Expectations, a sick mom, and the holidays.

by Jennifer Dyer

Three weeks ago I had a hysterectomy…just in time for the holidays.

I’d spent a great deal of time preparing for my surgery emotionally and physically. A few years ago I had cancer, and the surgery didn’t go well. This time I was determined to be prepared for the worst and keep my family functioning. I bought enough toilet paper to keep a convenience store running–my daughter with autism loves to watch it go down the pipes. I fixed extra meals. I prepared a few holiday dishes. I did laundry. I picked up clutter.

In addition, I studied up on hysterectomies and talked to previous patients. I even connected with a friend scheduled to have surgery right after me. I knew I’d be down for at least a week, maybe two, but after that I should be good to go.

The good news is my friend hosted a huge holiday meal in her brand new house and did lots of holiday shopping less than two weeks after her surgery.

Me? I watched the entire series of Cake Boss on Netflix while lying in bed.

At this point, I’m in the midst of a typical post-surgical depression in addition to drowning in unending nausea. I don’t have energy to do much. I want to curl up under the covers and feel sorry for myself.

And I feel a bit like a spectator in my own home.

However, a few things have occurred to me:

  • I don’t always have to be the best at something, recovering from surgery included. Maybe I’m not the kind of patient the doctor wants on his Christmas cards, but that’s OK. 
  • Circumstantial depression is a temporary state. I will come out of it. Yes, I feel like I’m trying to climb my way out of a well right now, but that feeling will go away. The best thing I can do is ease back into as much of my normal as is possible even though that will take me some time.
  • The holidays don’t have to be picture perfect. I’ve said this many times, but it’s easy to forget.
  • When mom steps back, sometimes others blossom. My eleven-year-old daughter did most of our decorating for Christmas. And you know what? She enjoyed it. She has also done some baking this year with me giving mostly verbal prompts.

  • Rachel has grown closer to others while I’m down. I’ve seen her give several people genuine hugs, and she shows me pictures of her adventures with a huge grin on her face. There’s still no one she prefers like her Mamma, but she has branched out a bit.

Sometimes I set huge expectations of myself and am left feeling like that winter picture above: frozen and heavy with burdens. What I forget is that in the spring my yard will be bursting with blooms and life. Just like my yard, under the surface, in my heart, even when I can’t be active or live up to my expectations, God is at work.

If you’ve set huge expectations for yourself this season and feel you are not measuring up, give yourself some grace. Sometimes it is what is taking place under the surface–the heart–that matters.

So, remember: Even when circumstances look bleak, great things are taking place underneath.

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6 comments

  1. Dena says:

    Hang in there! It may take a while, but you will slowly start to feel like yourself. Not everyone bounces back from surgery like your friend did. For others, such as myself, it is a very slow and exhausting process. If you’ve ever wanted an excuse to lower your expectations for the holidays, you’ve got it. Enjoy! I’m sure you will be back to beating-yourself-up next year with the rest of us!

    • Jennifer says:

      Ha! Too true. Why are we all so hard on ourselves? It’s not as if it earns us anything. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure there are so many others who feel the same way. I told someone the other day I didn’t bounce back from surgery, I splatted. :-)
      Hugs.

  2. Mom says:

    I love your grace part. Also the splatted. You are not everyone else, but keep climbing up. This is something I pray every day: Fill me with your love, joy, peace, and strength. Right now you need peace and strength. Prayers ongoing for you and your recovery.

  3. I remember when my oldest was born I basically sat snuggling my new baby on the couch for 2 months. I had 4th degree tearing (yes there is a 4th degree of tearing during childbirth and yep you don’t want to know about it) and it took that long to heal up. I remember the first time I swept the floor one month after my baby was born. It felt so good to do something, but I was exhausted and sat down to snuggle my boy after my big achievement.

    Your surgery sounds like even more of a blow.
    Rest Jenn, and enjoy watching your kiddos grow and learn new things. Stretch a little more each day, reach a little bit toward where you want to be and then sit back and rest again while you heal. It is so good to hear from you on the blog again. You have so much to give the rest of us as we struggle along. When you stop and think and ponder the Lord amid your struggles it is an encouragement to the rest of us. Thanks so much Jenn and keep up the good work, those cookies your girl made look really good by the way.

  4. Jennifer Dyer says:

    Kristen, thanks so much for your sweet and encouraging words. I am moved to tears. And yowza! 4° Tearing????? I’m going to give you a big ole southern girl: Bless your heart! And you’re right, I’m glad I don’t know what that’s all about. Thanks for sharing your life with us! Big hugs!

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