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Whatever it Takes

I have found that whatever gift you can give yourself to lift the spirits, however small the budget, eases anxiety or sadness when life becomes overwhelming; even unbearable. I began this earnestly before my first surgery. Facing a radical double mastectomy, and knowing I'd be in the hospital for a long while, I needed comforting self-care and a happy task I'd have control over. When you put yourself in the hands of others, you are forced to let go, to hand yourself over in their care. Being unconscious for several hours on several surgery occasions, I often wondered what went on, what was said? I contemplated my surgeon's concern at the fifth surgery when a staph infection circled back around; something he'd never seen. I was so sick, hallucinating from a high fever, did my rock-star surgeon say something to his capable assistants and nurses about the endless complications? I'll never truly know. It was an emergency surgery so I didn't have the luxury of pre-surgery pampering and prep organizing.

The only thing I had control over during my journey, was to ensure a healthy routine and gifting myself little joys. Knowing I was facing a life-threatening and life-changing initial surgery, I took myself to the nail salon for a pedicure. Oddly, it gave me strength. I usually choose red, and recall choosing a cherry red prior to that first surgery. Why would it matter that I had a pedicure before surgery and, as it turned out, twenty-two days away between hospital and a full-care facility? While lying in the hospital bed, I liked the cheery and polished color on my toes. It brought in a sense of dignity to a vulnerable and, at times, undignified circumstance. Physical therapists and nurses would comment. It made me feel better, so why not?

It sprouted a ritual. I made an appointment for a pedicure prior to every scheduled surgery. I wasn't able to do this for the emergency surgery since making sure I lived took precedence. I would also carefully wash my hair, exfoliate my skin with a lovely scrub, and give myself a mini-facial, which included a reviving moisture mask. Looking back, I realize that self-care, call it vanity if you like, is important to me. But, going deeper, I know that I was terrified, and humiliated by the assault to my body and femininity. There are extensive scars inside and out, but I've learned to make things that support myself a priority. The pampering steps, being united with nature, and my tropical visualizations, provided small frames of peace during the Tsunami that entered my life.

Rich espresso, walking on a glorious day, snuggling with animals, pedicures, a great movie that moves me, connecting and laughing with friends are high on my list of self-nurturing. I carry on with my small frames of soothing rituals daily. Moments of beauty = Moments of joy.

Last week, although tired, I drove down to the waterfront to meet a friend for a walk. I'm a power walker and he's tall so it's a good match. We set out by Fess Parker Hotel walking along the water over to the Biltmore shoreline. It was after 6:00 when we began so the sun was low, a warm wind picked up, and the wild flowers were in bloom. The temperature, even after the sun set below the ocean, was 75 degrees. And as the walk lasted more than two-hours, twilight fell upon us. The sky was the most exquisite blue and the shore had a purple-blue tone that only twilight presents. Still warm at dark as stars began to flicker, and feeling the spring ocean breeze, I felt nurtured to the bottom of my soul. I've included a photo below that captures the essence of the shoreline spring walk.

What are your self-nurturing joys?

Keep on swimming through life,


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