before they flitter away, I wanted to capture some of the lessons I think the latest hospitalization (four nights last week) brought with it. I don’t mean the practical, body care tasks, but rather the soft skills I want to cultivate as part of my well-being.
1. Ask for help – really
This morning, I called a friend and asked her to come over and feed me at noon and 2 PM. This reflects my post-hospitalization doctors’ orders to eat several small meals each day. We are retraining my intestinal tract.
The amazing thing is I don’t ever remember asking a friend for this kind of help. I have lived with an illusion of family independence. My support has come from my husband, brother, and daughter. We have been, as a family, ducks swimming in water – serene to, look at but paddling vigorously underneath the surface.
I am determined to live differently. I’ve realized (a little late in life, but better late than never) that needing help, admitting and receiving it is a way to enter into deeper relationships. I believe that creating, nurturing, sustaining, and repairing relationships are the raison d’être for being human. Why else did we develop such big brains and concepts like love and compassion?
It all begins with recognizing that we cannot do it on our own.
2. Learn names and back stories
In the hospital, I had a nurse and CNA assigned to me, three shifts a day. In addition, representatives (teachers and residents) of the surgery and general medicine departments visited me each day. I saw more people during those four days than I have in the last two years. I made it a game (once I was feeling decent) to remember names (at least during the shift) and find out a little bit about each person who passed through my day. Where were they from? How long had they been in the US? How did they choose their profession? What was challenging about it? What did they love? I heard fascinating stories and, again, created relationships, even for a short time.
3. Healing cannot be represented by a straight-line graph.
After a couple days of progress, I felt like my recovery took a step back. Panic danced at the edge of my mind. I came up with this aphorism and mentally repeated it to calm myself.
The US dominant culture encourages us to assume that things are going to get better. My first job was at a nursing home and one of the older ladies made a practice of repeating each morning “every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” This positive outlook kept her happy. It wouldn’t work well for me. I don’t believe it. I notice that well-being comes and goes, changes form, spirals up and down.
4. Be gentle with yourself – really
I say this to people and believe it, but practicing it is difficult. A secret part of me expected to getbackto work and be ready to function fully right away. After nearly a week, my sleep patterns are no longer disturbed. I am slowly discovering what the new normal for eating needs to be. I haven’t begun to discover how the latest health challenge will affect my ongoing energy levels. Meanwhile, I need to live with less ambition and more self-compassion.
Taking stock following a hospitalization seems like the right move. What did I learn? What, if any, changes do I want to make? What practices can I put in place to support my healing journey?