The balmy, seventy-degree day has resolved itself into a cool, serene staging area for creative evolution and this writer’s growth. I can ignore my throbbing right shoulder best when I’m busy, but even as I try to focus on the letters forming themselves into words while I type, I can’t overlook the tiny, sharp pain each keystroke elicits. I tell myself, “Keep it short, tonight.” I’d like to… I just don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
Ultimately, when you’re in recovery, it’s just human nature to simplify life. Logic says Friday’s surgery shaving off 8mm of bone to eliminate constant irritation to my rotator cuff will make writing night difficult – either plug it out elementary school-style with one key at a time by my left pointer finger or abandon the sling and suck it up for a couple of hours. I opted for the latter, however masochistic, because two hands equate to speed, which potentially means less discomfort and quicker sleep onset.
I’d like to keep it short, but can I? The procedure was over in under two hours, an incredibly short figure compared to the last eight months of pain and re-injury, alternate treatments, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes the elongated bone had created. Charming took leave from work so that he could take care of me after the surgery; it was our first hospital experience together, and I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I figured I’d be able to take care of myself after the block had worn off. Just like being in recovery makes you simplify life, it also forces you to be vulnerable.
When you’re in recovery, you’re weak and limited. Once Dr. Swenson released me into Charming’s care, I was literally helpless. Over the course of what would amount to a three-day staycation in which each day I was mildly improved, I had to rely on this guy who was so clearly devoted to me that I let him. To be honest, that first day is mostly a medicated haze, but I was able to relinquish control, let go, and fall back into Charming’s capable arms, figuratively and literally this time, helpless as I was.
I couldn’t have taken care of myself, not even after twenty-four hours. In fact, when I kissed him goodbye as I left for work Monday morning, knowing full well he’d be back home in DC before my lunch break, I had to stop myself from asking him to stay. Every dose of every pill was administered strictly as per doctor’s instructions, and Charming even woke me at four hour intervals during the night. With him, it was clockwork, and it was easy. He made all the choices on Friday, except for dinner. Mom said the meal was on her to keep us out of the kitchen. Recovery simplifies everything. Anna’s Pizza. I didn’t have to think about it.
Enjoying a few slices together would be the last of the laughter for a while. It wasn’t even bedtime, but the block had worn off. I could move my arm, but the pain killers were barely living up to a lesser name of mere pain maskers. Facing a long night propped uncomfortably on the couch with a multitude of pillows, Charming’s distance from me seemed insurmountable. Though the bedroom was just a leap and a bound away, my greatest comfort in the vulnerability of Friday was leaning into Charming. When I was in the most pain, his simple presence did more to ease my discomfort than the pain medication.
Maybe I’d never really done that before: lean into Charming. The phrase is familiar. I’ve blogged about it before I think. But just like I thought I had pain in my shoulder before the surgery and now understand that was puppy chow compared to the monster pain entrée I served to myself with this surgery last week, I don’t think I ever gave myself fully over to Charming. At times, I’ve feared my fierce independence has growth too long and too strong to be tamed for submissive partnership.
After this weekend, I’m encouraged. Whether it’s Charming or God, surrendering control has always been a stumbling block for me; still, given a challenging set of circumstances, Charming never failed to maintain a strong and confident command. He doesn’t always have to take care of me, but wow. It’s amazing how well he does it, how naturally and selflessly. It’s as if, in Charming, Christian values join with military protocol to form the ideal helpmate in times of crisis and of peace.
Granted, this was a planned surgery and not true crisis. This procedure date was a heavy weight looming in the future, a flashing neon sign indicating when I’d have to stop. Stop what? Well, anything that required significant arm movement for a while, and unless I magically become ambidextrous, handwriting specifically would be problematic. In anticipation, I wrote recommendation letters for students, made passes for picture day a week early, transitioned fully to my new laptop, sent my old laptop off for repair, and scrubbed my house from top to bottom – despite the pain, which I would learn to understand was simply relative, anyway. I applied to two school districts and put applications to eight specific schools in Northern Virginia in my mailbox on our way to the hospital Friday morning.
I had tried to anticipate all the complications my surgery might bring. Perhaps it had been an unnecessary pressure, but the deadline had forced me to tie up loose ends where I could so that I would be able to focus on my recovery. I’ve always been a “work first, play later” girl, and I suppose that attitude extends to designated time for healing. Perhaps that gave Charming and I an unexpected gift; confined to the couch in my clean living room, all projects complete, he had my undivided attention (well, absent the influence of any medicated fog, that is).
There’s no fog tonight. Without Charming, I barely remember to pop a Tylenol every six hours now. I miss him, but the affectation of his absence is different, my deference towards our traditional week off / weekend on relationship evolving to mere toleration. God had to sit me still with Charming for three days to show me how good it could be to wholly trust someone to care for you. It’s been a long time for me, maybe not since my parents.
Not only do I know that I can trust Charming to take care of me, but when I get out of my own way and let him rise to the occasion, I end up with a spotless kitchen and an offer to take care of my laundry before he heads out of town.
When you’re healing, everything is different. You simplify life, become vulnerable, and discover who you can count on. At school, I find myself avoiding the hallways during class changes. Afraid someone will bump my shoulder, I walk near the wall protecting that side. That’s natural, too. When we’ve been hurt before, we tend to be overprotective of the injury site, whether physical or emotional. That fierce independence was a protective shell of my own making. If I didn’t need someone, he couldn’t disappoint me.
I wouldn’t need to walk by the wall if Charming were at school. He’d protect me. I know that. I trust that. I trust needing him. And I really like leaning into him… to keep it short.