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A Report from the Blue-and-White Couch


Went downstairs to check the mail on my daily walk. Turns out the disco mirror in the foyer is perfect for a selfie.

This morning as I reclined on the blue-and-white couch, my mother sweeping my bedroom, the sun momentarily blaring through the scrim of clouds, I felt acutely the loss of my “real” life. I wanted to be bundled up on my way to the farmer’s market, or puttering from one end of my apartment to the other putting away this and that, or reading the day away because I wanted to not because it’s the only option. i realize this situation is only temporary, but I feel 10 years old again when five or six weeks of waiting for freedom might as well be a lifetime.

I also feel like a bit of a fraud. True there is a very ugly incision running from the top of my pubis, slanting around my belly button to an abrupt end. When I look down at it, I can’t help thinking that it looks a bit like a disappointed butt-crack. Still, even after the Percoset wears off, I can get up from the couch by myself, I can walk the hallway five-ten times a day, and I’m no longer crippled by gas pains that hobbled me in two. I’ve made my breakfast two mornings in a row, and it doesn’t seem right that I’ve asked people to bring me food once a week or come do my laundry. True, I could barely stretch to the top shelf of the shower caddy to reach the hair conditioner this afternoon, and true if something falls on the floor, I either have to sit down or try and do a combination plie with a slight bend to pick it up, and true the physician’s assistant told me that the incision would be weak for at least two weeks and someone else told me a horror story about a woman who ripped open her incision because she was secretly doing housework while her family was asleep.* Still…

I know all the reasons why I still need help. I know that by 9pm I can barely keep my eyes open after a day of mostly lying on the couch. But still, I sometimes find it hard to be okay with people wanting to do for me. It was all fine in the theoretical before I had the surgery, but now that I know I don’t have cancer and everything turned out just fine, I feel less worthy somehow.

You would think we’d need grace only to be willing to give of ourselves, but it turns out we need grace to receive for ourselves as well. And we especially need it, I think, to be willing to accept the kindness of others even when things are not as bad as they could be. Our lives don’t have to be tragedies for us to accept help, to accept love, just being—in whatever state—is more than enough.

*Uhm, we know that would never be me, right?

Word up!

Thinking about empathy today, which defines as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes  of another.” Empathy can be so difficult when we’re in the middle of a crisis, but yet that can be the time we most need to have it. I’m somewhat anxious about having my mother stay with me for two weeks while I recover from surgery. She’s a super nurse, and it’ll be comforting to have someone there who understands about wound care and gives a heckuva sponge bath. What my mom’s not great at is understanding that her “my house, my rules” applies to other people, by which I mean I do get to say how I sort the spices and how I want my vegetables prepared. All I can think about is that I’ll be too tired and in too much pain to have to watch my tongue and do all the myriad behavior adjustments that most of us do as grownups when spending time with our parents. I realized today, however, that I needed to put myself in my mother’s shoes. She’s having her routine disrupted for two weeks, she’s watching her child suffer, and I can’t imagine that though the circumstances are entirely different, she won’t occasionally flashback to the last time I was in the hospital, In fact, this whole apartment is a reminder of that time—she and my sister moved my belongings in here while they were still waiting for me to wake up from the ventilator. She bought me the bed I recovered in then and will recover in now. Yes, I will be going through a lot physically, but we’ll all be going through a lot emotionally. In other words, we’ll have a lot of time together for me to work on my empathy. And maybe I need to print out this blog, and keep it by my bed for all the times I forget that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

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