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Posts Tagged ‘surrender’

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.

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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…

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I went to high school and earned my undergraduate degree in Northern Ontario, Sudbury, to be specific.  My first full-time career involved a move to Timmins.  I lived there for five years…and decided that once and for all, I’m not a fan of winter.  I don’t have anything against the season…it’s the bitter cold with which I struggled.  So I moved back to Southwestern Ontario where winter doesn’t seem to last as long as in the north and the temperatures are more moderate.

Or at least, they used to be.

This winter has been one of the coldest I can remember.  It feels like it’s been weeks since I could walk outside without my nostrils freezing.  And that’s not a pretty image, I don’t care who you are.  Whenever I take my hat off my hair stands up like some kind of deranged science experiment.  At night when the dogs come to tuck me in, there’s little blue flashes of light as they shock each other and me.

In short, I’m sick of my lovely red car being coated in icky white grossness that is a combination of slush, ice, salt and crud. I am ready for the days to get longer and the sun to be warmer.  I’m tired of snow blindness giving me a headache when I’m driving into the city.

I was in Florida the first week in December and it was lovely, albeit very humid.  It’s less humid in Southwestern Ontario, but when the thermometer gets to -20 or colder, let’s just call it “unbearable” and call it a cold day.  There were times when schools were closed in Timmins because school buses couldn’t start.  When exposed skin would freeze in seconds.  When your pets would not play outside, only relieve themselves.  It wasn’t fun then, and it isn’t fun now.

So please, Mother Nature, if you’re listening, could you please work your magic and bring us spring?

Thanks!

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I recently celebrated my 7th anniversary with my current congregation.  As I look back I am surprised that I am celebrating such a milestone, while at the same time it doesn’t feel quite that long…strange.

Just after my arrival I met a man who was diagnosed with cancer.  We have shared quite a journey together over the past seven years.  He is back in hospital and learned recently that his cancer has spread to muscle.  For the past few years he, his wife and I have fallen into specific roles…his wife cries, I get angry and he accepts whatever is thrown at him.

A bit more than a year ago I asked if he wanted to discuss his celebration of life.  He politely but firmly told me that he wasn’t ready.  And I accepted that, telling him I would be ready whenever he is.  Last Sunday when he was readmitted to hospital he told his family that he wanted to talk to me, that it was time to have this conversation.  So I headed up, notebook in hand, to have, what we both knew, would be a difficult conversation.

He is a father and grandfather.  He is a devoted member of a local service club.  He is a tireless worker for the Church and is more on fire for the Lord than anyone I have ever seen.  Whenever I am shaking my fist in anger he takes my hand and tells me, “it is what it is”.  such wise words.

Today we celebrated communion around his hospital bed, with each of his daughters and his beloved wife.  It was a very emotional experience, as this is the first time we have all shared communion.  I was taken aback at the sacredness of this hospital room.  Portable xray machines and staff coming in and out of the room did not deter what we were gathering to do. There was a tremendous respect from the medical personnel who were tending to his room-mate.

We joined hands in prayer, offering prayers and praises to God, giving thanks for the joys and bounty of this life and asking for peace as my friend and parishioner reaches the end of his life.  I found myself saying words that we were all thinking but otherwise afraid to say aloud.  A sacred hush filled the room as we finished the Lord’s prayer, and each one of us had tears in our eyes.

At times like this I am reminded of the sacred journeys that we take as members of the body of Christ.  I am always astounded at the weight of the sacred when we stand together in the presence of our Creator.  We have shared so many moments of joy together, and many moments of loss.  Eventually we will have these moments only as memories, but I suspect these memories will be sacred.

When I was posted to this parish I was given only one instruction:  love them.  And I have.  This family has taken me into their own and welcomed me.  My parishioner was particularly wonderful when my father was dying and I was so very angry.  He sat and listened to me as I ranted and raved that it “wasn’t fair” that my father should have to suffer.  He gently and lovingly took my hand and said “it is what it is” with a shrug and a smile.  He wasn’t ignoring my feelings, rather he was reminding me that there are many things over which we have no control.  And he was right.

I shared with him today that he has taught me so much about patience and grace.  He has taught me about understanding and acceptance, whether I like the outcome or not.  As he begins his sacred journey back to his Creator, I am reminded of the incredible gift we are given as clergy.  We are taken into people’s homes, their lives and their souls, as members of the family.

I expect to have many more hospital visits with my parishioner.  Each and every one will be treated as a sacred moment in time, as it will never be repeated.  And eventually the visits will end.  My heart will break when the time comes that he returns home to God.  It will hurt as much as it did when my own Dad died.  And I know that God will give me the strength and the Holy Spirit will give me the peace I will need to say what needs to be said.  And to comfort those who need comfort.

When we can silence ourselves, in the midst of crazy busy-ness, then and only then can we turn to hear, to truly hear the voice of the one who loves us the most.  It is only when we truly surrender our power that we  can feel God’s love surrounding us.  There are some things that we are not meant to know.  We may not like it; I know I surely don’t; but we must learn to live in that tension.

Another lesson I learned from my parishioner.  In his wise words “it is what it is”.  Thanks be to God.

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