Forced Sabbath and Unexpected Treasures


Recently I was forced to sabbath.  Foot surgery required that I remain essentially immobile for two weeks – the first week with my foot above my heart 95% of the time, and the second week with some sitting allowed.

I prepared well for this - lining up subs, help and back up, welcoming meal offers and  carpool volunteers, emptying my calendar and filling my kindle, buying easy snacks and soliciting advice for shows on Netflix.  I was ready. Commence Operation Foot Surgery.

The first week after surgery I had a purpose: obey doctor's orders, stay in bed, heal.  I did that as hard as I could; totally productive non-productivity.
 
Day 2: 

I am KILLING this whole elevation, icing, sleep, pills, snacks and streaming old episodes of the Good Wife thing. Like a PRO. Competitive recovery. Pretty sure I could medal.

Gradually, the family got used to me being/not being there, and went on with an adapted form of life as usual. I was visited periodically, but not a participant in the daily life happening within earshot.  I was given a peek at the dynamics and rhythms that the three of them get into without me in the center, directing traffic.  It made me feel strangely satisfied and content.

Day 6:

Surprised by the unexpected joy of being an eavesdropper in my own house. Listening to the funny comments and "unimportant" conversations I ordinarily miss, the daily patterns of waking up and heading out, returning home and bubbling over, and the soothing domestic sounds of clinking dishes, running water, doors opening and closing, and people humming to themselves. Feeling full and grateful for the buzzing ordinary life around me. ‪#‎bedriddenblessings  ‪#‎daysix  ‪#‎notboredyet

After the first week, things got thornier. 
My humanity was a constant companion - the feel of sweaty sheets and achey joints, the difficulty of doing everything – bathing, dressing, getting to and from the restroom, the taunting sound of conversation and smell of food cooking downstairs without me, my own spinning mind and internal chatter.  
I was off the pain meds and able to sit up and work from home, and so hurdled headlong into all my other hidden expectations. Oh, you thought you'd be productive, then? You were secretly planning on writing? Reading a bunch of good books? Having something impressive to "show" for this time?  
I felt horribly guilty for my non-doing and acutely uncomfortable with how vulnerable it was to rely on others for everything.  Neighbors, friends and congregants stopped by with soup, flowers, conversation.  One person called down the street for a fancy meal the kids picked up and brought home, and another sent a gift basket filled with delicious and useful things.  Upon hearing that I had not had coffee for the first week, a neighbor began showing up every morning with a fresh-brewed thermos of coffee.  The kindness was overwhelming, amazing, uncomfortable.  I found myself vacillating between wanting to hunker down and hide, and being so appreciative of it all.  

Day 9:

I came outside today for the first time since April 26. It's so beautiful I cried. ‪#‎ninedaysdown‪#‎fivetogo.


Eventually I was up and about again. And I am now  easing back into everything with a ridiculous shoe and slow gait, trying to be patient with the healing process. And I've been anxious, tense and irritable.  
I was surprised today to realize I am grieving what I've missed. I missed the world's transition into full-fledged Spring, bursting into bloom and green, with the fairy garden being set up and the bikes being taken out. I missed running with my daughter in running club, and going with my son on his weeklong 5th grade wilderness field trip. 
I was here but not here.  I always want to be fully here. 

But today I made room for the grief and disappointment without scolding or censoring it. And I was surprised to discover that shortly after welcoming my sadness, there appeared right behind it, patiently waiting for me to embrace my sorrow long enough to reach through it, a stunning awareness.  

I didn't miss Spring - I had Spring differently this year. The heavy scent of the neighbor's formidable wall of lilacs floated through my bedroom windows and surrounded me day and night. The glimpse out the front window of the tiny buildings and paths winding around the oak tree that my girl thoughtfully arranged all by herself set the tiny magical neighborhood for the flowers we would plant together a few weeks later.

I didn’t miss out on running club, I did it from the sidelines - watching my daughter find a new passion.  Out from the shadow of big brother and the comforting presence of mom running alongside her she broke open the shell of mopey, partial interest of previous years.  Enchanted, I watched her come home day after day and coax Dad to go running with her so she could keep training.  And I cheered her at the finish line and promised her I would recruit a backup chaperone for her when she asked to sign up for a local 5K in a few weeks that I wont be able to run with her.

I didn’t miss my son’s big wilderness trip – I got to be his cheerleader.  I helped him wonder and dream and plan and pack; I sneaked a note into his bag, and dropped him off at the bus, waving goodbye to his anxious, hopeful face pressed against the window, breathing prayers of gratitude for all he will experience this week, and trusting him to find his way on this adventure. 

I didn’t miss life.  I got to experience life differently. My daughter bought me a coloring book and in the evenings before bed, she curled up next to me to color. My son made and delivered oatmeal to me every morning for two weeks, carrying it up on a pretty tray and laying it gently on my lap. My husband sat in a rocking chair across from my bed night after night, and we talked - about nothing and everything - like the delicious, rambling talks we used to have way back before we knew our lives would be part of each other’s forever.  

These utterly unexpected treasures will go with me. I will look back on them with the same fondness and nostalgia I have for the unexpected treasures of sleepless nights with infants, cranky plane rides with toddlers, and the incessant questions that filled the preschool days.

Life is always a gift. 
The life we have right now is filled with gift.  
In the midst of resting, stopping, and trusting others and being cared for, I received a great gift.  And disappointment, embarrassment, impatience, frustration, and thwarted expectations don’t stop, in any way, the gift from coming.


So, here’s to the forced Sabbaths too. 
The ones that make you rest longer than you’d like to, and say no to more than you’d choose to.  They too remind us who we are and whose we are, even when we don’t realize that’s what we’re in it for.  
And here’s to life’s relentless, unstoppable gift-giving.

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