Sunday, February 27, 2011

Incentives to take a walk

Before my surgery I had this wild idea that if I couldn't drive to work afterward, maybe I could work up to walking the two miles to get there. The idea made me laugh. Then I had the surgery and discovered that walking really is an option. Both my body and my doctor agree that there's no harm in it as long as I exercise some moderation.

Still, exercise for the sake of exercise is always less than compelling to me. I came home from the hospital to a promise of spring and was taking a couple of walks a day. When the weather went back to February dreary and cold and my temporary walking companions weren't exactly signing up for the long haul, it became more difficult to get myself out the door.

Tonight I walked a little less than two miles.

What drove me to it:

1. Someone said, "It is warm out there! You should open a window!" (Warm? That sounds good for a walk.)

2. A good nap that made me feel properly recovered from a couple of strenuous car outings in the past few days and ready to add an activity to my rest/move cycle.

3. Continued encouragement from my doctor for walking.

4. Seeing someone who consistently recovers from serious health issues more quickly and more fully than expected. He's an inspiration to me.

5. Telling someone I was walking less and hearing the "I knew it!" tone in her response as she noted that she had wondered about my initial burst of energy. Who wants to be identified as a "flash in the pan" with no ability to sustain what they start? I am NOT a "flash in the pan"! I'll prove it by grabbing my raincoat and walking stick and heading out the door into the warm misty weather.

6. My trusty ol' PDA and earbuds that make walking a musical encounter with some of my favorite music of all time. (Fortunately, traffic along my walking route is almost nonexistent and, even with the earbuds, cars have no excuse for running me down as long as I pay some modest level of attention to what's happening around me.)

Ah, a good combination. A medical professional giving me full permission to go walking, inviting temperatures outside, a good walking route, and a friend to tell me, "I knew you couldn't get back on your feet this quickly."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Thrill of Accomplishment

OK, I think I'm done with this sitting around stuff. There is huge satisfaction in accomplishment, and walking just a little further today than yesterday isn't quite doing it for me. Nor am I going to find any satisfaction in the "word search" puzzle book someone sent me. It's time to see what trouble I can get into around here.

I'm not even close to being a workaholic. Rather, I am fully capable of filling my hours with activity that looks like work but actually contributes almost nothing to the overall good of the world. Still, when I am able to accomplish worthwhile tasks, there is certainly great satisfaction in it. I'm thinking it's time to conjure up a "lite" to-do list and do it in the name of mental health.

Right after I take a nap.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The power of discontentment

I had a cancerous kidney removed a week ago. When I posted to Facebook that I was taking a vacation, checking into a place with full service amenities -- breakfast in bed, uniformed staff available at the push of a button, etc. -- a friend said she was jealous. She was joking, of course. Still, it's amazing how discontentment with what we have can make another person's lot seem so very attractive. Even the idea of having major surgery can seem like a treat to someone who has to get up every morning and trudge off to another day of work.

I'm lounging at home right now, with a to-do list to die for. 1. Nap. 2. Heal. 3. Recover. That's it. Oh, I should probably take care of a few physical needs. Eat. Toddle off to the bathroom now and then. That sort of thing. But it's still a pretty short list. And I hear that people pay good money for the pills I have sitting beside me. Ah, mine is the life of luxury. And all it has cost me thus far is one kidney, some pain, and a pittance of copay for drugs and lab work. (I'm sure the bills will start showing up soon.)

There is huge power in both contentment and discontentment. I am truly blessed. I have no complaints with life. But I could if I chose discontentment. Contentment is definitely a choice. When I choose it, it's not difficult to count my blessings. When others choose discontentment, they discover they have drawn the short stick in terms of blessings. Then they see me and all my blessings and are truly envious, regardless of my actual lot in life. If I were homeless and living in rags but able to count enough blessings to be happy, there would be discontent people who would look at me with envy, wishing they could chuck all the burdens of responsible living and join me in my carefree lifestyle.

