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autumn leaves

When I was a student, someone said to me that I would never again have as much free time in my life as I had then, while I was studying. Indignant, I refused to believe it, thinking myself so stressed and busy with my ten hours of lectures a week, and homework that I rarely did. But they were right. Life since has been a largely enjoyable, occasionally stressful, frequently hectic whirl of activity – of work, parenting, freelancing, more study, creativity, running, spirituality, friends, family and more. Over the last five months I have had to slow down and finally I have come to an enforced stop. I have the luxury of paid time off work so I can concentrate on getting better, but it’s strange to have no structure to my days unless I create one. I’m not complaining, just observing that the free time and lack of responsibilities you crave when you’re overwhelmed with the busyness of life looks different when it’s all you have. I’m trying to settle into recovery being my main priority and to let go of the feeling that I ought to be achieving something.

There are some things that you can watch heal. Wounds become scars that then slowly fade. My arms gradually stretch further up the wall as I faithfully do my exercises. Broken skin stops weeping and becomes smooth and pink again. But I suspect that it’s a mistake to think that everything is ok once the physical effects of surgery fade and there is a lot more unseen healing that needs to take place deep within, regaining confidence, learning to trust again. I’m grateful for this space in which that can begin to happen and for the people who encouraged me to take the time my consultant recommended, rather than the minimum that I was going to allow myself.

These weeks of recovering from surgery will be the longest I haven’t run for years. I miss it, of course, but don’t trust my refigured body enough yet to try and obviously need to wait for the go ahead from my medical team. I’m getting some of my running fix vicariously through watching what my clubmates are up to, but also through a friend who ran through a forest when she was in Sweden the other week and had a strong sense that I was running with her. While my body is firmly in walking mode through London parks and streets, I love the idea that I was somehow running with her along trails and under trees – it made sense to me!

Meanwhile, a silent, soft fuzz of hair is appearing, unbidden, on my head, a welcome sign that my body is doing what it should and things are going in the right direction.

Photo: Jonny Baker. I’m enjoying the autumn leaves on my many walks through Ealing’s parks

7 thoughts on “Time on my hands

  1. Lovely photo. I too was taken aback at almost irrational loss of confidence in all areas for six months or so after cancer surgery. A year later though, my confidence is back.
    You are healing so well, Jenny!

  2. For less serious reasons, I’ve been off for nearly two weeks with at least another 4 scheduled. I’m not able to walk or even stand for long periods of time and the combination of enforced time off work and being reliant on other people for the things I’m usually responsible for is challenging but probably good for me on a level other than the healing of my bones! It’s good to see that you’re taking the rest that your body needs after it’s rough go of the last couple of months..

  3. Thanks for these posts Jen! Much appreciated and always good to read! Wishing you well both physically and mentally. Confidence will grow I’m sure!

  4. It is interesting that you use the words ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’ in relation to your own body. I had a friend (now retired clergy) who felt ‘betrayed’ (his own word) when he got kidney cancer a number of years ago – he ate reasonably well, played a bit of football and felt he had made a half decent job of looking after himself. It is back to this strange Greek dualism of mind and body – I think we all do it. When I am on a tough run I will talk to my own body with encouragements like ‘only 3 miles to go – c’mon, this is doing you good!’ etc. Who is this ‘other person body’ I am talking to? I am sure we are much more integrated than we think – I don’t believe we can ‘think ourselves better’ but I’m sure our emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well being are somehow connected. I had another good friend who simultaneously lost his job and injured himself. He struggled with a walking stick for months yet mysteriously the stick was cast aside the day he got a new job. Bless you. Keep doing the exercises and can’t wait to hear how the running goes. Start slow.

  5. Both Valerie and I have found your reflections on all that has happened and is happening to you very moving. I had cancer just four years ago and at the hospital they had to fight for my life.. A friend sent me a quote from Michael Ramsey; “After immense activity one passes into a phase where passivity is the only way. I pray that you may be finding this passivity as the way the soul serves God, not by doing this or that but by passively receiving the great stream of his love and compassion.” After 8 months of chemo, I am now in remission and with the joy of active re-involvement in the service of the Lord and his wonderful Gospel. With our love and prayers

  6. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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