The blue light refracted across my second eye. Then quiet, as my doctor pulled back and stood very still. The tendons in her neck flexed. “I think it’s time for us to talk about your New Normal,” she said, “I’m not sure you will ever be able to go back to the way you were living before your accident.”
She held her breath and put a reassuring hand on my shoulder while she let the weight of her words sink in. I gazed at the skin under her gold necklace glimmering with sweat and said nothing. The poor woman had witnessed so many of my downs; I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking (or feeling).
Four years earlier, this same doctor told me I had shingles. Then, she was the one who delivered the news about an 18 month recovery period for my back injury in 2015. And, she had been there through this whole scary head trauma ordeal. (Read “SLAM! The Story of Hitting My Head)
I tried to maintain the solemn atmosphere, but her words felt more like a relief than a burden. Six weeks earlier, a relapse slammed me down so hard, she had asked me if I had my affairs in order. So, now hearing her suggestion that I make some changes to my general approach on life sounded like a pretty reasonable request to me.
Perhaps if I had adopted a “New Normal” years ago, the health drama of the past few years could have been avoided.
In my “Old Normal,” I catapulted from obligation to obligation and gladly took on extra responsibility in any group I was a part of; family, extended family, the kid’s school, the arts community, networking groups, friendship. Whenever I was tired, hurt, or stressed, I would force myself to complete my objective. Always willing to “make the push”, whatever the cost to me.
Getting to that birthday party on time was more important than my health. Cramming two meetings and five clients into a typical work day was a badge of honor. I was the pentacle of efficiency.
If I took an armful of recycling out to the bin, only to return and discover one more bottle on the counter, disappointment would overwhelm me over how I lost an entire 22 seconds of my day—totally wasted!
My doctor expected the term, New Normal, to bring up a long list of things I can no longer do; things I desire, but will be denied; questions about my self-worth and value.
But, being told that I needed to develop a New Normal felt like permission to listen to my body and honor its needs above all other obligations; permission to not do anything at all.
Something that had seemed impossible because of how important I thought I was to so many people and communities was now the only way forward. My doctor said I needed to pace myself and be mindful about what activities and people I include in my daily life.
I could have kissed my doctor for the freedom she had just granted me.
I listened patiently to her list of my new limitations. I gave her my word that I would then tried not to skip all the way home where I jumped on the computer and emailed “Sorry, I won’t be able to _fill in the blank)” in all different directions.
I once was a bird, wings stretched, soaring through the air, tossed by the wind. Now I’m a tree with roots firm, trunk stable, arms lifted to the sun. Smiling and steady.
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Careful what intentions you set, read “I Manifested a Concussion” here.
“I write to open up space for my heart and head to tumble, stumble, bounce, and roll. I write to explore the magic of our world and the power of words. I write to expose the tragic truth of life as well as the authentic abundance and joy. The stories are meant to inspire all of us facing the challenge of knowing and honoring our authentic self in a world of commands and demands.” – Jessica Sabatini