I’ve just completed 6 weeks of postoperative recovery after Anterior L5 S1 Spinal Fusion procedure. I feel much better although I am still quick to tire and often experience left leg pain, numbness and tingling as a result. You might ask how is this different than your symptoms before the surgery? Well, primarily, the symptoms come after prolonged sitting or laying in my bed. So mornings are difficult at first. Mostly though I feel bad when I’ve been active for an extended period of time. Which then begs the question how do you handle not sitting, not laying around too long and not standing/walking too long??
And therein lays the rub.
My days are now such that I spend most of my time trying to figure out how long I can handle any one activity, and whether or not I can sneak in normal things in between. I grocery shop every other day, cook in spurts, wash in spurts, visit with our grandchild in spurts, and in general plan activity in a rotation of sitting (driving), upright and laying down as much as I can.
However, I find myself erring to the point of exhaustion when it comes to walking outside. I am pulled to the levee as if by some force I simply cannot control. I love walking along the river watching it change not only through the seasons but on a daily basis as well. Now that its winter, the leaf load is non-existent and I can see what seems to be forever. On a post-rain day, I can stare at Mt. Diablo and the hills between us in Sacramento, and the bay area.
Today was one of those days. I slowly climbed the sloped driveway to the top of the levee to find a high water level, chocolate colored, debris-filled river flowing swiftly but calmly to the south. Without foliage to block my sight, I can see the places where people again have begun dumping trash on the embankments of the Yolo County side and I shake my head in disappointment.
On my side, I spot a flock of doves perched in their favorite tree. Having lost their blind to winter winds and rain, they are revealed as plump gray bulges on various limbs and branches. Hummingbirds flit along the bank and come to rest on tiny tips of branches as they chirp menacingly at the dog.
I realize that there are many fallen branches and mistletoe is exposed in giant clumps to reveal where each tree is being attacked by the parasitic plant. A quick review of the trees reminds me that winter allows us to see what we in more cheerful, warmer times are too busy to notice or the ‘fluff’ of life obscures it from our view. Winter makes us aware of all the trimming, mending, culling and pruning that needs to be done so that we can take fully take advantage of Spring’s unstoppable wave of new energy and rebirth.
My dad and mom taught me to prune plants. Their best and most important lesson?
Prune without fear.
Prune without fear and you will be rewarded with new growth. Prune carefully but know that if your touch does not bode well with your charge, that perhaps it’s not meant to be. Don’t be so delicate with you pruning that you do the plant a disservice and it doesn’t achieve its full potential anyway.
Winter reminds us to look carefully at our pared-down lives and decide where to prune, trim, cull, or mend. Winter reveals the real, lasting beauty underneath the cover of green leaves and blossoms; the strong branches that support, the animals that inhabit, the shape of years of bending and twisting in the wind.
My personal winter has lasted almost 18 months so far. But I can feel the Spring coming soon. I’m mending, trimming, removing, and pruning my life’s components to give me room to grow. My fear seems to have dissipated completely. In its place, an urgent desire to move on.
I’m drawn to the levee despite the fact that I will end up exhausted and sore. In return, I get peace of mind, stronger legs and the joy of thinking. And deciding where in my life I need to prune.