My friend lent me The Book of Delights by Ross Gay saying 'It's what you do every day', bless her. I have a daily practice of writing down a delightful moment from nature, but Ross Gay’s delights were making me notice ‘people’ things too. The small but joyful interactions between folk and the ways people expressed themselves. I noted how a guy's teal suede boots with lemon yellow laces brought joy to Mytholmroyd train station. I realised how good my daughter Ffion is at noticing sweet exchanges between people and sharing them like they were the best thing that happened all week. When you are in the midst of reading about what delights someone you cannot help but notice what lights you up too. Reading that book is like having your delight glasses on.
So this was the book that I slipped into my hospital bag, knowing I probably wouldn’t have the concentration to read while I was there, but if I was to pick up anything, then that would be the best choice. Just knowing it was there made me feel better, like I had packed delight itself in my backpack along with my toothbrush, pj’s, slippers, phone, charger, glasses and snacks. Have I got everything?
I had to check in to the hospital at 7am and luckily for me I was first on the list. I had a friendly student nurse looking after me and with giddy anticipation she told me it would be her first time in theatre. I liked that. You remember firsts don’t you. It made my operation seem less routine because even though the surgeon wouldn’t remember it in ten years time she probably would. And this woman was going to see something that I would be asleep for. She would be my witness. As we walked to the operating theatre, her in her scrubs and me in my daft orange slippers I felt like we were in it together.
I was having a hysterectomy, hopefully done with keyhole surgery or as a friend said to me in her soft Irish accent, “Oh they do it with peahole these days don’t they” which made us both laugh for so long and then laugh for ages all over again when we told her daughter about her slip up.
Pretty soon I was in the tiny bright room, feeling all the nerves as I climbed up on the high bed and politely chuckling at the bad jokes that anesthetists tell to distract you from what they are actually doing. I lay back, feeling the drugs enter my bloodstream, and listened as all the chatter faded away.
It took me a while to drift back into the room. I could hear a voice saying “Let’s see if she remembers me shall we” and I opened my eyes to an old friend from Wales that I hadn’t seen for over twenty years. What were the chances of her being my recovery nurse? It was lovely to see her face again and she chatted with me and the student nurse (who hadn’t fainted) and told me that the surgery had gone well. It took four hours, much longer than expected due to the size of my womb, but I was grateful and relieved that they managed to do it laparoscopically. The surgeon was happy with his work.
I felt so nauseous for hours after the anaesthetic and all I could do was lie still and turn to some of the breathing practices and relaxation techniques that I have learned in my many years of yoga. The nurse had opened the window and nature had come in on the cool breeze to keep me company. As it sat at my bedside holding my hand, I naturally slipped into a coherent breathing rhythm and began to visualise colours around pathways in my body. The visualisation focused my mind and the breathing calmed my body and I began to sink deeply into relaxation. Now I’m a good visualiser. I can easily conjure up an image of something of my choosing but as I tried to see each colour of the spectrum all that would come was green, green, green. And as I lay there the clearest pictures were appearing before my eyes, without any effort on my part. There was a lush green healing spring, with drips making ripples on the surface of the clearest water and then I was looking down on verdant ferns growing on trees hanging over a still lake. Then a rainforest, with wet leaves, hanging vines and colourful flowers.
I wondered if these were residual opiates still in my system after all the morphine I’d had in surgery. Every drip of rain I could hear through the open window seemed to be fueling these visions of green.
I decided to see how much I could relax into it. I travelled around my body in my mind, breathing low and slow and my attention kept getting pulled to the place where my womb had been. I visualised all my organs comfortably finding their new positions together, some greeting each other for the first time and making friends. “Oh hi bladder, you’ve got loads of room now haven’t you.” I had a word with my ovaries. “You have been released from the womb today but there’s really no cause for alarm. You can still release eggs as normal if you want to, they will just dissolve now. You made some great ones over the years over the years, thank you. And please, just a steady flow of hormones, be gentle with me.” I felt like, while I was in this state, I had a direct line of communication.
I had some DVT pumps on my lower legs and every time they released their pressure I thought I was at home and that Willow was shifting her sleeping position between my calves as she does every night. I didn’t just think that once, but over and over and over! The pumps could have easily been an annoyance but they were actually a comfort. Every time that 'Willow changed position', the landscape of my visualisations changed too keeping me present and aware in this dreamlike state.
Sickness had left the room and as I lay in the vast space that my dear old womb left behind, a strong feeling of ‘going to be alrightness’ wrapped itself all around me like a cosy blanket.
The nurse came in to check on my blood pressure and her face lit up. She said it was ‘textbook’. Testament to coherent breathing! After having had low blood pressure all day, the breathing had sorted me out. That’s what is supposed to happen. It was such a relief to feel better. I managed to nibble on some grapes and have a cup of tea. I texted my friends to tell them that my peahole surgery had been a success. We all laughed again.
The night was long and noisy. I didn’t sleep much but I rested well, still wrapped in my deep healing blanket of green with the light breeze drifting in. The night nurse had left a memo on my notes for the day shift. “Window open. She likes it like that.”
When I heard the song thrush belting out his song in the morning I thought for a moment I was back at home but the tubes and pumps and twisted sheets soon pulled me back to my hospital bed. Before long though I was freed of them and encouraged to get up and walk. Despite the pain it felt good to be upright, and I was soon sitting in the chair by the window eating my breakfast with the sun on my face feeling happy that it was done.
Later in the day as we waited for the nurse to release me I read out loud to Dean from The Book of Delights. I realised just how many I had found during my hospital stay.
Rush hour made for a slow and bumpy ride as Dean drove me home. He took the speed bumps on our street very gently. As I took the tentative steps from the car to my house the song thrush was there to cheer me on. “You can do it do it do it do it do it”.