On my half-marathon training schedule, last Thursday called for a series of 400-meter sprints. So, I headed to the flattest, straightest part of the running path - a stretch that runs right along the creek, with a gorgeous view of Mt. Tamalpais. It’s also a stretch that just happens to be across the street from our local hospital.
That was around 9 am.
24 hours later, I was looking out at the same exact view, but with a completely different perspective - I was a patient in that hospital. And instead of looking across the creek at Mt. Tam from the edge of the running path, I was taking in the view from the window of my hospital room. What a difference a day makes, indeed.
Here’s what went down. Just a few hours after a great run, I was at home, doubled over with abdominal pain. And while I really, really wanted to believe I had indigestion, something was telling me that this was no food poisoning. Something was telling me that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. No matter how incredibly inconvenient all of this seemed at the time.
That’s when my incredible village sprang into action. Dear friends came to our house to stay with our nervous and worried boys. Another close friend took me to the ER and stayed with me for hours, well past her bedtime. And all of this was orchestrated from afar by my sweet husband, who was out of town, working. (I stand by my belief that he had the worst of it all that night...) And all the while, I kept praying, “Please let this be the most embarrassing night of my life. Please let this be the night I got everyone worked up because I had gas.”
At 11 pm, the ER doctor told me my white blood cell count was sky high. At 11:30 pm, a ridiculously handsome nurse took me upstairs for a CAT scan. At 12 am, my new surgeon, Dr. Levin, removed my about-to-rupture appendix. At 1 am, I called my husband and texted my village that all was well, and that I was going to be just fine, and that everyone should stop worrying and get some sleep. At 2 am, my husband texted me, “PUT THE PHONE DOWN!”
And, finally, at 9 am, I was in my hospital room, watching other people run the path by the creek, as I had so blithely done just 24 hours before.
This was six days ago, and I already feel so much better. And I can promise you I will never again take running on that path or going to yoga class for granted. But for the next month or two while I fully recover, I’ll be without my favorite mentally distracting, overtly physical, moving meditation practices of running and asana.
So, now I have a brand new practice. One with less fire, but one with much more depth. One that involves sitting still and letting people help, both MAJOR challenges for me. It’s a practice that, at it’s core, is the acknowledgment that the only way I can regain strength is to surrender to weakness.
This new practice scares the heck out of me, honestly.
Only time will tell how well I do. It’s challenging, but there are already some great rewards. And in the last week, I’ve learned three important things that I feel fairly qualified to share with you now:
1. Listen to your body. Seriously.
2. Slow the fuck down.
3. Let people bring you food.
I’m sure this list will only get longer, but this seems like a pretty darn good start.
And my mantra for the duration of this new practice? Gratitude. I know that word can sound trite, especially in this world of hipster-new-age-faux-spiritual-mindful-wellness-ness. But it’s really the only thing that matters. I am beyond grateful for my family, for my friends, for my home and, most importantly, for my life. It’s just that simple.
Are there far more serious ailments than appendicitis? Hell, yes. Am I beyond blessed to have the worst already behind me? More than I can ever express. But my hope is that a small emergency like mine can translate. That a practice that serves in times of health can evolve and adapt when health is compromised. And that gratitude can be a tonic that soothes even the most intractable affliction.
And until I know for sure that these things will happen? Well, I’ll just recommend going back to number three on my list above: Let people bring you food. Especially if the food offered is Chinese Chicken Salad from Comforts in San Anselmo. ‘Cause what kind of fool says no to Comforts’ Chinese Chicken Salad? Not this one, that’s for sure.