Rethinking My World

Everything needs to have its own place. So, when you run out of places, the rest has to go. Organization 101, right? Basic, simple, no-brainer.

Unless one is not talking about clutter around the house. What if the clutter is mental? Since our minds are (supposedly) infinite, does that mean that everything can stay? Everything has a place, so it all stays, right?

Hence my confusion.

I’m taking the month of January off to do some thinking and some writing. Pretty much everything else is off the schedule for the month. Ok – showers are still in the mix, as are most personal hygiene matters. Eating, taking my medicines and supplements, doing the stuff necessary to keep my new life going – those are still on the docket. Hugging my honey, playing with our dog, spending time with friends… check.

So what’s OFF the schedule? Hmmm… Oh yeah… Playing – as in music. No gigs, not even Worship Team at church. Expectations for output are off the list – trying to justify my existence each day by the things I get done or produce. It’s alright (for this month) to have a day go by where nothing tangible actually took place. A day of knitting? Fine. Spending time bending wire at my workbench? Peachy. Sitting at Schuler’s, jotting down ideas without producing a single “piece?” Dandy. Lamenting at the end of the day that I didn’t accomplish anything? *BZZZT* Wrong answer.

Why? Good question.

It’s been 9 months since the surgery when my old life passed away and everything became new. As of this writing, I’ve lost 163 pounds – from 414 to 251. When (and if) I hit 240, I will be precisely half what I was in January of 2009 – 480. I’ve been over 400 pounds for longer than I can remember… in fact, the last time I was at my present weight was in high school. (And really, who can remember what life was like 30-some years ago? Pretty much a blur from here…)

I’ve said before that this journey has been so much harder mentally than physically – the changes in the body have come fast and hard, but the mental changes? Slow, slow, s-l-o-w. They’ve also required more active work and direction than I would have expected – times of having to literally talk to myself to help in re-wiring my mind – “use both feet on the stairs” ; “you can stand for more than 2 minutes” ; “get up and do it yourself – you’re fully capable.” This sort of self-talk has been so necessary to help my mind catch up with my body.

You might think that someone who’s been on this journey would be like a wild bird or animal who was injured, taken in to heal, then brought back out the wild and released. The cage door opens, the animal bounds out and we get a scenic wide shot of their joyful charge into freedom.

Not so, grasshopper.

This animal, when shown the open door, stands and looks outside, wonders at the changes before him…

and stops, frozen. Intimidated, he finds himself incapable of movement. Overwhelmed, he has no idea what to do next. Withdrawing into a safe, familiar place, he sits down inside the cage, looking at the open door, unable to understand what it means or even how to move through it. The body is healed, but the mind is disoriented. And so he sits, trying to see a path through the chaos and come to grips with what has happened.

January, then, is when this animal tries to puzzle through what this all means.

I’ve taken some huge steps – I walk instead of using the wheelchair, I stand and talk to friends rather than needing to find a seat, I walk to the bus stop and take a city bus without wondering if I can do such a thing, I’m taking a Tai Chi class, which has me standing for a whole hour (and I LOVE it!), I run errands and do things that Vicki would have had to take care of before.

And it tickles me to no end when someone apologizes because they didn’t recognize me. Of course they don’t – that was 163 pounds ago!

My recliner is gone. The piece of furniture that was my world for 6-8 hours a day, my oasis in painful times, my safe place, is gone. Not easily, not without some regret and sense of loss, but it is gone. To re-wire my mind around wasn’t working, because it was so attached to my old life. So rather than working around it, I let it go.

The steps have been huge, brave, wonderful. I do things without thinking that I would never ever have attempted before. Go to a Tai Chi class without Vicki for support? No. Return an item to the store and stand in line at the service desk? No. Look at a list of errands on the board, make note of them, and finish them ALL in one day? Not likely. Yet that’s what I do, regularly.

It took a long time to recognize myself in new pictures. I looked at this person and felt like I was looking at a stranger. I remember seeing some pictures Vicki took when I lead a church hymnsing back in September, and it was almost painful to look at them. The face, the proportions, all of it unfamiliar. I knew the older pictures were no longer what I looked like, but the new ones? Not sure – certainly not someone I would identify as “me.”

I found it really significant that, maybe a month ago, I needed to take some of the older pictures of me off of my screen saver. (I have a Mac screen saver that drops pictures one at a time onto a black screen. With 2 monitors, it does it on both screens. Cracks Vicki up when both screens have a picture of the same person (or dog) falling down at the same time.) Those pictures began to bother me – I no longer recognized that man as me, but rather as someone who was so sad, feeling so powerless and sick. I realized that the face I wear now, this is the the one I recognize – this is where I live.

So it’s time to put things in their place. Accepting new things that are part of this new life, and putting others out with the garbage, to be taken away forever. And sorting through the mental connections that want to keep the old things, not realizing that the new things are far better and worth making room for. It’s Extreme Home Makeover and Clean Sweep and Hoarders and Intervention all rolled into one chaotic show.

And you, dear reader, get to watch. Yet another reason to really despise reality shows.

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