The Art of Slowing Down

One of my favourite photos from last year.

One of my favourite photos from last year.

In the moments after I wake up,  one of my first thoughts is, “Am I in pain?” Some mornings it’s a bit hard to tell. I slowly turn to one side, testing to see whether I feel a pinch, or any tingling in my arms. Sometimes it is a sharp sting, sometimes it is the slow tightening of my chest, like something very heavy has suddenly been placed there. The pain often makes it difficult for me to sit up, so I take everything very slowly. I raise my arm, I twist at the hip, I cautiously inch my way up to a sitting position. It has only been one week since the surgery, and my body is still in recovery mode.

On some mornings, I can hear Nate playing downstairs with his dad and I feel my heart swell with happiness. “How lucky I am to be a part of this family,” I think. On other mornings, on those when the pain is bad, I think how sad it is that I am in this bed and missing out on the cuteness that is surely happening downstairs.

But then I shift my mind back to figuring out how I’m going to get out of bed. Everything feels very slow in the morning. Each movement is calculated to be gentle, cautious. I try turning, bending, reaching in several ways until I reach the side of the bed and slowly lift myself up. When I get out of bed, after taking my pain medication, I walk down the stairs. Each step, slowly slowly. I can hear Nate’s voice chatting away. He is busy making up words and peppering in a few of his favorites. He will point at Mitchell’s nose and say, “nose!” Then at his toes and say, “Toes!” At his water bottle and exclaim, “wawa!” Every word is its own exclamation, a lovely surprise at the miracle that such things as noses and toes and water simply exist.

I peek around the corner of the staircase and wait for Nate to see me. That first smile in the morning is the best. He sees me standing on the stairs and then he says, “mama!” And smiles a smile that says, “I knew you were there, all along.” I take the last few steps on the stairs with a concentration on savoring the slowness, because I know in mere moments the hurricane that only a 17 month old can create will soon overcome me. I wish I could be part of the hurricane with Nate and tear through the house, the world, my heart with the assuredness and strength that only those who don’t know the dangers of life can do. Instead, I practice the art of slowing down. I walk over to the couch and sit down, and again build a little fortress of pillows around me.

The flowers on my walk around the block since leaving the hospital.

The flowers on my first walk around the block since leaving the hospital.

Nate wants to crawl up my legs and demands, “Up,” “Uppy,” Up!” I can’t pick him up yet, so he wiggles his way up my legs and manages to get onto my lap and snuggles back into the pillow protecting my chest. As he sits there, I try to relax. I try to straighten my back, to not hunch my shoulders to protect my healing body, and to let out a few deep breaths and enjoy the fleeting stillness of this moment. But just as quickly as he scrambled onto my lap, he wiggles his way down again and is off running into the kitchen. It turns out that “up!” doesn’t actually mean, “pick me up,” rather, it’s more akin to “hold me, please.” Sitting on my lap while being separated by a protective pillow, is not the same as a real cuddle, so he moves on, taking off into the kitchen, yelling “milky!” or more often than not, simply yelling.

My chest is sore, but mostly it is numb. The most significant area of pain is actually under my arms, which strikes me as strange after a bilateral mastectomy. My mobility is also restricted. I can raise my arms to almost parallel to the floor now, but not much higher. Watching Nate run and play and laugh reminds me that the surgery may have (temporarily) broken my body, but it certainly did not touch my heart, nor my capacity to feel love (or heartache).

Healing will take time. I don’t mind the slowing down. I think it’s a good thing. It helps me to focus on each movement, each moment. Last Mother’s Day was my first. Nate was only 5 months old. I was still in the exhausted but elated stage of motherhood. Just 7 months later, at the age of 35, and just 5 days before Nate’s first birthday, came the diagnosis. I’m still sorting too much out to say that I have a new perspective this Mother’s Day, but perhaps I have more perspective. A cancer diagnosis has the ability to make life feel too fast, too short. So right now, my mother’s day gift to myself is to allow myself the time and energy needed to hone the art of slowing down.

