Slowing Down

DSC_0387So…about that marathon resolution I made in 17 for 2017.

Training was going sort of okayish until last Sunday, when I awoke feeling like my intestines had twisted themselves into a fiery knot. By day’s end, I was at the hospital flying high on painkillers and calling to woozily tell loved ones I loved them before heading in for—surprise!—emergency abdominal surgery. Diagnosis: bowel obstruction caused by a rare type of hernia. And wow, my incarcerated small intestine really was twisting itself into a knot.  No wonder it hurt so much.

By the way, the last time I aimed for a marathon, five years ago, my dream was dashed by appendicitis and—surprise!—emergency abdominal surgery. I’m starting to wonder if there’s some sort of curse at work here.

After my appendectomy, I remember feeling sorry for myself because I hurt, but even more so because I couldn’t run or bicycle, do farm chores or garden or go for speedy walks with my friend. I remember feeling impatient and angry at this abrupt, highly unfair slowing-down of my existence. I remember pushing myself to do too much, too soon. Nearly throwing up at our family’s yearly pilgrimage to Seattle’s Folklife Festival—at least before experiencing the amazing anti-nausea properties of secondhand marijuana smoke. Almost passing out on my first post-op long walk.

This time was—is—different.

This time, when they let me escape from my hospital bed and assorted tubes, I revel in the sweet freedom, even though it seems like I’m moving at a snail’s pace. Taking those first slow, shuffling steps down the hospital corridor, clutching my husband and my tender abdomen, I pass a handsome young man rolling himself along in a wheelchair, one leg gone from the calf down, stump swaddled in bandages. Later we pass again, and this time he’s working to master crutches, his expression determined as a therapist urges him forward.

This is what bravery looks like.

This is why I won’t feel sorry for myself.

This is why I’m pretty much okay with slowing down for as long as healing takes.

Back home—was there ever such a wonderful place as home?—I eat slow, small, soft meals.  Soup has never tasted so good.  I let myself be dazzled by the hummingbirds zipping and zooming up to the feeder. I don’t even envy them their speed; they were always way faster than me anyway.

I shelve the farm to-do list, the novel, and the training log. Cradle my lovely ice pack instead, and read, draw, knit, play piano (badly), and binge the trippy show Legion. Putting my body through its slow paces again, I marvel (and wince) at my abdominal muscles and their role in, well, just about everything: sneezing, coughing, singing, laughing, walking, dancing, twisting, tying shoes, you name it. I gratefully let Brett take care of me and our animals and home, and he does it very well, thank you very much.

I take slow-pokey walks down to the end of our driveway and back, a whopping .1 mile. Take in the slow unfurling of brilliant spring flowers and leaves.  The nasal calls of chickadees above and brush of a chill breeze against my face. Just as you notice more from a bicycle than from a car, and you notice more walking than you do bicycling, I notice more at this shuffly-stroll than at my usual clip. Which is kind of nice. Because right now I’m eating it all up, devouring it like a gourmet feast.

Because instead of feeling slow, what I feel right now, mostly, is lucky. Incredibly lucky.

I hope this feeling lasts.

Thanks for reading!




  1. Best wishes, Cherie. Hope you are soon back to full health and fitness.

    1. Thank you so much, Ruth! 🙂

  2. Hoping you get well soon. You have reminded me of a poem whcih begins, What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand stare!

    1. Thank you, Cathy, for the well wishes! 🙂 Do you know what the name of that poem is? I’d like to read it.

  3. awritersalchemy · · Reply

    Thank you for sharing this — a few years ago my husband had an intestinal blockage that put him in the hospital for two weeks, and could easily have killed him, so I know how serious this is and how important it is for you to rest and heal. Everything else will flow out of that! Bethany

    1. Thanks, Bethany! So sorry to hear your husband had to deal with one of these. I feel extremely fortunate to have narrowly escaped a resection and longer hospital stay 🙂

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