slowing down

in a few weeks i’ll have no choice. zero. zilch. no choice.

i’ll have to slow down because my uterus and surrounding area will have experienced a stressful time called myomectomy. it’s a surgical procedure during which fibroids are removed. fibroids are typically, non-cancerous tumors that grow in a space that’s got enough access to estrogen. (this is my layperson definition. if you’d like something more scientific for anything in this post, please use wikipedia–typically your first google hit–or the even more reputable expressions of a scientific journal.) fibroids can be singular or multiple, small or large. i have 2. they are 4.5 cm and 10 cm. the former is considered large and yet not that consequential especially considering its placement in front of my uterus. the latter can be compared to the size of a typical new-born’s head and it’s behind the uterus. i like to think of it as my shy tissue bundle that values privacy. not even the NSA could have detected it. 

my doc’s first preference is to use a robot, called da Vinci, to take out the fibroids. this is considered a laparoscopic surgery. it’s minimally invasive and, consequently, requires a shorter recovery time (generally two weeks). the robot makes the surgery somewhat similar to the playing of a video game…but with surgical skill and care. that care ensures that my body will not be considered a playground but a delicate flower in need of some TLC. my doc admits that the shy fibroid will be a challenge to extract so i’ve given him permission to transition to a full abdominal incision (a laparotomic surgery) if need be. no sense in returning to the table at a later date. one of the down sides to that procedure is the recovery time, generally 4-6 weeks.

naturally, i’m hoping we can go with the robot and i realized today that my reasons for that have a lot to do with not knowing how to slow down. 2 weeks is the length of a nice-sized vacation but i’ve never experienced that long of a vacay in my adult life so i’m not sure that it’s that awesome. yet, i can somewhat envision ways to pass the time and claim “mind over matter” in order to work through the pain, both the physical pain and the pain of doing nothing. 4-6 weeks is the length of a bad experience that seems hopeless, out of control, endless…i can’t seem to think of good things that happen in 4-6 weeks. it feels more like a risky, urgent, high-pressure, make-or-break time. 

i think about my job and though my employer is gracious, i’ve already planned to spend some of tomorrow morning mapping out all the things that need to happen in the next 3 months and figure out how much of it i can complete in the next two weeks before i’m forced to slow down. i’m a campus minister. school starts toward the end of August. before it begins, i want to retreat with my board, assistant chaplain, student leaders and residents in some fashion. before those retreats begin, i want to redo my office space, empty it of all excess. and before that, i want to work with all the above people to figure out what our ministry will be up to during the next school year, get things on a calendar and everyone on the same page. and trust me, there are several other ideas writing themselves on my head’s to-do list. so if i’m out of commission right up until school begins, how in the world will all that happen?

i read something really helpful today in the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. say what you may about her or the book, she makes many valuable points. this is what i read (on page 129) and fully appreciated within the context of job performance expectations: 

It began to dawn on me that my job did not really require that I spend twelve full hours a day in the office. I became much more efficient–more vigilant about only attending or setting up meetings that were truly necessary, more determined to maximize my output during every minute I spent away from home…I tried to focus on what really mattered.”

my name’s michaela and i’m a workaholic. i don’t always think in terms of what matters but in terms of quantity and quality quantity at that. i’m an idea generator and a lot of my ideas look, to me and even others, like good ideas sometimes so it’s kind of hard to believe they’re unnecessary. this workaholism stems somewhat from my idealism (not that all idealists are workaholics with useless ideas) and the high value i place on productivity. i’ve written recently about how hard it is to be (versus do). i judge the success of my day (even my day off) by how much or how well i’ve been able to produce. the product could be a piece of art or a strategic plan. as long as i can put a “completed” stamp on it, i feel as if i’ve succeeded. (this makes mentoring people a challenging space for me…but thankfully i’m growing. thankfully, i’m more reasonable in the friend department.) 

i remember walking downtown Chicago one day and realizing that my pace was unnecessarily fast. i wasn’t late for a meeting. i wasn’t catching a bus or train. it wasn’t raining or unbearably cold. it was a holiday. but i was in the city and it is normal for city people (responsible ones, anyway) to always look as if they’re on the move. after living there for a while, it became my habit. and i remember thinking, in that moment, that it was crazy…i needed to slow down.

sometimes, while driving home from work, i’ll challenge myself to drive behind someone who’s actually obeying the speed limit. it’s like sending an extroverted child to an empty room for timeout. painful. and yet that simple act of slowing down means that i’m in a better head space by the time i get home and i’m sure my husband’s grateful.

slowing down is not the end of the world. i know this. that’s why i’ve learned to enjoy vacations (notice, i said “learned”…). it’s good to pull back but i guess i really only mean that in a vacationing sense, during a time when there’s nothing you’re supposed to be doing…or at least it’s a time when you don’t think you’re supposed to be doing anything. sometimes ignorance is, indeed, bliss. 

but this is not a time when i value the sort of slowing down that i’m having to enter into. the fact that i don’t have a choice is probably what’s making it so hard to be at peace with. i’m being forced into a slower pace. my own body won’t allow me to be on the go. and that would be more okay-ish if i could be assured that after two weeks, i’ll be as good as new and have all the time i need to get everything and everyone set for a new school year.

that’s not going to happen. no one will make me that promise. i don’t even think God will whisper that promise to me in a dream. and i say that because i know that i need to learn to value a slower pace. no, i’m not saying that i should value being lazy and unproductive. i need to learn to value quality in small quantities. two good ideas executed well instead of five. i need to realize that the 3rd, 4th and 5th ideas are nice but unnecessary, that just because something’s nice doesn’t mean it’s relevant, doesn’t even mean it should necessarily be stored up for later. there are some ideas that i should thank God for giving me the creative juices to think up and then place in a shredder. 

what really matters? what really matters is that i’m in good health. what really matters is that my leadership teams know what’s going on. what really matters is that when school begins in August, my leadership teams feel comfortable stepping up to the plate to help create a healthy community for returning students and new students alike. what really matters is that in the next two weeks, i ask my leadership teams to tell me what they’d like to see and do and experience. what really matters is that i do what i can to resource them. what really matters is that people are allowed to contribute according to their gifting and expertise. what really matters is that no one feels taken advantage of or left in the dark.

retreats aren’t the only way to accomplish all of that. emails and phone calls and text/fb messages and really long blog posts can all make it happen.

and when that happens, we all win because i’m not a control freak and everyone has an opportunity to lead. i think those are good ideas. i think, maybe, that now i can slow down…maybe. yeah, i’m pretty sure.

 

2 Replies to “slowing down”

  1. I love how you talked about walking fast because… well, that’s what you’re used to. It’s incredible, isn’t it? How hard it is to really slow down…

    I’ll be praying and thinking of you as you go through your two weeks of “break.”

    Take courage. xx

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