Self-Improvement via Coercion

I’ve never been a person for whom moderation came naturally. Why stop at one thousand words a day when three thousand words a day will help me finish this novel three times as fast? If I cut out sugar, why not cut out bread, too, and then I’ll lose weight twice as fast. If exercise twice a week is good, then surely five times a week is better, right?

I wrote a few weeks ago about pushing myself really hard prior to surgery, and it both worked and didn’t. I cleared all my to do lists before surgery, which really helped during recovery because I didn’t feel as twitchy from my permanent spot on the couch. It did, however, make me feel like I was riding in a speeding car with no seat belt and someone slammed on the brakes.

Entropy after inertia is not an easy transition.

So now, two weeks after surgery and with four weeks to go until my next, much bigger, surgery, I’m in a strange limbo. Even though I feel like I should be relatively over it already, I’m still exhausted and my limits are set in stone. There’s really no sense pushing it at this point, because invariably my injury just pushes back.

I got really ambitious and walked around Target over the weekend and I was so tired afterward I had to come home, ice and elevate, and then take a nap. When I woke up, I realized it’s actually kind of stupid to walk more than I have to because hello, there’s a huge hole in my cartilage.

I feel pressure (from myself) to be back to normal, so for now life is a constant effort to reign in my Type-A Nutjob tendencies and remind myself that, unlike in mathematics sometimes, the limit does exist. Each day is a marathon, and if I sprint at any point, I might wind up with nothing left to get me over the finish line.

The same principle applies to my writing. In a fit of naivete a few weeks ago, I calculated that if I wrote a certain number of words every day of my recovery, I’d have the first draft finished by the time I went in for the second surgery.

That’s not going to happen.

I refuse to rush what is arguably my favorite part of the writing process, and I’m not going to do that to myself because some days I can hide on my couch and type. Some days, I have to go to appointments, ice and elevate a few times, or take my kids on field trips. Life happens, and I’m not going to short-change myself by trying to force all of it to happen in the narrow window between now and when everything stops again.

Writing will happen, because I’m disciplined enough to make sure it does, but first drafts, for me at least, are not the place for brute force. This is a time of discovery and finesse, and I’ll be damned if I don’t let myself enjoy that process.

So I guess I’ve finally learned some measure of moderation. Better late than never I suppose, and besides, what other choice do I have? Sometimes you have to become a more balanced, well-rounded person against your will. The universe drags you, kicking and screaming, toward progress, and then when you look back, you wonder why you put up such a fuss because really, this isn’t so bad after all.

An Honest View of Recovery

Don’t ask me why.

I feel like I’m two people at the moment. One of these people is tired of sitting on the couch and ready to jump back into the fray. School drop-offs, grocery shopping, errands running, and manuscript writing! Bring it on! Rawr! The other person is tired, stifled, and uninspired after a week of painkillers, painkiller detox, crappy sleep, and routine disruption.

To be honest, I’m never sure what to do at this point in recovery, because I always end up here eventually. There always comes a time when I’m functional enough to do most of my jobs, but so out of it after a weird week off that it all seems overwhelming and impossible. My life has revolved around ice packs and med schedules for the last seven days, now all of a sudden I’m supposed to go back to running things? How?

It doesn’t help that one of my children, who shall remain nameless, woke me up at 5 AM this morning, a scant hour after I went back to sleep after a 3 AM Tylenol dose. I think I got four-ish hours of sleep. Boo.

So this is an honest view of recovery. I can only sleep on one side because of the stitches on the outside of my leg, I’m still waking up to take Tylenol in the middle of the night, I find making toast overwhelming, and driving in the car makes my knee ache. My brain is stuffed full of cotton and all I want to do is watch TV, but then when I do watch TV all I want to do is want to write.

That said, I need to get back into my routine. One cannot survive indefinitely on The Office reruns and midday naps, and I don’t want to completely lose track of the novel I’m working on.

As for the fact that my next surgery is a lot more invasive and will take me down for a lot longer than this one? La la la! I can’t hear you! Denial is a perfectly valid coping mechanism!

Send chocolate and hugs, you guys.

Oh, I! I Did Survive!

Hello from the other side of surgery! As it says in the title, I survived. As surgeries go, this one was easy-peasy. Half the credit goes to my surgeon, who is awesome and in whom I trust without reservation. The other half of the credit goes to my anesthesiologist, who persuaded me to try the surgery awake but heavily sedated to avoid the horrible nausea I usually get when I wake up from general anesthesia.

True to his word, he gave me ALL THE VALIUM, so sorry to the other patients who needed it because it was all for meeeeeeee! I was aware of what they were doing to my knee, but I was so out of it I couldn’t even muster up the wherewithal to care. At one point, I felt the scope going into my knee and it freaked me out until my anesthesiologist gave me a little more something through my IV, after which I was like, “Meh. Scope in knee. Whatevs.”

And finally, half of the credit goes to the nurses who took care of me. They were on top of things and took such good care of me. I could not have asked for better care. The rest of the credit, like half of it, goes to my husband, who kept me calm and took the best care of me while balancing work, our kids, and a wife who couldn’t carry anything for herself.

Yes, I know that all adds up to more than 100%, but I don’t care. That should tell you how smooth this surgery was. Here’s what it looked like afterward:

You can’t see them through the bandages, but there are three laparoscopic scars held closed by black stitches hiding under there. I’ll get the stitches removed on Wednesday, after which I’ll hopefully be cleared to drive again and start physical therapy.

Seeing as this isn’t my first knee surgery rodeo, I’ve already begun working on my quad strength and range of motion. Breaking through scar tissue is never fun, but it gets harder the longer you wait so I’m gritting my teeth and getting on with it.

