I work very hard in my life to live in the present moment and find joy and happiness there. However, there are some things, especially the prospect of surgery, that drag my thoughts kicking and screaming out of the present and into the future. I have wrist and elbow surgery scheduled for May 26th to hopefully relieve numbness that has taken up residence in my right hand (a little in my left too, but let’s not go there). While I know it is normal to experience some trepidation in advance of something like this, I also know that worrying about it does not make the surgery date arrive any sooner, or empower the surgeon to do a better job. It simply occupies space and time in my brain that could be better used for something else.
My doctor and I know from some barbaric tests (nerve conduction studies) that I am one of the lucky individuals who not only has compression in my wrist and elbow, but also in my neck. Having undergone neck surgery a few years back, no one is anxious to open that little can of worms, so we are hoping that I get enough relief from the hand and wrist surgery to restore feeling back to those fingers that are sleeping on the job.
Being someone who frequently shares stress reduction tips and speaks on stress reduction at conferences, you would think that I would be an expert on the subject. Well, truth is I am a bit of an expert on everyone else’s stress, it is my own that I find a bit challenging! For years, I’ve shared that one way to reduce stress is to live in the moment and not worry about or fear future events. Trust me on this, when I offer these tips, I know they are not always easy to put into practice. It takes constant repetition, reminding myself over and over that worrying about the future is, “Not helpful, Cindy.” And, to a certain degree, I am successful in my attempts to corral my thoughts back to the present, so long as I have things to do and other things to think about. I’ve learned that, when a stressful event is looming, I need to schedule activities to occupy my time and thoughts. Yes, I am getting better at meditating and can even sit quietly for 20 minutes focusing on my breathing (I am better at breathing than pulling those stray thoughts back to the present, however). I even enjoy it most of the time. But do not give me lots of free time or let me wake up at 3am. At those times, Busy Brain always sees an opportunity to remind me of my surgery. Not helpful, Busy Brain!
Since the necessity for surgery is not likely to vanish in the next few days, and since Lion King is one of my favorite movies and plays, I’m planning to fill all free time and 3am wake ups humming my favorite song, Hakuna Matata—a Swahili phrase meaning “no worries.” While humming a tune may not vanquish all fear and anxiety, this particular song reminds me to stop the “what if” thinking (“What if this surgery doesn’t fix the numbness? How am I going to deal with not using my right hand?”) and ground myself in the present. And so I wish you hakuna matata, today and always.
P.S. I just read the preop instructions and it says that I may choose the music that is playing in the operating room. I’m thinking that Hakuna Matata will be perfect (and probably a first) and I’m giggling thinking about all the medical staff singing along or the Lion King characters with surgical caps, gowns and facemasks!