Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to get my brain spinning on an idea or a concept. Other times – it’s like there is no room at the neuronal inn; Guest concepts may walk through the corridor of thought and find the place jam packed full of baggage and so, they have no other option than to turn around and walk out.
I am getting much better at predicting when I will be receptive to thinking and when I’ve reach capacity, though. There are a myriad of circumstances that have become “benchmarks” for me – signs per se – that caution me to speed up, slow down, or even completely stop. I learned today that it may be that I am starting to self-regulate.
Self regulation is something of a novelty to me. When I was teaching, and before cancer, I was, as others would have called me, “the energizer bunny”. I knew no limits. I could fly by the seat of my pants and turn a lesson around on a dime if need be. I had ideas that grew wings and flew uncontrollably around others that they would often be damaged or bruised by the force of the collision. No limits. No boundaries. And then, I would crash. Inevitably, by March Break, I would be sick with a cold, the flu, whatever ailment was hovering. I had no idea how to find the work/ life balance. It was all or nothing.
Then – boom! Cancer hit. Hell hath no fury like a woman’s ovary that is ripe with cancer. Or something like that. The cancer was even more energized than I was. And the chemo knocked me on my ass in an effort to do the same to the cancer. I went from bunny to tortoise in one fell swoop. My life was flipped upside down and I had no idea how to manage it. What was even more interesting was the roller-coaster ride of emotions and energy brought to me, courtesy of the steroids I took to control nausea and vomiting. I remember having the energy to re-upholster a dining room suite. And then renovate a town house to be ready for sale. Then four days later – not being able to get out of bed to motivate myself to walk. I had no idea what my new limits were – or where they would be headed. And nor did my family – with me or even themselves.
I have discovered over the past month or so when I have been volunteering at the chemo suite at Royal Victoria Hospital… my limits. First – let me explain that I absolutely LOVE this volunteer work. I have met so many absolutely amazing people who demonstrate the grit of human resilience. I am inspired by them and buoyed by them. And I can only take so much of it till my bucket is over-flowing – usually this is within two hours. And that’s it for the day – two hours of volunteer work and then I go into hibernation for the day. Volunteer Tuesdays have become “Take-out Tuesdays”. I can’t cook. I can’t talk. I can barely walk. I have reached my capacity. This is all good. I have finally learned my limits and am beginning to respect them.
I wonder? Had anyone told me when I was in the chemo-suite as a patient that I would learn my limits if I would have listened. Hard to say. I know that this is a message I am continually offering to patients. “Take it easy. Respect the fatigue. Listen to your body”, are the tidbits of wisdom I try to share with them. I think anyone that has been affected by cancer and received chemo or radiation for that matter, has learned a new respect for fatigue. Still, it is with a heavy heart that most of us accept our new norm. We have had to give up so much already and fought so hard to win a battle without knowing our own arsenal or game-plan, that accepting we will forever be changed somehow, is a big pills to swallow.
Learning to respect my limits has helped not only me – but those around me. I’m getting it. I accept that I have limits. I still want to push the boundaries and learn that I’m not super-human after all when the results of the push are me being irritable, short-fused, and/or developing a massive head ache.
It will take time. I will learn. I will accept. I think learning to regulate myself better is also a part of aging and what my parents learned as they lost their energy over time. Accepting my own limitations has helped me to understand the importance of saying “no” to invitations when I need to rest. Saying “no” is okay. People get it. Friends get it. Family gets it. I just need to pay attention to the signs that caution me to slow down, take it easy, you’ve done as much as you can for today. Tomorrow – is a new day.