In one week I will undergo a second spine surgery. Through the past several months, I have done everything possible to manage the pain to some avail sometimes. When I was really in it, I was in complete and total misery. All seemed much better as of late, but not according to my spine surgeon.
I was anticipating a potential surgery many months down the road, but was told that, in fact, it is scheduled for February 13th- down came an avalanche of worry, guilt, fear, sadness and anxiety.
Worry and guilt about leaving my husband without help as I recover for 6-8 weeks. Worried about losing my brand new job, anxiety about telling my new boss, and major guilt for pulling this on her just 2 weeks after I began work. Guilt for letting the senior center down where I was about to start teaching yoga. Sadness that my yoga momentum is coming to an abrupt halt and that my fitness will go right back to zero. And, above all, fear and anxiety about the surgery itself.
This is my second ACDF (Anterior Cervical Dissection and Fusion) surgery for the same problem, Cervical Degenerative Disease. I have battled problems with my cervical column for over 25 years, these issues more than likely due to the child abuse I endured wherein my mom chose to wrap her hands around my neck and squeeze.
All the things I have been practicing about mindfulness, kindness, and compassion flew right out the window the moment the spine department said, “February 13th.” You can meditate your face off, practice yoga for hours every day, and read every single philosophy book known to mankind but we are still going to be faced with situations that are uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unavoidable- the truest tests of our character.
I taught my first yoga class to actual strangers last week and I was so distracted by the impending surgery, I wasn’t able to celebrate. After the class, I sat down with my guru SC for teaching feedback and our conversation eventually steered itself towards the surgery and my personal complications therein. Of course, she was able to look past my reactivity and reach straight to the core of what I was going through.
SC pointed out that this anxiety is the result of my victim voice coming to the surface- all this is happening to me, I have no choice in the matter, life is backing me into a corner, pressure is mounting, and I am triggered all over the place. As I’ve learned through meditation, it is not the events of life that determine our experience but the way we choose to react. As SC wrote to me later that day, “Remember we are not “our story”… challenging things happened but we can choose to live in the trigger/reactivity box or we can find the key to let ourselves be FREE.”
I also came to realize that the majority of my yucky feelings were about other people. My husband, my kids, my new boss; fear of surgery and the pain of a long recovery being last on the list of sundry things continually circling ’round my brain. Stepping into a victim role only blossomed my anxiety despite everyone saying, “It is going to be okay. We are here for you. We will take care of you. You are not going to lose your job. The yoga community is here for you now and will be here when you return.”
Immediately, I trusted none of that. Yet upon a much longer second look, I see that my lack of trust also worked to remove kindness. I forgot about giving myself compassion. I neglected to look on the other side of the surgery. I turned my back on myself, assumed other people’s feelings as negative and forgot about the value I hold and the value this surgery ultimately holds.
Since I’ve gone through this before, I know what to expect when it comes to the surgery itself and at least that eases some of this immense tension I feel. As SC guided, now is the time- especially- where I need to spend some of that compassion I have for others on myself. I read a quote the other day, “The only person you need to make proud in this lifetime is your 8 year old self and your 80 year old self.” And this is (yet another) opportunity for me to do just that.
I am allowed to care for myself. I am allowed to be kind to Little Laura and hold her fear with grace and compassion while telling her (and truly believing!), “Everything is going to be okay.” My passion and authenticity will continue to lead me down the right paths and to the right people and if these opportunities are lost in the next 6 to 8 weeks as I recover, that’s just fine because I know my talents will allow me to continue to achieve my goals no matter the setbacks I face.
In fact, my entire life is proof of that. I did this. I built this reality I love through grit, determination, and drive- parts of my spine may be removed, but my character will forever remain.
Leaning into trust, listening to the intuition that always finds me home, I feel carried. I will let my loved ones help me through and embrace that feeling of safety. I will remind myself that I am worthy of healing. I am losing no value and letting no one down in taking care of my health- I am putting myself first and have earned that right.
I happened to walk past my elementary school today and said out loud, “Ah, there she was.” as I recalled the aforementioned quote. I think my 8 year old self would be beyond proud of the bold choices I am making, and I hope to live to make my 80 year old self even prouder of my infinite fearlessness and ability to love through it all.