Underneath my yellow skin

A dangerous time

I’m full of energy today, which is a change for me. Since I got out of the hospital, I’ve gotten a solid eight hours a night, waking up only once during the night. I’ve woken¬† up and not been exhausted, but my body is still mending. All that sleep is going into the deficit I’ve carried with me for decades. I know that’s not how sleep works, but that’s how I think of it, anyway. I’ve had a lifetime of not getting enough sleep and then I had a very traumatic day followed by two weeks in the hospital. The first two weeks at home, my body was just mending itself and recovering from the trauma. The next two weeks, the sedation and narcotic meds were (finally) completely leaving my body, which meant I could feel all the little aches and pains that a body has.

Then, I hit a plateau of frustration because I wasn’t getting any better. Intellectually, I know that it can’t always be peaks. There are going to be plateaus, and, yes, valleys. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Part of Taiji is accepting things as they are, which is not my strong point. I come by it honestly as my parents are both major worriers (in vastly different ways). I used to joke with K that her mother was very much, “Whatever choice you make, you’ll be fine” whereas my mother is more, “Whatever choice you make, it’ll go drastically wrong”. We both laughed at the time, albeit ruefully. In my case, it meant that no matter what I did, I always regretted it and thought about how different life would be if I had done x, y, or z. This is more my mother than my father, but he’s prone to it, too. When I had a minor car accident several years ago, I was clearly in the right. The witnesses and the cops agreed with this. So did the young woman who was driving the other car. I, too, knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. I was going straight on a local road when she suddenly turned left and slammed into my car. I saw her coming, instantly thought, “There’s nothing I can do” and instinctively relaxed. I walked away from it with a massive bruise on my stomach from the seat belt, probably, and nothing else. My car was totaled, but I was fine. Later, my father started questioning if there was anything I could have done to avoid it. I was getting pissed because there really was nothing I could do. I picked up a stuffed soccer ball my father had made in Home Ec and threw it suddenly at my father. He didn’t even flinch as it hit him. I asked why he didn’t try to catch it and he didn’t even register that I had thrown something at him. It wasn’t nice of me and I felt like shit afterwards, but it made my point–at least to me.

It’s a very toxic part of our family’s dysfunction, though. every decision is questioned and torn apart. There never is a good choice, though, so it’s a trap. And, I’m not totally against it. I am an inveterate fault-finder, though I try to keep much of it to myself. I think it’s good to see the flaws as long as you don’t let it bog you down. Again, the problem is when you only see the negatives, which is how my family rolls. Any time I try to bring it up to my mother, she has a long list of reasons why she has to nitpick the negatives. I’ve given up for the¬† most part trying to reason with her because that way only lies frustration and impatience on my part.

Anyway, I had been frustrated the last few days because it felt like I was stuck. The first month or so after coming home from the hospital, there was so much to adjust to. I really didn’t have much time to think. Also, there was a grace period–well, except for one person who asked my mother what my plans were ONE WEEK after I left the hospital. A Taiwanese person, so I can’t even use the excuse that it was just a typical America who couldn’t sit with what was and had to rush forward to what might be. Then again, that’s a very Taiwanese way of thinking , too. Pushing forward and never being satisfied with life as is. Maybe it’s a universal human condition? My father asked me a similar question the second week I was home, so….

You’d think that defying death twice would grant me more than a few weeks of grace, but you would be wrong. It’s been five weeks since I came home, which in the grand scheme of things, still isn’t that long, and the impatience is there. Why aren’t I completely back to normal? My mother pays lip service to me taking my time, but then gets impatient when I can’t do something she wants me to do. Let’s not mention my father because that’s his perpetual state of being–and has been my whole life.

I have to remind them that when I say I can’t do something, I really can’t. It’s not just me whining and moaning; it’s my body giving me a hard stop. I mentioned before that I’m grateful that my body is very clear about what it can and cannot do. Before the hospital, I’d push myself past the point of what my body could do because I didn’t want to seem like a wuss. Now, however, I can’t do more than my body is comfortable with. If I try, it gets mad and shuts down. I’m glad, but it means I have to be cautious because I’ll be tired for days more if I ignore the flashing caution sign.

Yesterday, I was so tired. No idea why. And since the fateful pneumonia that started this whole journey, I’ve been wary of being extremely tired. I have to distinguish between my normal level of tiredness and the pure exhaustion that was non-COVID-related pneumonia. Before this happened, I was always tired. I struggled with sleep and got maybe 6 hours a night, if I was lucky. My regular schedule was go to bed around 4 in the morning and get up at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., if I was lucky. When it got really bad, I didn’t go to bed until 6 a.m. or 8 a.m. at the absolute worst. I woke up feeling as tired if not more so than when I went to bed, lather, rinse, repeat.

The hospital changed all that. Even though I had my vitals taken every four to six hours, I still got a ton of sleep. Yes, it was the trauma and the meds, but it was still way more sleep than I got before the incident. Afterwards, when I went home, I was in bed by 10 p.m. and slept until 6 a.m., waking up once to pee or at the most twice. More to the point, though I struggled for a few days when the medication completely left my body, I started feeling rested aa few days afterwards. Or rather, much less tired than I used to feel.

Yesterday, I was concerned because I felt as tired as I used to feel before the trauma. Today, however, I woke up with a font of energy flowing inside me. I did a whole right side of the Sword Form with my beloved steel sword. Then, I decided to try the Dancing Wu-Li Sword Form (right side, a short form) that I had learned right before the Double Saber Form. I did both of them to music which makes it infinitely better. I made one major mistake with the latter, but I’m still pretty pleased that I remembered it. I also did more than half of the Double Saber Form (right side, escrima sticks), which is a bit deceptive because there are two rows of six twirls that are a drill as well that make up a big part of the middle section of the form.

I cannot tell you how good it makes me feel to be doing the weapons again. No, I’m not where I used to be, but goddamn, I’m on my way. I do roughly twenty minutes of warmup exercises, one section of a Solo Form, and now, more and more weapons every day. Weapons to music. What could be better? I’m feeling more like my old self, which, in this case, is a good thing. I’m inordinately proud of my biceps again, which are coming along nicely, thanks to all the weapons work. I’m pleased with my progress, but I know that I have to proceed with caution because I don’t want any major setbacks.

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