Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taking Stock

Yesterday was wonderful, with no appointments, no obligations to others, and a full day of quiet, just for me. Because it was the beginning of spring break here, there was no pressure to do anything on a particular deadline, so I could just follow whatever train of thought interested me. The night before, I’d had a full night of great sleep and the sun was shining. What could be better?

In the end, I spent all day at my desk, not just cranking away at the next pressing deadline, but actually cleaning up and reorganizing. It felt great, because it was an act of reclaiming my space, my priorities and my sense of autonomy. I even made progress on my goal of recycling, pitching and setting stuff aside to donate. It’s hard, but I see glimmers of progress of getting rid of all the surplus “stuff” that I hang onto. I’m completely terrible at moving “perfectly good” things out of my life, even if I’ll never use them again, but, millimeter by millimeter, I’m improving. The pile I set aside is pleasingly large and there are even places that will be interested in taking those things. It feels good.

I didn’t get through as much as I’d hoped, but what I did get through got thoroughly organized and systems established so routine tasks will not take so long in the future. In a victory on my way to another of my goals, I succeeded in focusing on the big picture and didn’t just mindlessly organize all that was in front of me because I'm good at it and because I could. For example, I’ll probably never again teach one of this semester’s classes. Though I see clearly changes that could be made to improve how it flows, making those improvements, which are not likely generalizable, doesn’t fit my superordinate goal, which is to make consistent time for working on the book manuscript. So, I didn’t go those directions. This was a big win for me, as usually, my compulsion to make things better takes me through all those steps, regardless of the big picture. Compartmentalization works!

My illness seems not to have tipped me into a cortisol trough, which was our biggest concern after the acute symptoms receded (and before). Though I always fret about unwarranted use of antibiotics, it seems to have been a good call in this case, given how fast they made a difference. Then, the question was whether my compromised adrenal system was conked out again, which apparently often happens in tandem with illness and stress. That seems not to be in evidence, which is very, very encouraging. We still need to see how the next week goes, but as there should be ample rest and sleep this week, the circumstances are about as good as they can get for a full and smooth recovery without backsliding.

Taking stock of where I am after an unbelievably stressful period, there’s a lot to feel good about. A year and a half out of surgery, I feel more like myself again than at any previous point. My thinking is almost completely back to me-ness, though the remaining deficits are looking more and more likely to be permanent. It’s possible to compensate for most of them well enough that they’re usually not visible to others, and some of the time, I don’t even notice them any more. The love and support from family and friends that have been sustaining throughout this period were on full strength through this last period, and we were able to accept, appreciate and, I hope, acknowledge its centrality to a quality life. We’re part of a network of good people and we’re stronger for it.

The biggest remaining marker of this experience is in my dramatically reduced energy levels/stamina. I simply cannot do what I used to do in a day without stopping to rest. There are more times than is comfortable when that still smacks me in the face because I didn’t factor that into the day’s plan. I’m learning to plan around the energy lulls, and Michael has gotten more assertive than used to be his habit about questioning a plan that doesn’t seem feasible. We’re learning, even though it’s such a big change.

What does a person feel like who has had brain surgery? I still struggle with that question, because I’m not sure I feel that way, whatever it is, though I’m clearly that person, or one of them. This is a different question than the old one that haunted me for so long (“who gets a brain tumor, anyway?”) and I’m not sure why the preoccupation has shifted, why I’m thinking about it, or what the answer is. This seems to be a journey, not a destination, and since that’s what’s on my mind, that’s what I think about, often while feeling the remarkable dents in my head. At least, I do when there’s time to wool-gather and lately, there hasn’t been much of that. Since I believe woolgathering is healthy, both for rest and for creativity, while Shea is still home on break, I hope we’ll make time to do some puzzles or build something or do something else fun together. That should be a nice complement to my own private pleasure of working to impose order across my personal domain.

The changes from this experience are not bad changes. Where we are today is very different than used to be, but there are many silver linings and positive aspects. This is a good life. We’re lucky to have it.

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