I’ve had a rather busy weekend, and it has left me thinking about my recovery. It’s funny how little patience I have with myself these days. I want to be all better. Now. Which works out about as well as you would think it might. “But there is so much to DO!” I wail at myself silently. My project list is endless, and I am not encouraged by the sympathetic comments from fellow home owners, “Best get used to it, the list is never done.”
Some things are projects with an end date, like finishing the barn, building the firepit, or painting the bookcases in the library so I can finally get my books unpacked. Some jobs are endless, like weeding, trimming, trail clearing, and livestock and household chores. But all of them must be addressed, and most of them suffer without at least some attention every day. I am left with the age-old conundrum of too few hours. Each day passes by with such speed that I find myself surprised by sunset. To add to that problem is the issue of my physical recovery. Years of illness have left me with little muscle or stamina – two things that are an absolute must for running a farm, even a fledgling one.
But what’s interesting to me is not the slowness of my recovery period (which is maddening) but the broken pace of it. For instance, Friday I mowed the lawn. This is actually a much larger job than it at first sounds, as the yard is large, filled with rocks, and not at all level. Add to that the fact that we have had six straight weeks of rain, and you begin to get the picture. Mowing an eighth of an acre of hilly, knee-high grass is a daunting task indeed. However, in my enthusiasm for self-sufficiency I channeled my inner three year old, and informed my husband that I would do it by myself, thank-you-very-much, and I neither wanted nor needed his help.
Hubris is often funny in retrospect.
Within minutes I was overheated and puffing like a blown horse. “This was SO not a good idea.” I said to myself. Shawn came outside and found me sitting on the porch steps, head in hands… less than a hundred square feet of lawn mowed. Now we’ve been married for more than a decade, and one of the reasons we’ve stayed married this long is that he has the good sense to NEVER tell me I can’t do something. Instead, he handed me a mug of cold water and said in a voice loaded with encouragement, “Don’t worry honey, you can do it in sections.” The truth is that he could see what I forgot in my delusions of instant Wonder-Womanism. The fact is that it’s amazing that I’m mowing the lawn at all. Even six months ago it would have been an unthinkable task for me.
His insight hit me like a rock. Of course I have to do it in sections, and if I don’t get all the sections done today, I’ll get them done tomorrow. “But my list, my goals, my plans!” my inner voice wailed. Nope. Patience is the name of the game. Patience and perseverance has gotten me this far, and it would be folly to abandon them now.
It took me four hours, but I mowed that whole darned lawn. “I am Wonder Woman!” I thought to myself as I collapsed on the couch. “Tomorrow, weather depending, I’m going to get started clearing up those fallen trees with my new chainsaw.” A laudable goal, a reasonable goal, a reachable goal. One tree, surely I can do that.
Saturday dawned, cool and threatening to sprinkle, perfect weather for heavy work outdoors. I ate well, dressed in layers, and put my wellies on against the wet brush and ticks. Chainsaw here I come. The tree went well, and between the saw and my ratcheting loppers the whole thing was neatly cut and stacked in a couple of hours. I do love good tools. “Well,” I thought, “what am I going to do with the rest of my day?” As it turns out, I have quite a few downed trees that need cutting up… and rocks that need to be stacked for the firepit… and the trail down to the barn could really use some work. And here we are, back in Hubristown. After all, I mowed that whole lawn, and that makes me all better right? Wonder Woman.
Somewhere during the third tree (after 50 or so pounds of rocks moved, and 75 feet of the trail mostly cleared), I started to shake. I was annoyed. “Fine,” I thought, “if I can’t safely use the chainsaw, I’ll just have to get what I can done with the loppers.” Half an hour more of that, and I realized I wasn’t sure I could get back up the hill from the barn to the house. Whoops. So much for Wonder Woman. “That’s OK, I’ll just get back down here first thing in the morning and finish this up.” I told myself.
But you see, that’s not how recovery works. The next day dawned, and I was exhausted. Totally depleted. My accomplishments for the whole day? I assembled a garden cart, and made sure the ducklings got out to pasture, and back in to the brooder. That’s it. And I fought with myself about it for the whole day. That night I was so cranky I was fit for neither man nor beast. My list, my plans, my goals! I had accomplished one goal, and one chore. “Some Wonder Woman.” I thought to myself derisively.
But this morning, the world is a clearer place. You see recovery is a process, a road, and if I push myself too hard I cover more ground, it’s true, but at what cost? I end up tired, injured, having unproductive days, and committing the crime of self-abuse. That is just not the way I want to live. So I must, yet again, make peace with the limitations of my body (something you would think I had down by now, for sure), and be gentle with myself - but not too gentle. I must push myself to recover, but I must pay attention, as my limits change every day. Some days it’s like hiking up a forbidding and snowy peak without a map or compass. Some days it’s not. Mostly the difference is in what I allow for my internal dialog. I am not Wonder Woman. Truthfully, I don’t know that I would want to be. But I am getting better, and I am getting stronger every day. And that, I think, is the key. I have a lot of days, a whole lifetime in fact, and plans are just that. Plans. Goals. Lists. None of those things are the reality of my life. That I must let unfold, one moment at a time.