9 October 2013

Bedtime Ballet

Ready for Bed!
For ten weeks I had to sleep on my back. Then one night I figured out that if I placed all my pillows strategically around my body, and moved in one solid motion (like an old-fashioned Ken doll with his legs stuck out straight), I could sleep on my side.


Then my arm swelled up like a fleshy pork sausage due to lymphedema. I was told that one of the most effective things I could do to prevent the swelling was to sleep with my arm elevated.  So besides propping up my body,  I built another stack of pillows so I could rest my arm. This worked wonderfully as long as I stayed still all night. But – as luck would have it - the required elevation coincided with my new ability to roll over. And I like sleeping on my side, so as soon as I fell asleep, I’d roll atop the sausage. This didn’t fare well for the arm, and I would wake up with a giant muppet hand. 

So I tried weighing myself down with some heavy pillows and resting the arm on top of that. It’s wildly uncomfortable, but so is lymphedema. And that position is just way to tempting for our tiny cat, who finds the highest point in the house, and sits on it. And currently the highest point would be me.

So here’s what I do. Recently I’ve been able to stretch my arms over my head - something that I’ve always taken for granted, and an ability which makes it much easier to put on clothes. And now nighttime has become a bit of a dance. I have to build a downy fence around my body so that I don’t twist too quickly. (My 200 stitches are still healing, so I pay for quick movements). Above me are some more pillows where I plop my Muppet hand. So when I turn, I keep my arm & hand immobile and just move my body. Ta-da!

After executing a perfect rollover I wake for a brief moment of triumph.  Since I watch Dancing the Stars, I can’t help picturing myself performing a flawless and elegant  ‘inside turn’ complete with satin ball gown and wild applause. In reality it’s just 145 pounds of sweaty flesh clumsily rolling to the side, and dislodging one angry cat and a man.

But it works - so I’m giving myself a perfect score My dance may not be Swan Lake, but I'm not really a ballerina, and our pillows aren't even real down. 

7 October 2013

The Land of 'Should'

I’m starting to hate the word ‘should.

Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to suggestion, or maybe I’m giving off the help-me vibe, but lately I’ve been finding that people are very enthusiastic in telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. And I don’t like it.

I think it started in childhood. I remember my mother Violet responding to my complaints about being bored by snapping, ‘You should do volunteer work’. I should? Why? My teenage mind did not find that an appropriate reaction to making it through a rainy afternoon. I was thinking more along the lines of having some chips – or playing checkers.

Fast forward to last weekend and a loved one told me that I should become a real estate agent so I could work with my sister. ‘You should be a Realtor!’ they said. I should? Why? While I may be considering changing careers but I don’t think I can do any that involve math. (Shouldn’t they know that)?

In between were about a million other ‘should’. You should join a book club. You should go on a diet. You should go off your diet. You should eat more vegetables. You should watch out for unopened mussels. You should invest your money. You should use a condom. You should use hand sanitizer. You should make more of an effort. You should be back to normal by now.

These are the  ‘should’ you hear when the person dishing out assumes that you haven’t already thought of it. As in, ‘Hey, your head is bleeding –you should get a band-aid’. (Really? A band-aid, and not an onion?)

At some point I stopped taking ‘should’ as a suggestion, and heard it more as a reprimand of my behaviour. I don’t want to hear all the ‘shoulds’ when its stuff I already know. Of course I know I ‘should use a Kleenex’. And I know I should be more patient.  And I know that I ‘should’ be relieved and grateful that my treatment and surgery are largely behind me, and I ‘should’ make a plan for the future.

But sometimes you don’t want someone telling your what you should feel. Rather, you want a road map of how to get there. There’s a lot of intimated effort that goes along with the word ‘should’ and when you’re tired, it’s hard to catch up.  I need solutions, not suggestions. And definitely not an admonishment.

Don’t tell me I ‘should’ relax. I know I should relax. Tell me how to relax. I hear the word ‘should’ about a thousand times a day. Mostly well-meaning and often in my own head, but still - a lot of pressure. Sometimes you want people just to stop talking, and guide you to the magic land of ‘Should’ that they keep talking about. I know where I ‘should be’ I just don’t’ always know how to get there. Or even if I’d want to go.

It’s a benevolent  voice that might say, ‘Hey, you should gets some sleep’. But it’s an even better one that will take your hand and say, ‘I’m putting you to bed’.