Rosalyn D'Mello: From restlessness to restitution
It seems counter-intuitive to compel the body to rest and depend on others during convalescence, but it's a privilege not all can afford
"Don't over-exert your body," my fabulous gynaecologist said to me yesterday at her consulting room as she leaned over my still sore abdomen to clean the gummy residue of the waterproof band-aid that had been, until then, nestled over three dispersed stitches. The protective covering now peeled off, the exposed stitches stare at me gingerly when I dare to look at myself in the mirror after a shower. The sutures look like miniature bows, the kind used to accentuate a gift-wrapped present. My belly is still swollen and so, naturally, I feel a slight disconnect from this body that I am supposed to not over-exert.
Eventually, when I wasn't either reading or competing with the advanced computer over Scrabble, I was catching up on films that had been on my must-see list and include every Cary Grant movie ever made. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Which, in any case, is the most counter-intuitive thing for my body to be compelled to - to be at rest and to allow itself to be confined to a physical space... to depend on the people around me for its sustenance, its upkeep, and to submit myself to the care of those who love me, to also permit myself to not work, to assuage my conscience from the guilt of this fortnight off, especially when my primary care-taker, my mother, has always personified for me that image of a body continually in motion, resting only when it cannot exert itself any longer, ever active, never ceasing. When I returned home, I spent the first two days trying to honour a deadline, and so, produced a total of 3,500 words out of thin air, between sitting, standing, and lying down. Only then, satisfied that I had attended to the most pressing work that had been left unfinished before the surgery, I decided to surrender to my convalescence.
Rebecca Solnit looks at walking as emphasizing a moment of solemn connect between the body, the mind, and the world. I wonder what she might have to say about resting, particularly when the body has been denied its usual agility, the consequence of illness. At first I felt listless, I had no appetite for activity, not even for glimpsing unread texts from very dear friends. Gradually, I felt inclined towards my favourite past-time, playing Scrabble on my phone. Once I was able to walk, I felt hunger for words and began to read. Eventually, when I wasn't either reading or competing with the advanced computer over Scrabble, I was catching up on films I'd been meaning to watch, which had been on my must-see list and include every Cary Grant movie ever made. I just saw two Hitchcock films starring Grant, which are mildly disappointing. It's like Hitchcock takes great pleasure in casting Grant as a renegade hero, someone always on the run for no seeming crime of his own. This seems to be the trajectory of his roles in both North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief, whereas the Grant I love is the one who stars in His Girl Friday or Indiscreet - charming and intelligent, with this incredible proclivity towards channeling attraction towards his female co-star. As is obvious, in retrospect, this will be known as my Cary Grant phase.
The body at rest, I found, is able to receive better. It is also more inclined to heal. It is perhaps only in this state of calm that it can recalibrate itself, reposition its perspective, create room for greater appetites, and perhaps also be less self-absorbed. I gather that in order to not over-exert oneself, one has to understand and appreciate the delicate balance between rest and activity, between pause and play. This requires a certain mindfulness, an ability to listen to the body as it states its desires, and to create a bridge between wants and needs. Through all this, though, one must also realise that one's convalescence is, at heart, a privilege, a luxury not everyone can afford. I've been reading how, medically speaking, women are told they can return to work three days after a laparoscopic myomectomy, and I'm unable to fathom how anyone can even stay in hospital for barely one day, as is commonly prescribed. Having health insurance, whether a self or company-sponsored initiative, is also a bonus not many can lay claim to. We must learn to be humbled by these privileges.
As I gradually make my foray back into the working world, negotiating rush hours and speed breakers, I'm starting to listen for cues, and I'm cherishing even more the moments when I can lie flat and let my body lie and recover from the strain of movement. Deep breaths, in, out. Knowing, for sure, that soon enough the quality of my life will improve dramatically, thanks to the surgery, is all the consolation I need at the moment.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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