It was a few months ago when the sunshine was stronger than it is now, but my body was not. Recent shenanigans with my kidneys had resulted in time in the hospital, and the unexpected surgery that followed. One of the only benefits of the situation last spring was that I was eligible for physical therapy for a few months while I was home recovering.
The first day that I met Bethany, (the PT from visiting nurses) she asked me what my goals were, both short and long term. The short term goals were easy. I wanted the horrendously annoying tube out of my kidney, and I wanted to get on with my life. But beyond that, I wanted to get stronger. My thought was that if I could get both my legs and my core stronger, then my transfers and day to day activities would be easier, and generally moving around more would help my pain and spasms decrease.
I have owned my set of parallel bars for many years now, but I must confess that I have only used them fairly consistently during the last year and a half or so. After my surgery, my abdomen was pretty sore, and I was still getting used to the tube that had been surgically inserted in my kidney. It was going to have to be there for awhile.
The thought of doing some laps on my parallel bars in those circumstances had about as much appeal as going to the dentist for a root canal. Bethany totally understood, but reminded me that laps were only going to get harder the more I put them off.
Knowing she was right, that first day, I pushed my way over to the parallel bars in my living room and gingerly pulled myself up to my feet. I stood there for several minutes, letting my body get used to the change in position and feeling the difference throughout. At that point, I simply wasn’t used to being up on my feet. And although in many ways it felt good to stretch out like that, it was also a bit scary. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I tried to balance, which has never been a particularly strong point of mine; and at any given moment a big spasm could have easily had me sprawling on the floor. Consequently, I was holding on to those bars for dear life.
Bethany waited until I looked more comfortable. Then she said, “You will get stronger as you learn to let go.”
All summer I walked laps back and forth on my parallel bars. Sometimes I listened to music in the process. Sometimes I thought through a writing project or had a conversation with a caregiver if my “lap time” happened to be during a shift that they were working. As the weeks passed, I discovered that Bethany was right. I felt stronger when I used them only as a guide, and stood with the most of my weight on my feet, instead of holding on with the grip of a drowning man holding on to a life raft.
In the last few weeks, there has been some significant stress in my life. My beloved service dog, Leah, has had some serious health issues and the last three caregivers I hired all quit on me without notice for various reasons. Since I am connected to my service dog more than almost any other creature on earth, her struggles have hit me hard.
I know in my head that when caregivers quit a job like this without notice knowing how vulnerable I am and how much I can’t do for myself, that is more about them than me. Even so, it is hard not to take it personally, even after almost thirty years of hiring and managing a caregiver team. Much effort is put forth on my part to treat my caregivers very well. So my mind has been racing often lately as I look for answers.
A long time ago I learned that, in challenging times at least for me, the question “Why?” is worthless. Asking why has never gotten me an answer that I am satisfied with.
Asking “How should I handle this?” tends to get me closer to where I want to be. I think it is because the second question has me looking for solutions instead of staying “stuck in the yuck” of “Why is this happening?”
So last night as I lay in bed wide awake, everything I have to handle kept running through my mind. And then I thought of Bethany and what she told me in the spring.
“You will get stronger as you learn to let go.”
It made me think. What am I holding on to that isn’t serving me right now?
Do I think that my caregivers are doing me a favor? (They get paid $10 per hour.)
Do I believe that unless I let caregivers walk all over me they are going to leave?
Do I believe that Leah always has to help me more than I help her?
Do I think that Leah won’t be happy unless our lives are exactly the same as they were a year ago?
None of that is true.
I will get stronger as I learn to let go.