About two weeks ago, I had surgery
and I’m finally feeling a bit like my old self. I still have a while until I’m 100% back to where I was before (and I have the joy of another surgery to look forward to as well. ugh.), but I’m happy to say that I’m here and I’m writing again. YAY!
As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks — about myself, about facing fears, about staying positive and present even when it’s really difficult to do so, and, importantly, about what it’s like to face a situation in which I was forced to spend days and days in bed, recovering and taking care of myself.
It wasn’t easy, focusing on taking care of myself. I felt completely and utterly unproductive. I felt bored and useless. And, of course, I felt the oh-so-unpleasant pinches of physical pain. But, as challenging as it’s been, I have to say it’s been a great eye-opener in terms of life lessons on self-care. I’ve learned so much from facing my fears (though I didn’t really have a say in the matter, as surgery was my only option!) and about managing my (often negatively-skewed) mindset.
As I was lying in bed for days on end, ideas and lessons came to mind and, as they arrived, I’d type them into the Notes app on my phone so I could recall them later. (Because, I’ll be honest — those pain meds can do a number on your brain!) Some of these lessons relate specifically to life after surgery, but most of them can apply to any difficult situation.
1. A BREAK IN ROUTINE CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU.
I’m a huge fan of routine. I love creating patterns and sticking to them. It gives me a sense of peace and order in a sometimes chaotic world. However, when a health issue presents itself and there’s no other option that to have a surgery that involves a six week recovery, routines pretty much get thrown out the window. Like it or not, you have to adapt. And I’ve discovered that this can actually be a very good thing. Breaking my routines helped me to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems I’d been having. Changing things up forced me, in little ways, to change myself.
2. ACCEPT THE MOMENT MAKES IT MUCH EASIER.
Nothing is worse than being in a situation you don’t want to be in. A couple of weeks ago, I experienced one of my worst fears — having an IV put in. In the past, I’d thought to myself, If I ever need an IV for any reason, I’m just going to run away. I don’t need medicine. I’ll be fine so long as I don’t have to have a needle that stays in my hand. Even now, thinking about it, I feel a little shiver of fear run down my spine. But I had no choice but to be in that moment, to experience one of the things I’d most feared. (And, as it often happens, what I feared that most really wasn’t all that bad!) Staying in moments like that one was difficult, but the more I focused on acceptance, the easier it was to cope.
3. THERE IS ALWAYS GOOD IN A BAD SITUATION.
Having surgery is no walk in the park. It’s not fun and it’s hard to make it seem fun — but! there are some small joys to be found, even in the most unpleasant of situations. For example, I got to spend a lot of time resting and reading. Reading is one of my favorite things to do and I can’t remember a time before now that I felt completely guiltless spending an entire day just reading (other than when I was on vacation, which was always prime reading time!). Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do — work, for example — I tried to enjoy the down time, to embrace all the words I got to read, and do be incredibly thankful for wonderful parents who took care of me day in and day out.
4. SOMETIMES THERE ARE GREAT LESSONS IN PAIN.
While I was resting, I started daydreaming about how I would spend my time once I was back on my feet. I’d go running! I’d take my dog on walks in the woods! I’d have more dance parties! I’d go on more adventures! All of these grand (and active!) plans were very un-me, but after lying around for so long, all I wanted to do was get up and move. I realized that this new desire to move around, to hunt down adventure, might be a lesson. I’d been spending a lot of time on my couch, watching Netflix and reading. Back when I was well, I’d been spending a lot of down time on my couch by choice. But when I was forced to be on the couch and it wasn’t a choice anymore, I realized how much I’d been wasting my health lying horizontally on the sofa. Surgery taught me this lesson in a way I might not have learned otherwise.
5. A NEW SITUATION CAN BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE.
Health has never been a huge priority for me. Exercise is something I’d rather not do (though I did get into a lovely habit of yoga, which I hope to resume as soon as I’m better). Eating healthy always seems to take too much effort. And caffeine and I have become soulmates over the years. But when I was forced to change — to spend my time focusing on my health and recovering — I managed to make some great changes. I started eating healthier, incorporating vegetables and fruit into most of my meals. I cut my caffeine intake way down. (What did I need caffeine for if I was just going to be lying on my bed reading?) This unfortunate situation was the kick in the pants I needed to change some of my bad habits.
6. TRUE COLORS SHINE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.
Wow, did I learn a lot about the people in my life when I went through this tough time! People I hadn’t spoken to in years reached out to me; people I see on a weekly basis said nothing. Some people sent gifts and texts and checked up on me. Others rarely inquired about how I was doing. When you’re going through a tough time, you learn a ton about the people around you — and some of that knowledge will be really surprising. Sometimes it will hurt. Sometimes it will erupt in unexpected joy. It’s an incredible way to see the people around you for who they really are. Those who are there for you are the ones you should devote your attention to; those who are not should not receive much of your time and energy. I will never forget the way people treated me during this time and it will forever shape how I view the character of others.
Thinking of these lessons and trying to find the positive in a negative situation was extremely helpful for me while I was going through this. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I would have been as focused on having a positive, present mindset if it weren’t for the knowledge that there are people out there like you, reading what I write and seeking inspiration from my words. You might not realize it, but just by reading Positively Present, you’ve inspired me to be more positive and more present. So, thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to write these words and thank you for reading.
Stay tuned for PART II of this post next week! Once it’s been published, you can read it here
Want to explore how to have a more positive, present life? Pick up your very own copy of my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I’ve turned back to it often this year as I’ve gone through major changes and it’s been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)