Five Things I Learned from My Five Week Hiatus

I am about a quarter of the age and weight of many people that require intensive back surgery. But here I am.

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It started in 2008 when I had a bad fall down a set of stairs (it was actually a set of stairs, not a “set of stairs.”) I broke my tail bone and apparently set everything else in motion as well. Nine years, six epidural shots, five physical therapy sessions, three times a week pilates and swimming sessions, one outpatient surgery, and countless cortisone shots and Ibuprofen medications, it was finally time for the last resort. I had a fusion at L5-S1, spent five days in the hospital, and five weeks at home. I am coming up on week six, and I’m finally back at work. 

Obviously I needed the surgery, but I do not think I realized quite how much I needed the downtime. When you are forced to be alone with your thoughts, a lot comes up (especially on pain medication)! Here’s what I learned. 

Health should be your #1 priority, no excuses.

For those of you that have battled with health complications, you know what I mean. So how is it that we regularly put our health on hold? We grab a quick bite because we are in a time crunch at work, usually grabbing something that satisfies our stress craving rather than filling us with the vitamins we need. We stay up late checking email, or worrying about tomorrow's meetings. We catch the red-eye so that we can be there first, earlier, and more prepared than everyone else. We chug coffee like it's going out of style. We swerve in traffic, cursing red lights and trying to outsmart the yellow ones. And for what? Did all of those cut corners actually get us to our goals and desires quicker than if we would have relaxed? Are we better in the end, or are we more tired, crabby, burnt out, and sick than if we would have been more deliberate, more mindful, and more thankful along the way? If there is one thing being forced to sit still for five weeks taught me, it's that I will never again compromise my health and wellness for the sake of success. I will instead be successful because I have cared for myself, inside and out, the same way I care for my work. 

Related: have you ever read an article discussing the "millennial problem" of travel v. saving money? Choose travel. I'll bet you can figure out how to make more money. You cannot bet on the longevity of your health. 

People love you. Let them. 

This was a tough one. I grew up as the oldest of four kids, So I am used to taking care of and being responsible for others. So hopefully you can imagine how humbling it was to ask for help, rely on others, and allow myself to be vulnerable. However, amazing things happened when I finally arrived at this point of surrender. My relationships strengthened. I felt more at ease. I loved watching friends and family receive love and gratitude as they gave their time and energy to me. I was often overwhelmed by the people in my life that would go out of their way to help me, even when I did not ask. Allowing the love to come in is something I hope I remember long into the future. People care about you. They love you. We are all longing for connection. But we must be open to receiving it when it comes.

Bitterness is a disease.

This one took nearly the full five-week hiatus to figure out. We all have that acquaintance or co-worker (or a handful in my case) that rattles you from the inside out. The one that you practice telling off in the shower, or the one you avoid in the break room. I never thought of this activity to be dangerous, but I realized that I was only hurting myself. Staying mad and holding onto resentment will only continue the cycle of “feeling wronged.” You cannot allow yourself to become a victim. You cannot withhold forgiveness, even when you were right, or do not feel it is warranted. Bitterness will spread like a disease, and will frame your entire perspective on work, relationships, and life. Repeat after me: Let👏 it👏 go👏. 

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Rest and "me time" is not selfish.

For anyone who knows me, I've always been a busy-body. I'm someone who watches TV shows while also doing food prep, tidying up, doing laundry, playing with my dog, texting friends back, managing my business, etc. If I found myself on the couch for more than 20 minutes, I immediately felt guilty about all the things I could or should be doing. Don't get me wrong, I still believe productivity is a virtue.  However, being intentional about rest, therapy, and self-discovery is not inefficient, or a waste of time. It should actually be the first step before any accomplishment. As one of my favorites Brene Brown said, you don’t need to “earn” rest or play. Is your body telling you it’s exhausted? Sit down, slow down.

Plus, the combo of podcasts and coloring books can unlock a potential you have never known, people! 

Clothes set the tone, not the experience.

If you were playing the game, "which one is unlike the other," I suppose this bullet point would be it. It sounds silly, perhaps vain, but I stress about my clothes. I have read so many blogs and articles about how you present yourself defines other's perceptions. I am nearly 30, and want to be taken seriously in the professional world. But I also want to look approachable. Not too girly, but not boring either. Also, comfort! It's a real predicament in my life — just ask my husband! Let me tell you about a few epiphanies I had in the fashion department: No one is worrying about your clothes, because they are worried about theirs. Additionally, maybe it's true your clothes are the first impression. But your attitude is the last — and last-ing — impression. Do you want to project worry and insecurity about what you look like, or do you want to project the confidence and ease that comes from someone who has their priorities straight? Side note: I’m going to re-read this blog the next time I'm ripping my closet apart at 7:51 a.m.

My road to recovery is not over yet, and will not be for some time. Earlier this year, five weeks of down time sounded like an eternity. Now I am just grateful for the time I have had to rest, both physically and mentally. This post will definitely keep my accountable for my thoughts and actions in the months to come.

Everything they said was true! Clarity comes when things are finally quiet.