Be Present

Yesterday marked 1 month since my mastectomy.

It’s been a bit of a ride since that date. I’ve been re-learning how to do all my usual things with a strange feeling foreign object (a tissue expander) in my chest. I still sometimes (oftentimes) need to trade an hour or two of activity for an hour (or two) of rest. Taking a shower and getting dressed is still my most dreaded (and most tiring) activity. I suppose it is something about those particular movements, and of course the reality check of seeing and touching what I am dealing with.

Still, I am so grateful.

One of the most powerful lessons that I have learned during this experience is being fully present in whatever moment I am in. This has always been extremely difficult for me. I’m a worrier by nature. I’m a planner, always thinking two (or three) steps ahead. I’ve learned that looking, thinking, working too far ahead only serves to rev up my anxiety to a fever pitch.

The day of my surgery you would have expected my anxiety to be at an all time high. But it wasn’t. Quite the opposite. I felt an immense calm, indescribable almost. I know that much of that can be attributed to those who were praying for me, to God’s presence, and the rest came from me being fully present in that exact moment.

Sitting in the chair in the waiting room. Chatting with the friendly nurse technician. Changing into my gown. I didn’t let my mind wander beyond that immediate moment.

I did the same after I woke up from surgery later that day and in the days that followed. If being in the immediate moment was too uncomfortable (sometimes painful or feeling nauseous) I would pick out the next “big” moment (one that was just a few hours away) and focus on that … the sun coming up, going home, having dinner. This felt manageable and allowed me to stay calm.

As I started to heal I found myself back in the same pattern. Worrying about household tasks, things that needed to be done, work that needed to be prepared for. That period was one of the more difficult ones thus far as my mind was swirling around all the things that needed to be done, but my body and stamina wouldn’t cooperate with doing them.

I’m certainly not suggesting that procrastination is the way to go, and that putting things off is the key. I’ve been there before, and that is a sure fire way to send my anxiety through the roof. You need to take specific steps to plan and prepare for your work, your day, your week, but don’t linger in that space.

Do you struggle with worry and anxiety like I do? How do you cope?

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