Saturday, February 1, 2014

Peering Under The Surface

It is quiet in the house this morning.  In the neighborhood, too.

The cold is getting to everyone, I think.  Even though it has warmed up into the 30s, spring is so far away as to be laughable, and it feels like the entire world has hunkered down to survive the chill until we can get to the next patch of sunshine.

But hunkering down has become too much of a habit for me, and it is time to break myself of it.

This week, I noticed something alarming about myself:  doubt has become endemic in my day to day decision-making.  Not just of the "can I succeed at this" variety, but the "will I even be able to start let alone finish this" and the "should I even attempt this" sort, too.

Cancer has left me second-guessing everything about myself.  That is unacceptable.

The thing is, I am still tired, and to do anything physical for any length of time wears me out pretty quickly.  But is that normal recovery or is it too much?  How can you know?  A summer of having not done a lot physically requires build-up in terms of cardio and weight-bearing exercise, because you begin to lose muscle tone fairly rapidly when you aren't moving around much (chemo was a sleepy exercise for me).  The phrase "use it or lose it" applies here.

When you follow the chemo up with radiation and all that entails, you get a longer stretch of not a lot of your usual activity, and another hefty layer of heavy duty fatigue to boot.  What that has left me with is a serious case of the physical blahs, coupled with mental doubts about my ability to dig my way out of this.

Just getting started has me second guessing everything.

Should I be eating more healthfully?  Yes, absolutely.  But what is the best path for those dietary changes?  Will I be making things better or, by choosing the wrong path, making it worse?  How can you ever know?

Should I be getting more exercise?  Yes, absolutely.  But what kind?  How much?  How much is too much, and will it exacerbate the swelling issues that I have been trying to lessen?

My normal self would just charge ahead, try something and then tweak as i go along if it isn't working.  My current self is frozen in place, treading water furiously while going nowhere.

The truth is that I am afraid of making a wrong choice, that I am afraid of what changes will mean going forward, and that I am ultimately afraid of failing.  It is a paralytic force of mental doubt, holding me in place because change would mean putting myself way back out on a limb when I have spent the past year hunkered down and protecting myself with everything I had, holding all my energy and effort in reserve to just make it through to the next day's surprises because that was truly the only way to survive it.

That constant fear of the next shoe being about to drop at any moment is no way to make a lifetime's worth of decisions, though.  It is a miserable way to move forward, feeling like you are slogging through a net of fear and doubt and all the other baggage you keep dragging along just to take a few tiny steps forward so tentatively that it is almost an imperceptible amount of progress, if you can even call it that.  But here I am, still in that mode, holding back so that I hold something in reserve just in case.  Because somewhere, somehow, I am still expecting the "just in case" to leap out and tackle me to the ground again.

There is a little voice, deep inside me, that is whispering:  that is the best reason of all to make changes, because you need to make yourself move through this fear to the other side.

Something tells me that this little voice is absolutely right.

That a bold step, rather than a tentative little tiptoe, is what is needed.  That the confidence is regained in the doing, and not in the dithering.  That the people who love me need me to make these changes as much as I do for myself, and will be cheering me onward when I do.  That even the smallest steps along the pathway out of the shadows and into the light can lead to a longer, happier, sunnier journey.

Instead of sitting here and worrying about which path I ought to take, how about if I just take a few steps in a direction and see how that goes and not even worry about the end result?

Since I am fairly certain that all of us carry around this same sort of doubt and dread over something in our lives, I thought this might be an interesting point of discussion.  

(Photo via welovetaipei.)


Anonymous said...

I belong to a 12-step program whose motto is "one day at a time." Easy to say, hard for me to do. I haven't had cancer yet, but I have HCV and have learned to live my life between 6 month check-ups. I try each day to take my joy where I can find it. Every day I wake up, the possibility exists for me to experience joy. If it weren't true, I'd have checked out long ago. Sorry you easterners are suffering so with the deep freeze. I'm in a warm climate, so can only sympathize from afar. If I were you, I'd find an indoor pool and make myself swim 3X a week. Just a thought. On another matter, I'm looking at your recipe for crockpot sticky chicken. Did you mean to say 2.5 lbs of legs and thighs, or, 2.5 lbs legs & 2.5 lbs. thighs? The former seems to make the mose sense for my small-ish crockpot. Cheers!

Christy Hardin Smith said...

I have a ginormous crockpot -- one of the big oval ones -- but even with the extra space, I'd only use 2.5 pounds TOTAL of chicken. That's generally a 4 pack of thighs and a 4 pack of legs. I will sometimes go a little over that, but not much more, because you want enough space around the meat for it to cook to a safe temperature. If you get it too crowded, then it won't cook properly -- and no one wants to risk that, right? If you are uncertain, check with an oven thermometer -- should be at least 165 F when you insert the thermometer in a meaty bit without touching a bone. If you haven't quite gotten there yet, you can always pull the chicken out and pop it under a broiler for a couple of minutes on a rimmed sheet pan to finish. Hope that helps!

Christy Hardin Smith said...

Oh, also, thanks for the perspective on the post. We're having some unexpected sunshine today, so I'm enjoying just sitting in our sunroom and reading. It is a delicious change from gray skies and snow and ice, let me tell you. LOL