I went back to work this week. There was discussion with my doctor and Charles about possibly working from home for awhile or doing shorter days. In in the end, I decided to go all in.
My co-workers were so warm and welcoming. My boss presented me with a fragrant bouquet of flowers. I was temporarily given a VIP parking pass in the building to remove the obstacle of cold winter weather. Everyone expressed gladness that I was back, and not just because they could return my duties back to me. There wasn’t a stack of backed up work on my desk. I am blessed that I don’t work for that kind of company.
To make it easier to reach my cardio rehab goals, Charles installed a walking pad under my standing desk. This will allow me to get my daily steps in without driving to the rehab facility three times a week. I will only go to the cardo rehab facility on Friday afternoons to have my vitals and progress recorded. I was pretty tired at the end of each work day. I had not been on my feet for eight hours in a row since September 22.
While it is nice to be productive and have someplace to go (not to mention a full paycheck), going back to work had some unexpected emotional consequences. I miss home. my beloved Charles, the dogs, the chickens and the wildlife. I miss baking a loaf of sourdough bread in the middle of the day, and experimenting with recipes. I miss curling up with a good book and gloriously falling into an expected but much needed nap. I really really miss going braless.
Then there is the regret that I didn’t do more with my time off. There are no more pictures on the walls from our move here almost a year ago. The original water color paintings I brought back from Costa Rica in 2022 are still wrapped in plastic. There are no more pages from my book written than there would have been had I worked the past 10 weeks. The custom mirror Charles made for the bathroom still stands in the garage waiting for me to stain it. Unfinished projects are normal, right?
Normality returns, and soon life will look the same as it did this time last year, but with one big difference. Suddenly, I catch myself realizing how good I feel. Tired sometimes, yes, but still good. I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel younger than I did a year ago. I didn’t recognize how truly sick my heart was before surgery until it was repaired. Some days, the only reminder that I’m a heart patient is the ridiculous number of pills I have to take daily for the next few months.
I’ve taken back up with my daily yoga practice. I cannot do full chaturangas yet, but I can do a modified version. I can’t do a five minute down dog, but I can do two minutes. I can’t do a handstand, but I can do upper body work with resistance bands. My strength is slowly returning and I will get there, as long as I do the work.
The past year I had noticed that people often asked me if I was OK – my breathing was becoming more labored and loud. I would try to slow my breathing down, but it was like holding my breath entirely. I would come in from outside and Charles would say “Are you OK?” and then I could hear myself panting. My heart was just no longer able to pump the blood adequately to deliver the oxygen my body wanted.
But now the air is adequate. If I am panting, it is because it had become a habit. I can now slow it down and relax in the fact that I am getting enough by just breathing normally. The availability of the life giving oxygen I need is a part of normal life I can happily get used to.
This morning, as I stood in line at a retail establishment there was a very heavy older woman behind me using a cane. Instead of holding her basket of items, she used her foot to move it forward on the floor. Her breathing was so loud and labored, it attracted the attention of other shoppers. It broke me inside. I worried that she was alone and that she may not make it to her car. I hoped there was someone waiting to drive her home. After I checked out, I loitered around the store front to see if I could assist her. I opened and held the door and followed her out. She smiled faintly at me. There was a car idling at the curb and she got in on the passenger side. No one got out of the car to help. It reminded me how blessed I am to have Charles.
When I got to my own car I offered up a prayer of thanks for adequate air. Charles left this morning on his first work trip since my surgery. I felt gratitude that I was able to drive to this place on my own, make my selections, walk unassisted to my car and return home. After all that, except when a blast of cold wind blew in my face caused me to gasp, my breathing was normal..
What I am grateful for now is the return of air, strength, health, the normal mundane chores I had to temporarily give up to Charles (including the acceptance that he had his own way of doing those chores), and the return of all those helpful concerned people back to their own needs.
In the words of Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.” Today, I am so very grateful for the return of normal life.