On becoming sedated (The Recovery Series)

I’m lying in my bed. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember pain like this. Even the brilliant drugs that they give you in the hospital doesn’t work. So what best to do with pain but to write. This is my recovery series. It mightn’t make much sense. I blame the pain. 

Day surgery. I love the concept. It seems as if it’s all sorted in the matter of a day. What comes next in terms of healing is beside the point, but the day is all that’s needed to put things right. Politicians have surgeries. Police have surgeries. It’s a neat little concept.

We all got there at 7:45 and were taken, one by one, into a marvellously pristine ward. We were all positioned in chairs, neatly to the right of our beautifully made beds (which turned out the be the trolleys on which we would all be getting whatever cut open or cut out, asleep or not, but whatever, again, beside the point). Just to the front of us, out of reach, were our own, individual blood pressure machines. It was our very own medicinal ‘Cell Block Tango’ and I kept expecting someone to burst into song. The order of it was mesmerising. There was a single, polite cough into the silence. And then the overture began. The conversations trickled in then swelled to a steady crescendo. Each made their entrance – nurses, anaesthetists, doctors, surgeons, more nurses. The chorus of questions in counterpoint – names, dates of birth, allergies, removal of jewellery and makeup (though who could bother to put on jewellery and makeup at 7:45 in the morning, I would never know), previous surgeries, knowledge of the procedures, consent forms, ifs, ands, why, buts and wherefores. The costumes were put on, the gowns – open at the back, anti-embolism socks – for those pesky veins, robes – to hide the openings at the back, slippers – to complete the sock look, wrist band – to remind you of who you were meant to be playing in this scene. And just like that the hubbub abated, as the swirling orchestra of gowned and masked professionals went off to prepare for their own special scenes. Astounding.

And then the wait.

I took with me my textbooks for my child development course for my psychology degree. I figured if I had to wait for four hours (and I did), I might as well make the most of the time and the quiet. There was a little fear gliding around the room. But fear, for the most part, is silent, especially in a room full of dignified women holding desperately on to whatever dignity remained in an open-backed gown. I also took with me one of the best books I have ever owned, a Christmas present from one who loves me more than I will ever deserved to be loved. It is called ‘Philosophy For Life – and Other Dangerous Situations’ by Jules Evans. And it is an awesome book.

In it I was reading about the Stoics, about our overly optimistic expectations and the art of lowering it. About managing our anger and the flexibility of our will to know that we cannot control the other but we can control how we receive that with which we are presented in this world. That we can know ourselves, or at least come to know ourselves, and that we do not have to mindlessly be governed by emotion or irrational thought. This is not an argument for thinking over feeling, but for the existence of both without prejudice or control. I read about the modern Stoics’ constant efforts, and of each man’s journey to live well in the life that he was given and thought that there was hope for this world yet. And I wondered if I could ever truly understand how to live in the moment with peace, relinquishing control, or need, or pride and understanding that wherever I was, was where I was, and nothing more.

And then it was my turn to be wheeled in. And I chatted with my doctor and my anaesthetist about their children and the great hope I have for the young people of this world who will have to be more creative than we have ever had to be to make a life for themselves (that in another post). We talked about psychology and theatre, religion and wars. And then my doctor said, ‘But at least today, for this moment, in this room, there is no war. Here in this moment, there is only peace.’ My universe tilted ever so slightly and I could see exactly the meaning of it all; people coming together, in one place, with nothing in common but a common objective, for only a fleeting slice of life that was just a drop in the ocean of history that had already been made and was yet to be made. It meant everything and nothing all at the same time. And I didn’t have to control or understand any of it.

The first of my anaesthetic was injected then. And I said aloud, ‘Wow, I didn’t realise that it would work this quickly.’


Published in: on February 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Amor fati

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it. – Ecce Homo – Freidrich Nietzsche

Sometimes, we put so much pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we think that our life isn’t the way it is supposed to be, that there is something more that we deserve, something else we must acquire, something extraordinary that we are yet to become. We yearn and pine for the magic that seems to be happening in other people’s lives, but which eludes our own. We wait for that moment, when we are thinner, richer, smarter. We see where we are, our present moment, as lacking, as a resting point only, an interval before the real action of our life takes place. We are constantly in a state of expectation for the turn-around, the moment when our life’s light switch gets flicked to ‘On’ and we start truly getting what we deserve.

And as our sights are constantly set to that imagined future, the simple joy of our present is passing us by.

I am a little bit in love with this simple, yet effective concept as described in the quote above. Not just accepting your fate, but loving it. Loving the fact that your life is as it is, at this very moment. It means that I am present to embrace, acknowledge and participate in all that is occurring in my life right now, without the added pressure of my well- or ill-defined expectations of what it should be. It means that I take responsibility for the decisions that I have made and the behaviours that I have exhibited that have led me to right where I am. It means that I can change my mind, think new thoughts, say new words, get new perspectives, that will help me to lovingly create whatever tomorrow will come, without the added baggage of ‘could-a would-a should-a’s’.

If I love up my present, then my mind empties a little, the pressure is released, the brows unknit, and I fall into the arms of loving acceptance of all that is. The battle I wage on my life stops. Everything I do, I do lovingly in this moment. I want nothing to be different, because this life of mine is exactly what it is meant to be, even with its ugly parts and painful struggles. It is my struggle, my loving struggle and it builds me up.

Can you see value in loving your fate, in total acceptance of the life as it is?

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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