Nov 22 2010
I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been doing some deep internal analysis of writing process, which connects to everything else. As I get more of my baseline health back, and as my other life commitments aren’t dwindling anytime soon (family care, house care, self care, etc), I find a greater and greater need to efficiently manage my time for maximum productivity throughout my life.
I didn’t have to worry about this balancing act nearly as much, before. I was one of those people who regularly seemed to have enough accessible energy for two people. (Note: It’s possible I still do have near that level of reserve, but can’t as easily tell because so much more energy is tied up in recovery/body maintenance these days.) I would get tired, sure, but I very rarely was unable to fit all of what I wished to accomplish into a day, in terms of the energy spent on tasks (timing is a different story).
This was one of the harder things to adjust to, before and after cancer surgery. I had a lot of internal resistance, and resentment, and stubbornness bordering on denial, especially in the early months. I loved being Wonder Woman. I never really took it for granted, as I have family members and friends with chronic health issues that need careful energy management, but I was quite glad not to need such adjustments for myself. Until I did need them — then I was quite glad I’ve always been a person who pays attention to things; while learning a new level of energy management was frustrating, I also had gathered quite a few tips and information on how to go about obtaining that knowledge while observing others close to me. My stepmother in particular is fabulous about knowing how and where to spend her daily energy, and even when to push her limits and pay for it later vs. when to rest and cancel or reschedule something.
After surgery, managing my daily energy was mandatory if I wanted to both heal and get anything else done at all. And since life doesn’t pause for death or near-death, there was certainly a good amount that needed doing, that I could possibly do, and wanted to do. And still at first my mind tried to negotiate, make end-runs around necessity, push just a little harder than was wise. Seeing those closest to me dealing with their own brown-outs from the crisis didn’t help that urge subside. I spent most of my time in the first few months post-tumor doing nearly as much of the sitting and resting as I was doing before surgery. Somewhere in there, I made a very important internal shift in thinking, which is complicated in nuance to describe but I shall try.
Without giving up my belief that I can eventually have most of my “old self” back (helpful psychologically at this point in recovery), I started to accept the realities of the now, where now there were certain things I needed to track or do or not do daily in order to keep healing and keep doing more in general. For example, through the past several months and continuing currently, I must take a daily nap for maximum energy availability. Up until the past six weeks or so, I didn’t even have much choice over when that nap happened. It’s yet another sign of healing progress for me to recently regain some measure of control over when my nap happens, and that change has freed up several schedule pieces to be a bit more flexible about what activity happens when.
Right after surgery I was up for no more than sitting in a chair, my main activity for the previous year. By the end of the second month afterward I was doing light house duties (no lifting), and writing sporadically, and doing moderately all right at family care. By the end of the fourth month, I was functioning for most of a day (with lots of rest) but flailing on balancing all the different desires and responsibilities of daily life. By six months out, I was still nap-dependent (and sinus ick gave me the equivalent of a couple steps back in progression of health for another 6 weeks or so) but managing to get more than half of my daily tasks and commitments to some level of completion or to the next rest point. However, my writing consistency was still far more erratic than I wanted it to be, most often conflicting with needed nap-time.
Now, eight months out from surgery, my stamina is still the slowest to come back online, but I’ve gained nap timing flexibility if not yet nap exemption. I’ve learned how to fit writing in daily — at least theoretically. The next post will focus more specifically on the writing-process progress over the last several months. I’m still not getting done everything I want to in a day, but who of us really does?
Thankfully, I don’t yet feel as if I’ve reached my recovery limits. I also know I will reach them eventually, and that the post-cancer healed me will very likely not have the same energy capabilities of pre-cancer me. Some days, I still push against that knowledge. Other days, my interminable positive attitude is determined to find ways to get as much back as I can — but much more healthily than before.
The biggest change in this area is that I no longer have a significant urge to push my body past its current limits, the way I sometimes did previously. It’s so much easier to give myself basic needed self-care that I have to remember my own perspective shift when listening to others who are still struggling with this learning. I’d love to find ways to communicate in a way for others to viscerally understand why this is so important to monitor and take care of, without them having to go the near-death experience or life-crisis route to learn that.
You will die with things left undone. You can’t escape that reality. To me, therefore, it makes more sense to focus your efforts on doing the things you genuinely want in your life, managing or outsourcing as much of the life-maintenance stuff as you can, and letting go most of the stress over the rest. Post-cancer, every goal, every task, and everyone currently in my life are deeply wanted, and worth spending my daily energy on. That doesn’t feel like a priority likely to change. How do you manifest this in your own life?