Breathe in… Breathe out….
Yesterday as I sat waiting at the hospital, I found myself shaking. I was curt to the nurses on my way in, I rationalised it with the excuse that I am doubled over in pain. My body was shaking from the pain of the minor operation the day before & dread over what’s more to come. And somewhere in all of these, as I watched the nurse hold on to her smile as she helped me to a seat and apologised for having to make me wait, I realised that I could choose to react differently. That I had to find a place in my head, beyond the physical pain, where I could relate to her compassion to me. She was trying to ease my suffering and she didn’t deserve my less-than-stellar manners.
So in a waiting room full of people, I took off my sandals, sat cross-legged on the seat, and took up the mudra (hand gesture) of meditation pose symbolic of being grounded & simultaneously open to the energy of the universe. I closed my eyes and breathed, my ribs throbbed from pain, my head clouded with it.
As I tried to clear my head, I decided to focus on the breath…. nothing more. Just breathe in….breathe out. And this line started buzzing in my head: if I cannot avoid it, then I must bear through it, with as much patience & perseverance as I can muster.
Another line also appeared….from a life time ago: if you are going through hell, keep putting one foot in front of the other… keep on going even when you don’t know where you are going.
Only in this case, I do know where I am going….. a 3 week convalescing period until full recovery. Traveling would have to be limited, no trekking …but full recovery is expected and it can be helped along with love & kindness towards the body that has carried me through all these years.
I find illnesses hard, mostly because I have the constitution of a horse. According to the Chinese zodiac, I AM a horse. This doesn’t make me a good patient. I wait until the last possible moment to see doctors. I hate medical procedures. I despise pumping my body full of synthetic medicines. But more than anything I hate the havoc that I have wreaked on my body over the years…. stress, pressures, deadlines, sadness, heartbreaks, neglect…. mostly from not having loved myself enough, cared enough or been kind enough.
As I sat in the waiting room, not caring about the spectacle I presented to other patients, I sat in my meditation and prayed to the universe for healing energy, to ground me in the here and now, to see me though this moment. Somewhere between the breathes, in those 15 minutes of waiting…..my body stopped trembling, my jaws stopped shaking, my teeth unclenched and I breathed more easily. I even imagined that my wound is healing itself, it’s filling in the gaping hole & the pain is receding.
Then the nurse came to get me for the dressing. As part of post-operative patient care routine, she checked my heart beat, blood pressure, temperature etc. And everything was in normal range. I almost shouted hallelujah! The doc came & dressing was painful but I managed to keep breathing through the worst of it. Funnily the doc looked at me and said ‘don’t curse me for the pain’ and I could laugh & say ‘this isn’t your fault, you are only trying to do your best for me. That which cannot be avoided, must be borne’. And all 3 of us laughed. If someone had told me 30 minutes before, that I would be laughing soon, I would’ve punched them in their f***ing face. But there I was…. laughing through the worst of it.
The day before, at the Operation theatre, I had refused a screen so I can watch the procedure. Had chatted casually about our favourite travel destination with the band of 3 doctors in the room. I had clenched my teeth through the worst of it and listened as my heartbeat monitor beeped rapidly. Before they took me off the table, I was given painkiller injections and within half an hour, I was roaring to leave. The nurses stopped dumbfounded as I walked out of post-operative, demanded my clothes and the bill, insisting on being allowed to leave asap.
I hate hospitals. I hate the feeling of being surrounded by illness, the sobbing of strangers in the corridors and not knowing if offering comfort to another is even an option. Yet as I stood at the discharge desk at the emergency section, I could not help but marvel at the resilience of the nurses, the way they managed to stay unflustured in the face of human tragedy. Maybe they are flustered but they just handle it better. Or maybe they have a level of Zen that I can only aspire to at the moment.
But yesterday I did manage to find a piece of that Zen … as I breathed in and out….
Today I am grateful for my body, for being healthy ‘most’ of the time, for being able to afford the best possible medical care, for having found a very competent surgeon, for having an amazing team of nurses care for me pre & post-surgery. I am grateful for having a home minister whose loving care is beyond priceless. I am grateful to be breathing ;)