A number of years ago, I was serving time in my least favorite room in the house while others were lounging in the living room waiting for me to produce food for them. I was highly displeased with this arrangement and railing against it in my mind. After all, I was as tired as those people. I deserved to relax as much as they did.

The question that came to me was: Are you really so overworked?

Overworked? Well, compared to everyone else around here ...

NO! Not compared to everyone else. Compared to an absolute scale of exhausting physical demands.

Uhm... well, no, not really. Not when you include the physical demands that come with slavery or other types of servanthood on the scale. It has actually been a pretty easy day. And life. I could expend much, much more energy in a day if I worked up to it and kept myself at full physical capacity. And if the people in the other room were swinging pick-axes and carrying rocks, I would feel quite blessed here in the kitchen.

So why are you complaining?

Hmm... it's amazing how things look different when those lucky others are taken out of the picture. I am blessed to have discovered the secret to being content with the lot I am handed. I wish I could pass that secret on to others who are sure they could also be content with my lot but are not nearly to blessed by their own.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Agh! When was my last back-up?

So I'm convalescing on the couch, laptop on lap. Life is good. But one can only spend so much time staring at a computer screen. I close the laptop. It heads into suspend mode as I lower it to the floor beside the couch. My arm doesn't quite extend far enough. One end of the computer is on the floor, but the other end drops a couple of inches. The hard drive heads are still engaged. End of hard drive. Gone. Dead. All my lovely files. I notice the drop and wince, but don't realize the significance until next time I open the computer, at which time it starts making little whimpering sounds.

I wait for the panic. This is far from my first hard drive crash. I have been through this before with all the classic steps of grief.

1. Denial -- it can't be. Maybe it's not really dead. Surely someone can bring it back for me.

2. Anger -- in this case, at myself. Why did I drop a valuable piece of electronic equipment on the floor? Why didn't I have a decent backup?

3. Bargaining -- HOW much does it cost for data retrieval on dead hard drives? Can I pay someone to bring back my lost files?

4. Depression -- The pictures I will never see again. The data lost. So devastating. So hopeless. So valuable and yet not worth the money to bring them back, even if it were possible.

5. Acceptance -- yes, my data is gone, but life will go on. I won't pay for resurrection. I will accept the loss and start a new collection of data on a new hard drive. I will survive.

So I wait for the panic. Arghh! My hard drive is dead. My data is lost. Let's see. What did I lose?

Uhm... well, I did a new blog post earlier today. Yes, and it's safely stored at blogspot.

Uhm ... mail files. I have lots of AOL mail files and this computer is the official storage spot for them. Yes, and the most recent ones are still on the AOL mail server. Is there really that much value in the old ones?

Data, surely I had valuable data on here. On a laptop? Why would you store your valuable data on a piece of equipment that can walk away in a moment? All the most essential files are stored other places, remember? Haven't you started storing most stuff in dropbox?

Pictures. I have pictures on here that may not exist anywhere else. Maybe, but aren't most of them pictures someone sent you via email? It's not as though you have the only copy in existence.

But always before I've missed most the little things, the files not worth backing up. The applications with no supporting media. What about those? Name one.

Hmm... so, still, I'm convalescing. I can't be expected to sit at a desktop during my time of need. So bring your work laptop home and use it.

That's it? No grief other than the value of the hard drive and the Windows license? This is certainly a change since the last hard drive tragedy.

(Placeholder for summary last line -- I'm still on my mental break.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Taking a mental break

My surgery is over. The growth on the kidney was a non-typical cancer. It's now gone -- the cancer (hopefully), the growth (for sure), and the kidney that was hosting it. I'm recovering quite nicely. The blessings are many. Despite my last post, I'm not listing them. That would require organizing my thoughts, lining things up, managing my thought processes, prioritizing my goals for the day. I'm taking a break from all that. This is a stand-alone post, not one of a series, not part of a plan.

