at the clock…usually only 2 or 3 minutes had gone by. That was worrying and frustrating. Had I forgotten how to breathe?

Eventually I made it to a room for the night. Surgical day care was deserted of all other patients when I was ready to go upstairs, and I didn’t mind staying where I was. It was quiet. The nurses were lovely and I was quite prepared to spend the night there. But no.

Up to the second floor I went to spend the night in a ward with three other women. I’ll share more of those stories later on.

The night nurse found and filled my CPAP machine so I could breathe while sleeping and I slept on and off all night. Waking about every two hours for pain medication or water.

At 4:00 pm I was finally discharged by my surgeon who gave me a list of things to do, milestones to watch for, and a reminder to take deep breaths.

It’s funny, our life begins with a deep breath and then often a cry. I’ve found lately I’ve found myself crying and then searching for deep breaths. One of the promises I made myself, is that as I move through six long weeks of recovery, I will take things slowly (I’m down to measuring one day at a time), I will be aware of my body and my surroundings. I will listen to my body and it’s needs. And I will breathe.

I will take deep breaths when I’m uncertain.

I will take deep breaths when I’m afraid.

I will take deep breaths when I’m not doing anything in particular.

I will take deep breaths before I attempt to exert myself.

All in all, I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who cared for me so beautifully. I was treated as a person, as a member of the family. My night nurse spent time talking to me as I shared my fears with her at my first overnight stay in hospital. She listened carefully. She responded thoughtfully and she reminded me “Andrea, you’re not bothering me when you ask for something, you are allowing me to care for you and help you get strong enough to go home. When you tell me what you need, I can help you get well. It’s not a bother, it’s my job.” This coming from a nurse who graduated in April. She’s a Rockstar!

So as I move through the next days I will remind myself to take deep breaths. As I snuggle in for the night, pulling on my CPAP mask. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths.

Thank you God for breath.

Thank you Ruah, breath of God.

Deep breaths.

Ruah…

Read Full Post »

It’s been awhile since I logged on to my blog. When I tried tonight it asked for my password and it wouldn’t work. So I had to reset my password and taaa daaa it now works!

I’ve been waiting for awhile to have surgery. A hysterectomy. It’s happening the day after tomorrow. I don’t know what time yet as I have to call in the morning to find that out. I’m going to be off work for 6 weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from work in my 52 years of living. I’m quite anxious about that.

I’ll be staying with a good friend in the community where the surgery is happening. It’s an hour+ drive from home. He is listed as my Emergency Contact, also known as The Responsible Adult. It’s a title he QUITE enjoys. Me? Not so much.

It will be a challenge to listen to my body for 6 weeks and not overdo it. I am fiercely independent and also quite private. Asking for help is not something I do well. Both congregations have been incredible in offers of help. From driving me to the hospital and picking me up to arranging meals once I am back in my own flat. It’s difficult for me to accept the help and yet I know accepting it is the right thing to do.

I have a bag packed with books, crafting projects, a cake of yarn to make a baby blanket and three journals. One will be for keeping track of my post-op recuperation, i.e. pain levels, emotional space, eating, drinking, etc. A good reference for when I see the docs for follow up.

Another journal will be for my “regular’ journaling about what is happening in that crazy brain of mine. And the third is the ideas journal for when I have an “a-ha” in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. I will jot things down there and then leave them alone until I’m back to work. Hopefully.

My main intention as I heal physically is to do a deep dive into my psyche and try to unravel the root of my anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. It won’t be pretty, but it will be necessary. And my “regular” journal will be where I unravel all this stuff. I was talking with a colleague this afternoon who offered prayers and when I told him about the deep dive he asked what I’m going to do with all the “stuff” I dredge up. I told him I haven’t the foggiest idea.

We sat in companionable silence for awhile and then he told me he hoped in five years time I would look back at this hospitalisation as a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. I pray he is right.

Lately my life doesn’t seem to be working properly. I love my vocation. I’m happily busy. But my insides are a mess. I’m not eating properly. I’m not sleeping properly. My skin is itchy, my guts are a mess and I don’t feel right “in myself”.

My deepest desire is when I get back from convalescing I will be stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. I will learn to balance my time better. To build in moments of silence, of stillness and of peace.

A friend of mine is retiring in June and he’s been inundated with people asking him what he’s going TO DO with his time. He’s frustrated with the question, because it lends itself to the unhealthy ideal that we are what we do. It insinuates that once he retires he will have no personal identity.

What he plans on doing is whatever he pleases. He will focus on BEING, rather than on DOING. That is such a great message; such a great lesson for everyone. And it’s something I will be building into my convalescence.

Looking for an honest answer to “Who am I”? and then living into how I can be that person. Not by doing, by being.

Wish me luck.

Read Full Post »

My “tradition” since I moved West has been to take two weeks and explore closer to home, then to fly to Ontario and visit family/friends. This year, the first two weeks of vacation I spent visiting doctors and specialists. I visited some friends who live close by and spent time cleaning my flat and resting. It was not ideal, yet it was what I needed.

In August I flew back to Ontario. This year was different. I decided not to schedule every moment of every day. I decided to visit only those people I truly wanted to, especially folks I haven’t visited in many years…even before I left Ontario. I didn’t rent a car, instead I used the train to move from one place to another and it was wonderful.

When I lived in Ontario I used the train quite regularly. Where I live now there isn’t a passenger train service and I find myself longing for it.

I spent time with my brother and sister-in-law and two nephews. They are old enough now I can tell them embarrassing stories about their dad (being 8 years older has it’s advantages).

I went to Church the first Sunday I was away with a very good friend of mine. Back in 2014 when I was dealing with a mental and physical health issue that meant I was off work for a month, I drove to his community every Sunday for worship. It was life-giving to be with a group of people providing support, and having absolutely no idea that they were doing it.

My friend picked me up at the hotel where I was staying at an ungodly hour and we went to three services together. I heard him preach the same homily three times, twice at one church, once at another. And it was a marvellous homily. He invited me to con-celebrate with him, which was very powerful. And at my request he blessed and anointed me in the midst of his congregation as I await test results. It was a very powerful moment in which I physically felt the power and love of the Holy Spirit moving through him and the congregation.

The second Sunday I was staying with dear friends, one of whom first recognized a call to service. It was because of his gentle nudges that I tested the call to be a priest. He had not shared communion in four years because of many reasons and it was a tremendous honour to celebrate with he and his lovely wife. Needless to say, we were all in tears by the end off the service. We met outside, used a piece of bread and some red wine left over from the previous night’s dinner. we lit a candle, settled into lawn chairs and worshipped God in God’s creation. It too was a very powerful moment where the Holy Spirit blew through our gathering, gently and lovingly.

I spent time listening, walking, laughing and loving.

I taught my grandson and grand-daughter how to build and successfully light a campfire.

I enjoyed shenanigating with friends.

I spent time in the arms of one I have loved for a long time.

I said goodbye to the old and hello to the new. I disposed of things which no longer bring me joy in order that I can be prepared to receive the good that is yet to come.

I left home feeling anxious and exhausted. I returned home feeling grateful, refreshed and mostly well-rested.

I’m toying with the idea of driving to Ontario next summer, taking a full month of vacation and taking my time…stopping at the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg etc., on the way. I may even see if I can convince a certain someone to drive back with me and explore my corner of creation with me.

I ate well, slept well, laughed until it hurt, cried until it stopped hurting, spent time outside, watched a movie, did some laundry, got a tattoo (tree of life between my shoulder blades) and generally, had the best time.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »