Saturday, May 2, 2009

Convalescence - Hudson Valley News Column

On Easter Monday, I had a small operation (okay, it was a hernia) that has kept me close to home for the past several days.  In that time I’ve discovered a few things.

First, I learned that I’m a real pain wimp.  It didn’t take long after the anesthesia wore off for me to grab for that bottle of pain killers!  Didn’t take long to learn how to hobble around and groan impressively every time I tried to sit up or twist.  Pathetic.

Second, I discovered that there are a lot of nice people out there who check in on you to see what they can do, who send cards and notes of support.  All that for just a routine thing.  It was rather nice if a bit embarrassing.

Then I learned something a bit more sobering and useful for reflection.  Sitting around doing nothing is hard.  My wife has had to practically sit on me to keep me from doing too much.  But I’m one of those people who always thinks he has to make that meeting or be there for practice even when doing so is utterly pointless.  I went to the kids’ soccer practice but had to sit there shifting in discomfort so much that I was more a distraction than a help.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest.  Unless you have a fever of 107 or have lost 5 pints of blood, there is no excuse for missing anything.

However, I suspect the truth is we are all driven to be “productive.”  Somehow we -- I -- feel that getting nothing done means being nothing.  If I’m not producing, then I’m not anything.  It’s an illusion that the world can’t function without us, but being forced to lie down on the sofa and let someone bring me a blanket rubs against my need to be a doer.  

Sitting on the couch when the kids are at school and my wife is shopping leaves me watching the dog breathe as he snores next to me dreaming doggy dreams.  How he can simply sleep the day away amazes me.  Watching him lie perfectly still for hours makes me wonder why I can’t.  

Yet during several days of convalescence, I had no choice.  Sit still, said my body.  And I tried to obey.  When I did too much, my body rebelled with pangs of pain throughout my middle.  Only baby steps, and not too many, were allowed at first.  After three days of it, taking little walks and sitting less, I find that sitting is possible.

I  wish I could say profound insights came flooding to me in these quiet days.  They did not.  Nor did siting quietly by myself suddenly become easy.  But it was a blessed reminder that inactivity can be as important as activity.  Sometimes, you need to do nothing, and I plan to get better at doing it even as getting up and going gets easier. 

The Hudson Valley News is the new weekly newspaper for Hyde Park and the Hudson Valley.  It comes out each Wednesday.  You can purchase it at local vendors or purchase a subscription.