I'm surprised. I arranged to take some time off from life while recovering from surgery. I have 22 staples holding things together northwest of my navel (if north is up and west is to the left). That's the part I can see. I have no clue what lies beneath the surface. There's some pain involved in all that. No surprise there. What surprises me is the message I'm getting from within and without that it's fine to stretch the limits on my physical activities. The only restrictions I have involve driving and lifting over ten pounds. Walking is fine. Climbing steps is fine. The way to return to full health is to be as active as possible physically while getting plenty of rest and not ignoring the messages my body is giving me.

It's the mental process that is surprising me. It was around 18 hours after I arrived home from the hospital and was settled comfortably on the couch with my laptop when someone suggested a little project I could take on while convalescing. It was a project that wouldn't require a lot of mental energy. Gather some information, make a phone call, or maybe just send an email. Nothing much. And it could result in a $50 refund for an event my husband and I will miss this next week. Little effort; tangible reward. What's not to like?

Except my brain declined the assignment. No, I'm taking some time off. I'm not doing research and gathering information. I'm not focusing on completing a task. Not this task. Not the thousand other tasks that would fit this same model.

Here's a short list of things I could do while convalescing:

1. Catch up on email for home and work. Read the new stuff, sort through and delete the old stuff. All from the comfort of my couch.

2. Organize files. Grab a couple of folders out of a drawer and take as long as I want to sort through them.

3. Make a list of topics to research in Google. Spend just one hour a day doing that research.

4. Make some progress on the pile of books and magazines waiting my attention.

5. Learn something new.

6. Write thank you notes for all the many kindnesses coming my way.

The pattern here is tasks that require almost no physical exertion, just mental exertion. After all, it's my body that has had surgery. Why would my mind need time off? It should probably be kept active so I stay sharp.

But no. I don't think so. Life is far from stress-free for me. My various to-do lists for work and home and outside activities regularly threaten to overwhelm the time available for doing them. I think I need a mental break. I can't afford to take a lot of time off, but I think I can afford another week of letting go of my mental focus and giving my mind a vacation. Then perhaps I can ease my way back into regular life while considering ways to perhaps settle at a slightly lower level of stress.

People hear about my surgery and encourage me to lie on the couch for as long as needed for recovery. Taking a mental break while recovering physically is a little more of a challenge, but I think it will be worth the effort.

I would wrap this post up with some summary thought, but that always requires significant mental energy. So I'll just quit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blessing in the Thorn

Phillips, Craig, and Dean sing a song called "Blessing in the Thorn" that has been a blessing to me. (See title link.)

Having encountered a thorn in my life, I am once again seeing the beauty of the blessings in the thorn. To briefly state the "thorn" (so scholars won't have to spend centuries trying to figure it out), my left kidney has a lesion on it and is scheduled to be surgically removed the day after tomorrow.

I'm not sure I can even begin to catalog all the blessings I am encountering in this thorn, but thought I would record at least a few of them.

1. Symptoms. Thinking back, I wonder how many I ignored before some showed up that drove me to my doctor. What a blessing that they escalated to where I couldn't ignore them any longer. Yet, once I had appointments made and was committed to getting to the bottom of them, they subsided almost completely, allowing me to resume my normal schedule between doctor visits.

2. Modern medicine. I won't even try to be more specific than that. What amazing miracles of healing happen every day in medical facilities around the world.

3. Timing, both the big picture the small. On the big side, it looks like I'll be able to make it to my daughter's wedding in five weeks. It wouldn't have had to work out like that. On the small side, I do bookkeeping for two organizations. My surgery is on the 15th of the month at the start of the least intensive time for bills. In between there are multiple blessings in both the timing of the surgery and how that timing all came together.

4. Friends. It's great to know people care.

5. Prayer. What a gift it is to have people remember me in their prayers.

That's just a start. Maybe I'll find time to add more in the next days and weeks.