Last week I was supposed to write some articles for Improvised Life and couldn’t do it. I am a few weeks post-op from a serious surgery. Healing at am unexpectedly glacial place is wearing away at my normally very high optimism, physical energy and focus. I’ve talked openly on Improvised Life before about “being myself in a wheelchair”. It is something I have learned to do well in the company of others, but am still struggling to master when alone.
Several attempts at “here I am sitting down to write” yielded nothing but unusable jumbled sentences that were not worth sending over to my editor. I considered sending out an SOS.
The stand-up comedian and actor Patton Oswalt talks about stage health: The idea that no matter how ill a performer is, while in front of their audience they give a seemingly normal performance, while basically wilting the moment they get off stage. I am not a performer. But put me in a social situation, like tattooing a client or a friend, and I am able to pull it together and be my smiley, joyful, expressive self. The same was true for a skype meeting with Sally about Improvised Life. The work we talked about my doing proved impossible in the days to come.
Frustrated with myself for being so unproductive, I began to ask some really dark questions: Am I faking it? Is my discomfort/lack of energy all in my head? I decided to trust myself and go with No it isn’t all in my head: I am recuperating; my energy is intermittent; I need more time to heal. But there ARE some things I can do to work with my current situation:
—work in the morning. Waiting until the night left me feeling both lonely and tired, whereas if I woke up early I could get a bit done when I had a good amount of energy and focus and could power through. On especially good days, I was able to do some creative work that gave me great joy. I painted in five or ten minute intervals, taking breaks often and stretching a couple hours work over the course of a day (at bottom).
—create small doable routines that relieve the feeling of out-of-control chaos and give the day some consistency. These include……upping my skin care regimen at night; it forced me to look into a mirror (something I had been avoiding due to subtle shame in seeing my sunken eyes and gained weight) while caring for myself ……reading a poem or two before bed from the same book……listening to the same album in the mornings and evenings…taking a timed nap at the same time every day…caring for small plants
—reward myself with social interaction: get this done, call a friend, get that done, send a friendly email. Reaching out made me available to the people who care about me, and occasionally talking a friend through a problem —no matter how small —gave me confidence.
—write a list of what was accomplished at the end of the day. And especially, BE KIND. There are days that getting a few dishes washed can really suck energy from me, so if I accomplish that I put it on the list. Looking at the list helps me not go to bed every night feeling the day wasted.
These are my solutions to an unexpected setback, which we all face at some point. Find what works for you.