I was released from the hospital yesterday and celebrated my freedom by taking a long afternoon nap underneath a kitten. I experienced the giddiness that comes from being released from the hospital on a pretty spring day and the fatigue that accompanies the realization that doing well in the hospital doesn’t quite mean the same thing in the real world. On the way home, the colors seemed too bright, and the post-hospital cab rides always seem to jostle my tender organs around.
Being agile and mobile in the hospital—able to walk unimpeded by an IV poll to the ice machine—isn’t the same thing as being able to do a commute. I don’t know that I’m ready to be among the well. As we crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge, I crankily surmised that I would be released and ready to embark on my next stretch of wellness only to be taken out by a tourist’s falling iPad from the pedestrian walkway.
My hospital roommate was recovering from seven hours of surgery and her side of the room was often full of her family and lifelong friends; it filled our room with merriment and goodwill. Since my hospital stay was so short, my support was virtual but no less important. People sent so many nice well wishes, including a friend who sent a pic of her holding a “Get Well Josie” sign at the top of the Coachella Ferris wheel. I also came home to find some fun gifts. A friend had sent a Feisty Pet, a black cat, last week and he accompanied me to the hospital. Our actual black cat seemed a little concerned that this new friend would eat his food, but eventually the real cat made peace with the toy cat. Friends left a candle and a porcelain cat tray as a welcome home gift, and another friend stopped by with a pin, earrings, tote and a fun David Bowie card. My boyfriend’s parents sent a cat card and cat socks.
I had hoped to be back to work by Wednesday, but I am going to see how the fatigue goes. I frantically cleaned, finished some freelance work and took care of work things so I could potentially have a few weeks to recover if I needed them. Right now, I’m worried I’m going to get a post-procedure infection and keep taking my temperature and checking on any pains that I have. I’m dealing with a lot of numbness and neuropathy, so I’m a little bummed to not feel better right away. I hope to get rid of some issues as I heal.
It’s a strange feeling, however, relaxing without the accompanying guilt that I should be doing something else. This guilt has been a constant companion, particularly in a city of achievers and where you are expected to have a side hustle. I have things I could be doing, but nothing pressing. Even the community garden blog is up to date. I read a book yesterday afternoon as I always think I will but never do. I had time this morning to do important things like vote for my top 25 Cure songs.
Now that I’m released, I am thinking again of a book I read recently: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. The opening paragraph resonated with me, reminding me of my monthlong hospital stay for my stem cell transplant: “There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in the hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women—my age—in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that—I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.”