Currently, when I look down at my belly I see two things I don’t like.
The first thing is the scars. There’s one on each side of my stomach and one particularly gnarly one at the top of my belly button. They’ve been healing since my hernia surgery a week and a half ago, scabbing over as time wears on, a source of some mild discomfort and itchiness.
The second thing that’s less than ideal is the belly itself, expansive and doughy, the culmination of a couple solid months of inactivity. The post-surgery bed rest and working from home hasn’t helped either. To be fair, I didn’t exactly have washboard abs pre-hernia, but I can tell just by the way gravity settles everything while sitting that I have my work cut out for me.
Surgery itself is fairly traumatic. Obviously the degree of the trauma varies based on the severity of the procedure and, in this day and age, hernia repair is fairly commonplace. But the most difficult thing I’ve struggled with during this whole ordeal is not simply the post-op pain and discomfort, but the physical inactivity and the knowledge that I must take it easy.
In late July, when it became readily apparent that something was wrong with my abdomen, I withdrew from activities that bring me happiness: soccer, basketball, and, of course, running. In addition to removing these sports from my weekly routine I also had to curb the amount of time I could run around with my ten-year-old son. I was limited in my ability to help him prepare for his soccer season and had to be very careful not to over extent myself while playing catch. Our Nerf hoop battles were put on hold as those games can sometimes get a little rough. I was “on the shelf” as they say in sports and continue to reside on that shelf as we head into October.
To complicate matters, my wife and I just bought a house which we’re slowly moving into. And while other husbands might take pleasure in NOT being able to move heavy boxes, I’m not that guy. I want to move as much stuff as I can as quickly as I can. I want to participate, as much because of my own desire for control rather than some expression of spousal altruism. I just don’t like this inactivity; the sitting around, the waiting on others to do for me what I should be doing for myself. I find it unsettling and uncomfortable. Sitting around is not who I am.
This week will be better. And the week after that will be even better still. Eventually I will be able to run and jump and do things again. Getting back to it will be difficult at first, but just being able to run and kick and jump will feel good. Eventually I’ll get my legs back under me. My scars will fade away and, with some hard work and dietary adjustments, my belly will fade away as well. Then all will be right with the world.
However, as happy as that will make me, my recovery has exposed and unfortunate reality. There will come a time in the distant future (though not as distant as it once was) when my physical limitations will not be temporary, the result of some ailment that can be easily addressed and rehabbed. I will simply slow down and the ability to do the things I love to do will fade away from me, the same way I hope for my scars and my belly to fade away. I honestly don’t know how I’ll handle that decline. I find it hard to believe I’d be terribly accepting of the inevitable deterioration or that I’d cope gracefully with the inability to have ability. In fact, if I’ve learned anything from my time on the shelf, it’s that I’m probably going to be one cranky bastard.