Patience for the Process

April 26, 2024

As I continue to navigate the subtle and profound shifts in my life following major surgery, I find myself at times caught between moments of deep, introspective stillness and bursts of forward-looking anxiety. This blog post is part of a series where I share insights from my recovery, hoping to shed light not just on the physical healing, but on the mental and emotional transformations that accompany such a pivotal life event.

In the quiet stillness of the moment, there’s a peaceful clarity that feels like home. Yet, when my thoughts wander into the future, the peace shatters like glass—problems and stressors emerge, clouding the mind with chaos. For months, I had indulged this anxious worrying, a needless preoccupation with an unknown that only served to unnerve the spirit.

As I reflect on this pattern, I recognize the addictive nature of my anxiety—an alluring trap that spins a web of negative projections about the future, drawing my attention away from the present. It was a habitual mental exercise that, while deceptively comforting, ultimately kept me from the peace found in the here and now. Breaking free from this cycle revealed to me the contrast between fixation on a feared future and the practice of remaining present—an unexpected alchemy that turned apprehensive energy into one of neutral expectancy. This discovery illuminated a crucial insight: the outcome, though not under my direct control, need not be tinged with negativity. It became possible to remain hopeful, expectant of possibility without the weight of wanting to steer the uncontrollable.

This realization unfolded more fully once I returned home, pondering over the pages of ‘The Shack’ by WM Paul Young. Expectancy is a hopeful state, a welcoming of possibilities without attachment to specific outcomes. Expectations, however, are rigid, often leading to disappointment as they are confined to precise results, none of which we can truly command. This nuance, now clear to me, has become a compass guiding me through the recovery process—away from the cliffs of anxiety and towards the open fields of presence and possibility. Albeit imperfectly, because arrival forever more in a particular state is not the human experience.

In order to stay present while in the hospital, surrounded by the rhythm of medical devices and the steadfast presence of medical staff, I found myself actively seeking connection. With each new face that entered my room, I reached out with genuine curiosity, asking about their lives and what paths led them to healthcare. It was through these deliberate conversations that I uncovered the richness of personal motivations and backgrounds that each person enthusiastically shared.

Whether it was learning about a surgical member’s calling to the intensity of medevac missions or listening to the floor cleaner’s exhilarating experiences of skydiving and extreme skiing, it was my inquiry that invited these narratives into the room. I found purpose in these exchanges, each story weaving into my days at the hospital, providing a vibrant distraction from the mechanical heartbeat of my temporary home.

Debra smiled at my eagerness to engage, understanding my need for these meaningful interactions. It was a powerful reminder of the human desire to connect and be seen. From the long-standing X-ray technician whose face lit up when sharing her journey, to the traveling nurses with tales from the road, my active conversations with them brought a sense of normalcy and camaraderie to the recovery process.

Stepping back into my home, I was met with the habitual energy of the past—a rhythm and dynamic that had long permeated the walls of our space and flowed through the heart of Optimus One. Yet, this familiar cadence was not what I needed for recovery. I shared my concerns with Debra, recognizing that the energy I left behind, although comfortable, would not suffice for the healing ahead. It was essential to shift this energy, to replace the habitual with something more conducive to recuperation. At home, unlike in the hospital’s regimented care, the process of recovery was mine to steer. I was now the architect of my own healing, tasked with creating a new rhythm that would support the journey back to health.

Mr. Detail Man emerged, and with Debra’s initial assistance, we poured over the pages of post-operative recommendations—diet, walking, breathing exercises, chair exercises, and maximum sodium intake. From this, we crafted a tracking system, a testament to my love for detail and order. And while the creation of this system is a victory in itself, its true purpose is to chart the course of my recovery.

I count it as a blessing that I experienced no complications from the surgery—only the ‘consolation prizes’ of a 10-pound weight loss and an increase in ocular migraines. These pain-free ‘headaches’ have taxed my energy further, prolonging my hospital stay and slowing my recovery pace. Now, home at last, an urgency to heal clashes with the reality of my body’s timeline.

There have been moments when patience wore thin, and rigid expectations began to shadow the hopeful spirit of expectancy. Each instance served not as a catalyst for healing, but rather as an impediment, stirring angst within me that resulted in actions that, paradoxically, slowed the very recovery I so eagerly sought. I am grateful for the subtle wisdom of clients, peers, and friends that inadvertently shone through, gently reminding me of the necessity to honor the body’s pace in the healing process.

As I reflect on the three-week milestone since my surgery, the path of healing reveals its challenging landscape. It’s not a sprint to a finish line; rather, it’s a gentle unfolding, a mindful journey that commands respect for the body’s innate wisdom and its own sense of timing. The peak of recovery looms in the distance, not as a daunting challenge but as a marker of progress yet to be attained. My ascent continues, marked not by the speed but by a new awareness—a deliberate recognition of the difference between expectancy and expectation, the value of presence over preoccupation with a future that isn’t promised.

This new chapter in my journey integrates a steadfast commitment to stay present, to foster gratitude, and to heed the subtle, sometimes silent language of my body. It’s a renewed understanding that staying grounded in gratitude anchors the spirit, while attentively embracing the day-to-day process of healing grounds the body. This pursuit is active, encompassing both the mental practice of mindfulness and the tangible, physical steps of recovery. It’s a dance between mind and body, each step informed by an awareness that wellness is cultivated through a harmony of thought and action.

So as I navigate the nuances of this recovery, I remain humbly cognizant that there will be moments where the clarity of presence will waver, where the angst of the uncertain future will intrude. Yet, it’s this awareness itself—the understanding that healing is a dynamic interplay of being and doing—that fuels my journey forward. With each day, I strive to balance the mental vigilance of mindfulness with the physicality of healing, always aiming to climb a little higher, not just towards the peak of recovery, but towards the zenith of living as close to fully in the now that I can muster.

 

 

Christian Grieco

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