Monday, November 8, 2010

Body Awareness

One of the positive aspects of my brain tumor adventure was getting a pointed lesson in paying better attention to the signals my body sends me. Since I wasn’t a particularly well-coordinated child (which turned out to be at least in part depth perception and vision problems that were ultimately addressed), I tended to turn away from most physical activities, and play more to my strengths. You can see how this would have turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy/feedback loop over the years, and it did. And then along came the medical adventure, which probably lasted much longer than it would have, if paying attention to the signals and adding them up had been higher on my attention or priority lists.

In any event, while heeding my body’s signals is still not my best skill, it is at least now something I try to attend with some diligence. Thus, toward the end of last week, when it was clear that both Michael and I were coming down with something, I didn’t try to push through it or work anyway--at least as soon as I got through my Friday teaching and meetings. This might not sound like a big step, but for me, it was, and I spent most of the weekend sleeping and didn’t even try to work--or answer email.

Napping during the day carried loud echos of napping in the time after surgery, when without much warning, I would be out of energy and have to stop. Right then. This led to wondering about my recent cognitive gains. Don’t get me wrong: those are all good and all happy. They do, though, carry a price, which is that working well, like that, requires a larger recharging period than I’ve probably been giving it. I think I got sick partly because I haven’t been paying as much attention to the hard-earned lessons as I should have been--and actually thought I was. Instead, I got complacent and started taking for granted that new life habits and the balance I’ve negotiated were fine and would keep working. That probably turns out not to be true, so here is another reminder that paying attention isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. I don’t much like being under the weather (does anyone? dumb question!), and wouldn’t it have been nice if I’d simply chosen to take a weekend off and spent it doing something fun, rather than being sick in bed? Hmmm??

Wednesday this week marks the 26-month mark since surgery. In a status round-up, since napping brought it all to mind, here’s a quick summary: scalp still feels odd and clicks strangely in ways that I can now replicate all the time, rather than only sometimes. In most positions of my head/neck, rubbing my hand up and down on the left side of my head produces audible clicks. This seems relatively harmless, but it would be nice to understand. I got crowded to the back of an elevator the other day and put my head back against the wall: it still feels very odd and strange, and the slowly-dawning conclusion is that this sensation is probably permanent. Maybe the nerve endings don’t reconnect or something where the scalp was peeled? More questions for Dr. Google. My right shoulder and arm take pretty regular exercise and maintenance to stay flexible and fully usable. While I can go downstairs alone now, it’s never comfortable and requires full attention not to stumble/fall. When I get tired, my balance fails. Sometimes this is amusing, but mostly not. Loud and or visually very distracting places drain the batteries faster than other activities and have to be matched with quiet periods: very quiet periods. Energy levels? About 80-90 percent of what they used to be. Overall? Seems like a pretty solid victory to me.

I spend a lot of time coaching professionals about their priorities and goals and asking questions to help them come to personal conclusions as to which tools are helpful ones and which one are not. Trying to heed my own advice, over the years, I’ve learned to turn off the “incoming” sound on my email and have designated periods where I quit the program entirely. I’ve been working to train expectations about when I’m responsive and when I’m not, to help tamp down all those good girl tendencies about letting other people get on with their work by giving them answers quickly whenever they ask. I'm practicing not saying "yes" to requests just because they are to do things I can do well. My goal is a fulfilling balance of work and reflection and fun. Getting sick from pushing too hard these recent weeks made clear that it’s time to bear down and consciously pay more attention to my own priorities and goals when presented with options. Again. If I truly care about achieving a better balance (I do, I do! really), then I need to do better in making choices.

Here’s to doing better this week.

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