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About Naomi

Writing about health/wellness and motherhood at www.everybodyhearts.com and academia and research at www.tracingmemory.com
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23 Responses to The Art of Slowing Down

  1. hensleton says:

    We could probably all learn the art of slowing down. I’m sure it’s not easy being so patient with the healing process, bu it’s good you’re allowing your body the time to recuperate. Happy Mother’s Day! Nate and the rest of us are all so lucky to have you!

  2. Naomi says:

    Thanks, K! Looking forward to seeing you soon. xoxo

  3. NMND says:

    biggest gentlest hugs. happy mother’s day my friend. xo

  4. Christine says:

    This brought both tears and laughter as I read. Thank you for sharing the journey.

  5. sarah L. says:

    You are an amazing writer, Naomi. This is beautiful and heartbreaking. Happy Mother’s Day to you! You’re a great mom…Nate’s a lucky guy. And so is Mitch. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks Sarah. Speaking of great moms – I get to visit with yours soon. Can’t wait. We need more family reunions! Lots of love. xo

  6. Adam Kertesz says:

    This was heartwarming to read Naomi. Your strength and perspective are inspiring. Hope to see you soon! And please let us know if there is anything we can do to help out.

  7. Dillon says:

    Happy Mothers Day Naomi, from Vanja, Rafael and I in Peru. Wishing you a smooth recovery and looking forward to seeing you soon. Hope you are feeling well today,

    Dillon.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks Dillon, Vanja and Rafael! Hope you are having an awesome time on your trip. We had a really nice mother’s day here. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Safe travels. xoxo

  8. Dana Rimer says:

    Hi lovie Naomi! I’m a little late to this party- well a lot late. Mitch posted a link to this blog FB a couple weeks ago I sat on my couch pouring over every word, from every post, since the beginning while my kids read books at my feet. They could tell I was in a deep and twisty place and not to interrupt me- how can a 5 year old and 2 year old be so perceptive? Anyhow, I got caught up, cried some very sad and very inspiring tears, and then clutched my family so close to me that you couldn’t tell who was who. I of course despise that time, distance, and just plain old life get in the way of being in better touch with people I find remarkable and beautiful like you and Mitch. Last I knew you had a baby boy and though Evan and I talked about you at various points, I know it has been months since the boys have connected.

    Anyhow if I could fill this little box with love, hugs, strength, and good health and send it to you…I’d do it every morning as soon as I woke up. Your beauty and your words scream courage and bravery….enough to beat this and take back your life. Thank you for sharing your journey with so many of us. Evan and I love you, Mitch, and Nate tremendously and we’re sending some of our Boston Strong vibes to you during your recovery. Lots and lots and lots of love and strength.

    • Naomi says:

      Hi Dana, Thank you for such a sweet comment. It made me cry too. And it made me feel like we had a little cry together, which was somehow comforting. I can feel the positive energy you are sending my way. I am sending some to you too.
      I hope that we can catch up in person at some point. I miss you guys.
      Much much love,
      xo

  9. yulia says:

    Hey Naomi, sending you warmth and wishes of strength and health from ukraine. take your time to recover, i am sure it will happen sooner than you think and you will throw Nate up in the air with your arms at some point soon. Your posts are so beautiful and so inspiring. get better. will see you soon. hugs

  10. I found your blog on HuffPost. Wishing you good health and a belated Happy Mother’s Day.

  11. charlenechoi says:

    LOVE. So much love. For you. And yours.

    Naomi,

    Your bravery, courange, and beauty is stunning. I hope you know, there are hoards of us, from near and far, supporting you. We love you. We love you.

    Through the unspeakable joys and pains, you perservere. I am deeply moved and awed by your strength, your honesty, and your clarity though this immensely difficult time. And I am sending much love, laughter, and goodness to you, to Nate, and to Mitchell.

    I’ve thought of you most every morning, since seeing your words these past few weeks. (Thank you for these posts. Truly.) I wish you a full and steady and clear recovery, Naomi. Keep on. And know that you — being an incredible woman, mother, wife, and friend — are very, very loved.

    Charlene

    • Naomi says:

      Thank you so much Charlene for you kind and touching words! I hope you are doing well, wherever you are. Much love to you too! xoxo

  12. jb says:

    Very loved indeed. Missing you and sending love.

  13. Naomi says:

    Missing you too! xoxo

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