“Well, that was unexpected…”
Not exactly what you want to hear from the surgeon who has been cutting on your husband for the past two and a half hours.
His two-hour surgery — repair to his deviated septum and reduction of the turbinates, whatever those are — was scheduled at noon. Not unexpectedly, the nurses did not wheel him to the OR until 12:30. (Bonus of being a medical family: we already knew that surgeries NEVER begin on time.) After kissing his head and wishing him luck, I settled into the family waiting lounge. Ate a sandwich, read a book, played some Words, caught some HGTV. Two hours is a long time.
I checked my watch occasionally, then more frequently as 2:30 approached.
Mm-kay. This can’t be good.
Finally, the surgeon opened the door and sat down with me to explain what he found. Four ugly, ginormous, hideous, obstructive polyps completely blocking his left nasal passage. Which explains why Michael hasn’t been able to breathe from that side for the last five years. And why he breathes so loudly at night that I sleep with earplugs.
But now these polyps, most likely caused by allergies, are on a trip to pathology, and we can all finally breathe.
I waited another hour before the nurse called me back to the recovery room. Before his surgery, they had told me my wait would more likely last about twenty minutes. So the additional wait was a little unnerving — but oh-so-worth it because Michael on drugs? Hilarious. Drunk-eyed, drooling, slobbering, nonsensical hilarity. I tried really, really hard not to laugh.
The poor guy (whose only other surgery was at the blossoming age of two — ironically an eye injury, which is too stomach-turning to describe) did not know how he would respond to anesthesia. The verdict: nausea and total loopiness. He’d take a deep breath, open his eyes, look at me, and slur “hey schweeety,” then close his eyes again and sleep. Five minutes later, he’d do it all again — as if seeing me for the first time all day. After an hour, he looked at me and declared, “Ju can jus keep my phone.”
I guess that’s an improvement from “hey schweeety.”
Seven hours after we walked into the hospital, he staggered into the car and we drove home. He slept for several hours, then awoke and ate ravenously — not surprising considering his twenty-two hour fast. Healing occurred over the next five days, prodded along by sleep, food, and televised sporting events. Oxygen at last moved freely through his nasal passages, allowing us both to rest deeply, offering us a new appreciation for airflow.
My emerging theme for this year seems to be breathe. Life and busyness have a nasty way of obstructing our airways and constricting the flow of air. Breathing becomes labored and loud, and it drowns out the silence which allows us to recharge. To listen. To grow.
But remove the obstructions, and the flowing air brings with it life and renewal and goodness. We inhale and exhale, passing on the life within us — giving and receiving, giving and receiving, a mysterious rhythm that both sustains and depletes.
Michael’s polyps surprised his surgeon. Had he ordered a CT scan, he would have seen them, but such an expensive diagnostic was unwarranted. He found them after jamming a camera up Michael’s nose, though. Hello, little polyps. So you’re the ones causing all this trouble. Out you go.
My obstructions are just as difficult (if not more) to spot. But I know they’re there. Busyness, to-do lists, and literal NOISE prevent the air from flowing, blocking the words so desperate to reveal themselves on this page, the truth waiting to make its entrance. They hinder patience and goodness, self-control and joy. I can’t breathe out what I don’t breathe in. I can’t effectively and generously love with massive globs of excess tissue standing in my way.
My life seems very loud lately. And crowded. Slightly suffocating. Which is ironic considering the lengths we’ve taken to de-complicate our family. But beyond clearing the calendar, I need silence. Not just quiet. Silence.
There’s a difference. Years ago, before we had kids, when we took for granted our pieces of quiet, Michael and I participated in several silent prayer retreats at a couple of local convents. From Friday night to Saturday afternoon, we did not speak. In fact, we were encouraged to remove ourselves from words altogether — no books, no music, no conversation. Just silence. Prayer, meditation, listening, contemplation — but no words.
Quiet is much more easily achieved than silence, for even when I would stop speaking with my voice, my mind would continue to chatter and carry on. Without fail, I would not achieve Silence until sometime following Saturday lunch. Just in time to go home. But during those few hours of divine Silence, I soaked in perspective, inspiration, understanding. I left the convent renewed and refreshed. At least until the next wave of noise crashed over my head and threw me to the sand.
Fifteen years and three kids later, I still struggle with silence. I want the voices in my head to shut up and leave me alone. The noise is deafening. My own endless self-talk — coupled with the cacophony of piano practice, iPods, television, chatter, whining, arguing — is pushing me over a cliff. Throw in a constant barrage of information and entertainment from my smartphone and my laptop, and you’ll find me running for the hills and screaming (which, unfortunately, does nothing to usher in silence). Peaceful nothingness I crave.
So this year, I will pursue silence. I will carve out time from my noisy day to learn meditation, contemplation, stillness. I will breathe: giving, receiving, giving, receiving — unobstructed, life-giving airflow.
I’ve had a couple of friends pester ask me recently about my (nonexistent) book. Which usually leads to self-loathing because I have nothing. I have nothing good to say, no direction, no plan. I can barely crank out a blog post every other week. A book? Laughable. And then I read stories and insights from these amazing women and think I could never do that. Then there’s this whole issue of marketing myself and building a platform and aggressively pursuing an audience to like me. Pssshh. So not me. And so beyond my level of comfort. I have the ambition of a tabby cat.
For now, I will inhale and exhale, meditate and contemplate, internalize and spew, hopefully hearing some voice of direction and purpose.
And if that voice happens to say, “Hey schweeety”? This time, I’m gonna laugh.