The countdown is on: less than 24 hours until the surgeon starts cutting. I’m calm, but I’m nervous. I’m relieved I’ll finally be getting it over with, and I’m wishing I could hide and avoid it. I guess that’s normal.
For the most part, I’m optimistic. I’ve done what I can to prepare. But there are a lot of emotions near the surface. I hear them mumbling.
I’m such a bad person! That’s usually my teen self talking, though I’m never sure. It’s her way of saying she’s upset. She has been thinking about things she has told E., and feels ashamed. Maybe the thought of being so vulnerable on the operating table tomorrow makes her feel other vulnerabilities surface, I don’t know. I tell her that my wisest, strongest self has prepared for this, and I’ll do whatever I can to make her feel okay about this. I tell her that we can tuck the shame away in a purple satin bag, and it can stay there and rest until we all feel ready to take it out and work with it again.
What are they doing? Why are they touching me? It’s the little one who was so unnerved by the exposure, poking and prodding of personal parts in the lead up to this surgery. She’s the one who wants to run and hide, the one who wants a security blanket she can pull over her head. I have to promise her that she’ll have very tender care but she’ll also have boundaries set up to protect her.
I’m such an idiot. I’m too needy. Whatever part this is, it sneers at the efforts to care for myself. It’s sure I don’t deserve that care. Or maybe what it really feels is afraid of being needy and not having the needs met. That’s happened in the past, and it’s painful. Better to pretend not to have needs, this part thinks.
But dear part, whatever age you are, I see you do have needs, and I am trying to meet them. I took FMLA so there will be time to rest. I have prepared us physically and emotionally as much as I can. I have spoken up to the doctor. I will protect all my parts as much as I can. But perhaps the most important thing I am doing is recognizing that when I’m in pain, I might not be able to do it all alone. Therefore I’m giving us all permission to lean on others, to lean into their love.
Now is not the same as the past. Now I have a truly loving, supportive husband. He wants to help take care of us. He is getting a lot of errands and tasks done ahead of time so he can be with me in the days after the surgery–and this was his idea, not mine. I have friends who want to bring over some meals. My sisters are set to get updates from my husband until I’m ready to talk to them, and I know they’re thinking of me. I was surprised; even my mom called to give me her good wishes (sometimes I underestimate her–but that’s a topic for another time). Many friends and colleagues have reached out with encouraging words. E. is making space for an extra session for me this afternoon. She told me she’s at a retreat this weekend with poor reception but good internet. If I email saying I need to talk, she’ll go somewhere with better service so she can talk to me. (I can’t imagine taking her up on that, but I treasure the offer.)
The fears and self-loathing–they are all real, but they are linked to past experience. In the present, I am fortunate to be surrounded by good people who care. There are even a couple I can really, deeply trust: my husband and E.
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
I told my husband I feel as though he’s built me a little nest of kindness and care, and that I can safely rest inside that space. He answered, Yes, I’m glad you feel it. And I’ll keep wrapping you in love while you heal–and after that too.
So I’m lucky, and (deep breath) I guess I’m ready.