Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Heart of the Waiting Game

The past few days have been tough for me. Physically, I’m doing fine. The emotions, on the other hand, are playing by their own rules. They listen to no one - especially reason. 

I am healing as quickly as expected. Quicker, say the doctors. I know this. And yet, I keep getting frustrated because I want things to speed up. I’m supposed to take it easy. And I am. But every once in a while my foot slips off the brake and hits the accelerator. And I like it! Then, just like on the roads, when I exceed the recommended speed, I pay for it.

The first week at home (the week after the surgery), my dad took me to Badger’s Creek to relax and watch birds. We had a great time. 30 minutes driving to get there. 2 hours sitting on lawn chairs. 30 minutes driving home. It was great fun! The next day, however, I was absolutely wasted. I had exerted too much energy.


Last week (four weeks after the surgery) I rode the bus to Healesville Sanctuary. While there, I took it easy. I walked slowly, looking at animals and taking photos, for 45 minutes. Then I sat at a picnic table and read for an hour. I walked again for 30 minutes or so before resting for 30 minutes while having lunch in the cafe. Finally I rode the bus home. I wanted to ride the bus to test how it felt. I had a great day and everything went great. The next day, amazingly, I was fine. 




Feeling so supreme after my day of bus/walk and the day following of peaceful rest, I decided to try something else I hadn’t done yet. That night (last Friday) I slept with only one pillow. Since the surgery I have been propped up while sleeping. In hospital, I had a bed that sat up. The first two weeks at home I slept on the couch in a half-seated position. I tried bed, but it was too uncomfortable until week three. For the past couple of weeks I have propped myself up in bed on two massive pillows and two standard pillows. This gives me enough height that my head is above my heart and I don’t get thumping headaches. 


Friday night, laying flat with one pillow, I slept like a log. My body had been aching for a relaxed sleep for over a month. But the next morning, wow my head was not happy. It wasn’t pain so much as a hazzy/foggy/groggy sensation. It was like being inside of a see-through box. I could see everything but it was hard to navigate through if I tried to move. I could hear everything but it sounded muffled and distant. Understanding people was the hardest thing. And, being Saturday, I went to church. The sound system at church was intriguingly annoying. The voice of the person in the middle of the stage was coming from somewhere else. Having one ear deaf and the other filled with a drawer full of socks, I was very uncomfortable. 

I left and went to the Junior Sabbath School room where I helped my wife teach the lesson to the kids. It was better to be in a small setting.  It was nice to sit in a circle where I could see everyone’s faces. It was comforting to have the voices come from the people they belonged to rather than from a box overhead (or a wall over there). 

We didn’t stay for church. My head was not feeling well at all. The horizontal night, while it had felt great to the muscles in my body, had not been good for my brain. That night I slept propped up again. Sunday was a little better. I told Jenny it felt like I’d gone backward in my healing process by a week or more. 

It had all been a test. Every five years, all the ministers from Australia gather together for a week of fellowship and worship. It starts tonight, at Avondale College. I have been looking forward to it for months. I had arranged a room and a ride to get there. I told myself, early last week, that I would allow myself to go to the ministers meetings if I had one good day out during the week and a comfortable day at church. The day out would test my ability to walk around campus. The day at church would test my ability to participate in the lectures. 

Friday I was bouncing for joy. I was going! The first test had gone better than I could have imagined. I was good to go! Then Saturday happened. I was in a foggy box all day, and part of the next.

To say I was frustrated would be a dramatic understatement. I was angry. I wanted to be as well as I had believed I was on Friday. I had been so active on Thursday and perfectly fit on Friday. I thought I was getting back to normal. But I wasn’t.

Sunday afternoon I told my ride I would not be going. That was extremely hard to say. I wanted to pretend everything was fine. But, I knew it would be unwise to go. The 10 hours in the car would be uncomfortable. The sound system at Avondale would be disorienting. The schedule and setting would be new and potentially overwhelming. I know this. And I know I made the right decision to stay home, but I’m frustrated.

It is a dramatic shift from being self-sufficient and independent to being reliant on others for just about everything. Accepting help doesn’t bother me but knowing I can’t do it on my own is taking a tectonic mental shift. The quakes are unsettling - aftershocks come in many forms. I still try to convince myself that I’m fine and capable of doing anything, if really needed. I know where the car keys are - if I really needed them. Then I get in the car with someone else driving and am dumb-founded at how disoriented I am by the movement of the vehicle, and dismayed at the rapid start/stop/merging ebb and flow of traffic. While in a vehicle, I can’t imagine being in control of it. This is disheartening. I love driving. I love freedom. I can’t drive. I feel trapped. 

I went to my GP today. She is an awesome doctor. I feel very assured because she is honest with me. She doesn’t hide behind niceties. Today I asked what signs she would be looking for to assure her I was ready to drive. She stared at me like I had sworn at her. She shook her head. “You are not driving,” she said. I explained that I understood that but just wanted to know what things needed to happen. 

She softened and explained in detail the mental and emotional process I was going through and would continue to go through for the months ahead. She finished by saying, “In brain surgery cases, the final checkup is between 18 months and 2 years after the surgery. You will progress from now until then. Life will go back to normal during that time. Rushing your healing is the worst thing you can do. You will drive again. You will go back to full-time work. But I can not foresee those things right now. Now you need to rest. Do what you are comfortable doing. Don’t push yourself beyond today’s capabilities or you will slow tomorrow’s healing.” 

So, for those of you wondering where Dave is... I’m here. I’m at home. I’m on the couch. I’m in the spa. I’m walking slowly through the shops. I’m having a coffee with my wife. I’m writing a blog because writing feels great. I’m reading books. I’m playing games and watching TV with my kids. I’m sitting in a lawn chair in the backyard watching the cat stalk the visitors to the bird-feeder. I might be at church. I might ride the train into work for a few minutes or hours. I might be on the bus, if you look in through the window. I won’t be the driver in the car next to you at the stoplight. I won’t be the guy running from one end of the stage to the other bringing a story to life. But I will be planning stories to tell and road-trips to take in the future. For now, I am resting. I am healing. I am patient. 

And I will be happy while I wait. That’s the heart of the matter - my emotional response is my choice. And I choose joy!

When I was a kid my dad had a sign on his home-office wall. It had ten words on it. He told us these ten little words could and would change your life: 

if it is to be it is up to me