Now that I’m back on my feet without my crutches, life is just a healing and waiting game until we get word that my shiny new cartilage is ready to be installed. My surgeon says I’d scraped my cartilage down to the bone again, which is probably why I was in so much pain.

Now that I’m walking again, I’m kind of bummed that I’ll be on crutches for at least six weeks after Surgery Round Two. That’s six weeks of crutches completely non-weight bearing, mind you. To give you perspective on what that means, I lost an inch of muscle mass from my left leg in three days from non-use. Now imagine six weeks. My left leg will shrink despite my faithful application of PT strengthening exercises. My right foot will cramp up when I stand on it too long. I won’t see the upstairs of my house for almost two months as I continue to sleep in the dining room downstairs.

But all that’s in the future! For now, I’m recovering nicely from the first surgery and we’ve all agreed it was a good dry run for the big one next month. Until then? I will be gingerly walking as much as I can and doing my best to well and truly appreciate how marvelous it is to be able to use both hands to carry stuff.

Bullet Train Joyride

Can’t stop! Having surgery soon!

You ever feel like you’re on a train that’s going too fast, but then you look at the control room and the engineer who keeps the accelerator on is you, and the brakeman who refuses to slow down is you, and the coal-shoveler is you, and you all realize you should probably slow down but you’re all so busy doing your jobs that slowing down makes no sense?

This is my life right now. My kids are starting school next month, which means shelling out SO MUCH MONEY because they’ve outgrown their pants, shoes, school supplies, and coats. I’m juggling notes from my critique buddies (aka beta readers) for Bai Treason so I can wrap it up and send it to my publisher with a bow on top. I’m also plotting out and researching my next project, which will not be a Bai book so it might just have a non-punny title (right now I’m leaning toward Tranquility Land).

Why am I in such a rush? Why is everything so urgent? Why is the bullet train that is my life careening around corners and blasting through level crossings? Surgeries. Two of them.

All summer, I’ve blissfully denied that I’m having surgery soon because the first one isn’t happening until September and hey, that’s a whole season away. Ages away!

Now, however, September is breathing down my neck. It’s running its back-to-school fingers through my hair and whispering sweet shopping lists in my ear and suddenly I’m very aware of the fact that all of this will come crashing to a halt soon.

I’m not one of those people who has surgery and then moves on like nothing happened. It’s extremely disruptive for me. Pain, pain meds, nausea from pain meds, physical therapy, the unavoidable torture that is crutches, it’s all disruptive. My first surgery, in September, should mess things up for a week or so, and then things will hopefully go back to normal.

The surgery at the end of October, however, is a big one. A doozy, you could say. That one will keep me on crutches for six to eight weeks. I’ll lose all my muscle tone in my left leg again and have to learn how to walk for the second time in as many years. It’s going to be a challenge, and you can trust me on this because I’ve already done it.

So I guess you could say the reason my bullet train life is speeding out of control is because I know my awesome, reckless train has to pull in for some scheduled maintenance soon so I’m getting some joyriding in while I can.

The only thing I can do is hope this scheduled maintenance keeps me on the rails for a long time. Fingers crossed.

In Sickness and in Health

1148904_10152132338809392_1379764411_nWes and I have been married eight years now. Well, technically, seven years fifty one weeks. Our eighth wedding anniversary is next week and I’ve had much occasion to think about the vows we took that day in 2005.

You see, Wes had minor surgery last week. As I’ve learned from my own brushes with surgery, however, even surgery that’s preceded by the word “minor” means pain and limitations for a good long while.

It was difficult for me to watch Wes get prepped for surgery. Part of the reason, I think, is that there was a strange reversal of roles. Well, there tried to be. Rather, I tried to let there be but it didn’t work out. You see, Wes is the emotionally steady, unshakeable, indefatigable rock of our marriage. He’s confident, he’s calm, he’s rational. I’m a bit more excitable. You can measure my emotional highs and lows with a Richter scale, and because of my inexhaustible imagination I am quite good at conjuring worries where there needn’t be.

Prior to his surgery, I kept asking Wes how he was doing, prepared to comfort him if he needed it. He was fine and in no need of pep talks. Despite his stoic calm, I told myself it would not be permissible to worry. In no universe is it ok to make my husband comfort me before he goes in to surgery.

And then the nurse told him it was time to go back to the OR and my treasonous eyes cried a little, despite my sternest warnings that they were to remain steadfast and dry. Wes laughed at me.

During the surgery, I fretted. I gnawed my lip, I picked at my cuticles, I looked up every time someone walked by, I all but paced the tiny waiting room. When two hours had gone by on what was supposed to be a 60-90 minute surgery, I started feeling a bit frantic. I just wanted to see him with my own eyes to make sure he was ok.

The nurses took pity on me and let me come back to the recovery area a little early, and then something interesting happened.

Wes was in a lot of pain and extremely groggy, but I was fine. It wasn’t until I was bringing the car around to come get him that I started feeling rattled, but then as soon as he was in the car next to me I was a rock. I finally got the chance to be the steadfast one!

The next few days passed in a blur of the hundreds of menial little tasks you do when you’re taking care of someone post-op, and it seemed to me the perfect way to spend the weeks leading up to our anniversary. Because a relationship untested is a relationship unreliable.

It’s been nice to meditate on the “In sickness and in health” part of our marriage vows this last week, to be there for Wes the way he’s been there for me so many times before.

Of course, everything is almost back to normal now. Wes is still required to take it easy (ha!) and not allowed to lift anything heavier than ten pounds (so no kids), but he’s back to being Super Man and I’m back to being…Well, me.

Here’s hoping 2014 involves a lot fewer trips to the O.R.