Self-Maintenance and the Life I’d Rather Lead

September 29, 2014

Frustration has risen lately, as I struggle to manage a different life than I had been leading in BC days. There are so many things I must do everyday in the category of “self-maintenance,” it feels like a full-time job. Whereas I used to track progress in maybe seven concurrent work projects, my new routine includes management of:

Medications, which are taken at 7 a.m., 7 p.m., and at bedtime. Some of these meds are my old standbys for “before cancer” (BC) conditions, but the new batch addresses the aftermath of lung cancer and surgery. Two different inhalers (with different delivery techniques) and one really large pill that is difficult to swallow mean I have to think carefully before each dose. And just in the past week, my doctor and I realized that one persistent symptom is probably a side effect of a medication rather than the condition it is treating! So we adjust the dose downward and monitor what happens.

Exercise, which can amount to as much as two hours a day, if I am faithful to the entire regimen of walking or hiking (2.5 to 3.5 miles) and stretch and strengthening workouts. I love the fact that I can move and breathe and have such beautiful Open Spaces, but two hours. Wow. That’s recorded in the green spiral notebook.

Food intake, the latest in the daily monitoring category, is now under the watchful eye of a nutritionist who is helping me break through the weight-loss barrier and make the effort to retrain my body that was whacked out during chemo. This month, we’re counting carbohydrates. That’s the blue notebook.

Breathing and air quality, which fluctuates from day to day depending on atmospheric conditions (monitored with an app), fog, my exercise intensity, and other factors God makes up on the spur of the moment just to keep things interesting. I’m supposed to use my pulse oximeter to measure blood oxygenation during exercise, and take peak flow readings three times a day. If I get short of breath and do not respond with certain actions, the situation can escalate uncomfortably. In the seven-week pulmonary rehab class, I learned how to head these episodes off at the pass, and as a result feel 95% fine 99% of the time. But vigilance is required, and data collection to identify triggers pays off. That’s in the pink notebook.

Self-management would not seem so time consuming if these activities were “second nature.” Pill taking is an exception, but exercise, healthful eating, and breathing are things that every human being needs. They are a way of life, right? When they get out of whack, though, either through illness or addiction, corrective action—otherwise known as discipline—must be applied. When one’s body has cancer, one has a new set of regimens to follow. [But every single doctor who has treated me in the last year is absolutely certain that my general fitness, conditioning, and healthful eating habits in BC days were major factors in my body’s fight against cancer. I have no reason to doubt them.]

Most people have the things-to-do-everyday list of projects or healthful habits to be monitoring, too. Putting myself in the pew, reading the thoughts of regular church goers, I can just hear them say, “So now you tell me there’s one more thing I need to take care of every day?” Add to the list:

Spiritual nurture, in the form of time set aside daily for prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. Yes, as I’ve admitted in the last couple of weeks, this discipline was lagging in light of all the others above . . . and yet, the answer is the same. When life gets out of balance and my spiritual life is not nurtured, symptoms start appearing (e.g. increased worry, a bit of aimlessness, or irritability). But if faith is truly a way of life the way I want to lead it, this action is not simply an activity added to an already full calendar, it like breathing and eating and exercising—I gotta do it or I will faint. Oh, by the way, spiritual nurture is tracked in the black moleskin notebook.

[The situation makes me wonder if there is a calendar system that can track all five of these self-management areas, plus my dates and billing and meeting logs, all in one notebook!]

The only way to do what is good for me is to undergo the discipline. I’ll be honest: I am not enjoying it at the moment, any of it (except maybe the walks while the weather has been so spectacular here). What I don’t like is that I have to do these things in order to avoid negative consequences. But how I feel about them is far less important than doing them faithfully now. There’s always the hope that later, they will yield good results that make life much more fun, healthy, and available for service. Didn’t the writer of Hebrews say basically that?

“Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Tomorrow: How Lack of Discipline in the Church Imperils Its Health

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One Response to “Self-Maintenance and the Life I’d Rather Lead”

  1. Sandi Hartley Says:

    Dear Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us who read your blog. I enjoy your transparency and like-mindedness.

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