Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fresh Air

The fatigue had crept over me so subtly I hadn't realized how bad it had become, only that I longed to sit at my computer, and that it was taking more and more coffee just to get me through each day's basic chores. Sometimes when you have been tired for so long you forget what tired feels like, you forget how to shut down, relax, take a nap, or smell a flower, but you don't realize that you've forgotten. I began coaching myself on, bribing myself, "Come on, Kathy! Get up and do one load of laundry and then you can sit down again with a cup of coffee." I was secretly happy that the winter weather hung on so long, because I felt exhausted just thinking about spring time. How in the world could I handle taking the kids swimming and biking and to all the other outdoor activities that warm weather required when I was barely keeping it together sitting in the house day after day? Then there came a point where the coaching and the coaxing couldn't make this body go any longer, when I was just done.

I haven't blogged in a month because I've been so busy, but it has been a very different kind of busy than the previous year--I have been busy healing. This month I have been busy having surgery to remove an inflamed gallbladder with gallstones, and healing from the surgery. But even more, I have been busy reassessing my life--my daily habits, my priorities, my goals. I have been busy letting other people take care of me, remembering how to relax and renew my spirit, remembering the joys and the goals and the passions I had before I had five children, and trying to find ways to incorporate all these into my life now. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, my husband, my neighbors, and my friends, I have been taking naps, visiting coffee shops, reading good books, shopping for new clothes (yay for Goodwill!), going for long walks outside by myself, and even going on a few dates with Matt.

People have been asking how I've been doing. The first week after surgery was really rough. The pain was not so much a problem as the nausea and the burden of wondering if I had done the right thing. But slowly I began to feel better, the nausea left and I told people, "At least I'm not any worse than before surgery."

Two weeks after surgery I had a few days where I felt like I might have some extra energy, but they were always followed by more tired days. The chest pains and nausea finally stopped completely. I dared to hope then that I was on the right path.

Now, just over three weeks from surgery I can announce (knock on wood here) that I am feeling much better! If I get nine consecutive hours of sleep per night (and it has to be nine, eight doesn't cut it yet) I can actually wake up feeling well rested--a feeling I had almost forgotten entirely. I feel ambitious, like I want to paint the ugly back door, and clean the minivan, and scrub the shower, and cut Toby's hair all before lunch. Of course, making breakfast, getting a shower, and keeping Elijah from killing himself is usually more than enough to fill the morning, but at least I finally feel energetic doing those things. I have actually had mornings where I got all those things done and then realized I hadn't even thought about drinking coffee.

Two days ago, when the warm weather swept in. I spent the morning removing storm windows and putting up screens. I took the window insert out of our back storm door and fastened the ghetto screen insert in place. I duct taped the loose edges and the holes to move it from the "ghetto" category to "redneck"quality and felt pretty good about my achievements as the warm breeze swept in through the few remaining porous surfaces. But yesterday I got even more ambitious. Matt offered to clean up from dinner and put the kids to bed! (!!!) So I ripped that screen door back off the frame, and I got out my hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, wallet, and car keys. Two trips to Menards later, I had all the supplies I needed to improve that screen door ("fix"would probably too generous a word for what I did). I spent three hours plying all the tack strips off the edges of the frame, ripping up the old screen, pulling out at least fifty tiny rusty nails, stretching the new screen, and tacking everything back in place, but by 10:30pm our screen door had been promoted from "redneck" to "country-bumpkin," a category with which I am much more comfortable. And it felt good. It felt good to be outside, to be productive, and to use my mind and my hands for more than the daily grind of keeping everyone alive.

Today I feel bright and ambitious again. I made a huge pot of baked beans, put a roast and potatoes in the crock-pot, cleaned the kitchen, and kept Elijah off the kitchen table for an entire morning (with the last of those being by far the most challenging). I have big plans to cut the boys' hair, mow the lawn, finish switching out the fall to spring wardrobes and maybe even paint that country-bumpkin back door.

I have plans for this summer now too. I felt more excitement than dread when I went this week to sign the girls up for swimming lessons. I picked up a brochure at the Park and Rec office about local nature trails and took the kids for three long nature walks. We studied the signs of spring that we saw and wrote a poem about them, and I can't wait to go back again--after hair-cuts and lawn-mowing and painting, of course.

It feels wonderful to feel much more like myself again. I can't say for sure how much of my recovery is due to gallbladder surgery and how much is due to the generosity of people around me who have helped to shoulder the burden for awhile and allow me to rest and re-prioritize. Whatever the case, I have a really long list of things I look forward to getting done today, and I can't wait to get out from behind this computer and get going. If you've prayed for me, thought of me, or helped me out this past month, thank you! Maybe I'll eventually have the energy to return the favor.

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