convalesce (per Merrium-Webster)
con·va·lesce | \ ˌkän-və-ˈles \
Definition of convalesce
: to recover health and strength gradually after sickness or weakness. He is convalescing from influenza.
The art of convalescing…what is that really? Does it paint a picture in your head of Victorian women, pale and sickly, in their beds? Or perhaps soldiers wrapped in bandages, unconscious in their hospital ward with nurses attending to their many needs? I tell you what it does not paint. It does not paint anything I’ve practiced with ease in this lifetime. I am assuming not you either. Let us backtrack.
I was born prematurely by three months. I assume I used all my coupons for convalescing the first few months in the incubator, because since then life, the world, my parents, school systems, and work rarely granted me permission to slow down.
I am now a grown woman and cannot point my fingers at anyone. It is all on me. I hate telling people no. I will work often always grateful for the opportunity. Admittedly, I foolishly have gone to the doctor to have a “nodule” removed (totally cancer btw), and promptly returning two hours later; white as a ghost, almost fainting in the hallway. I have literally had two surgeries where I put myself back on the work two days later, sore, peaked and fatigued. A third surgery went all wrong. I found myself incapacitated for several months. These months later turned into over a year with subsequent chemo/ immune therapy treatments. The treatments were rough and made me quite ill. My well-trained brain allotted myself that one single day to be sick. Again, foolish. I felt the need to be productive. I’ve certainly should have been cleaning, organizing, taking online classes, trying to work or something?!? I think I failed at every attempt at all these things listed above. I could do nothing well or safely. At the time, I had a remarkable oncology social worker, Dr. Sheridan. She who gave me permission to stay home and watch TV or sleep. I barely listened. I could not I could not accept this fate. This is the statement that finally resonated with me. “Lorri, unfortunately, we do not live in a society that values the sick or elderly.” She proceeded to tell me I needed this time to heal. It would be a good year after finishing treatment before I felt better, and this disease and treatment does not discriminate. Even a top neurosurgeon would be pigeonholed into the sick and or elderly category during cancer treatments. I was shocked. We, the previously busy and successful, were the modern convalescents.
” Lorri, unfortunately, we do not live in a society that values the sick or elderly.”-Dr. Sheridan
This shaming of convalescents is not exclusive to the chronically ill. I have had friends break a limb, patients returned to work weeks after having a baby, a family member retire, a cousin that sleeps a lot, and people that grieve the loss of a loved one. What is the message? It is always, “Get out there and get busy!”
I am not proposing laziness, because that would be counter-intuitive to my Midwest hard-working All-American upbringing… but jeez let us rest! Is there really any shame in that? My European friends seem to be better accustomed to relaxing and taking “down time.” Also, so does my dog and cat. Those two are collectively awake less than four hours a day and are not stressed about it.
So let us look at the present times. Now, it is not only our loved ones battling illness or disease needing to rest. Like a lightning bolt, Covid-19 struck us down. Globally, we are being forced to convalesce collectively on a multitude of levels we have never endured before. We are forced to sit and be. I do not know what your experience has been, but I know closing in my office was not an easy decision. However, I was going to be alright because I was going to: clean my house, clean my car, organize my paperwork, design a new website, paint ten paintings, learn a language, learn to play piano, create a garden, get amazing abs and possibly learn salsa alone at home. The joke was on me. Four days into social distancing I fell off a ladder and hurt my back. I, once again, (thank you God and Universe) am convalescing. But then again, aren’t we all?
We have all been home long enough to spend some time with ourselves and possibly with others. It is true. I have done some my chores as you probably have also. The truth is, I rested my back, I decompressed, I thought to myself and others, I have reached out to people I’ve meant to do for months if not years, I’m getting to know my neighbors and fellow dog walkers, I’m picking fruit from neighbor’s trees, cooking, sleeping…and reading all of my own pace (which happens to be slow.) So, through years of great illnesses and injuries, through societal expectations and economic needs, I never let myself truly convalesce. Now, through the threat of a global pandemic, I am finally convalescing; physically mentally and spiritually. I cannot imagine this is an easy for anybody out there. Our lives have changed rapidly, but I sincerely hope you have taken the time to nurture yourself. Convalesce the ills of the modern world and get back to who you were before this crazy life got a hold of you.
This too shall pass, and we will all the back to our somewhat normal lives. So please take this time to care for yourself, your family, your needs, and your dreams. May you wrap up in a blanket, bask in the sun or pull out that favorite album that you have not listened to in years. Whatever it takes, take advantage of this rare time in history to properly practice the art of convalescing. sincerely, Dr.Lorri