“Consider asking your doctor for the shingles vaccine, when you go for the big check-up when you turn 50” was the advice provided by the doctor who spoke on health issues when I attended a pre-retirement seminar one month ago. Shingles was described as quite unpleasant, with some people experiencing severe itchiness and pain. It was in the spirit of proactive health care that I wrote myself a big reminder, bookended by huge asterisks, to look into it when I turn 50 next year.
How ironic to visit the doctor a few weeks later to hear the diagnosis, “you have shingles”!
Had I not been hosting Easter Dinner two days later, I probably would not have gotten the sudden rash checked out as quickly. As a result, I got the treatment right away, which should lessen the “bumpy” ride. Just the same, the prospect of being off for a few weeks to recuperate is not second nature to me. The last time I was off for an illness for that long was when I had my tonsils out when I was 12. After one week, it is clear that the medication is doing its thing and that I am on the mend. However, even as I am trying to write this, finding clarity of thought and calm within my own body is a challenge, with the ever present sizzling sensation of the itch, or pain, or both.
Nonetheless, if I have to find humour in this it is in the fact that given the location of the offending spots, anything tighter than sweat pants is a challenge. I thank my lucky stars that the risk of getting secretly filmed for “What Not To Wear” is not an issue. If I wear anything more form fitting, it can’t be more than a quick outing and the second I walk in the front door, the clothes hit the floor.
Given my limited energy, there is only so much I can do. I have the PVR almost cleaned up, I have downloaded all the Windows and Apple updates I have been deferring for the last six months and I seem permanently stuck on level 29 of Candy Crush Saga (I started two days ago). I even got my taxes done! After that, the days started getting long.
Once I hit the bottom of a very short to-do list, deeper relaxation set in which led me to ponder if there is anything to learn from this experience, in the moment, and if so, what is it? I started remembering times I said I was “too busy to think”, spending days at a time in autopilot mode. It didn’t take long for the answer to come to me: I have been given the precious gift of time!
I have always been an active guy with a lot on the go, but I always seemed able to find the time to let my mind cool off and wander from time to time even if it meant a spontaneous road trip with the stereo off, just to think. I will admit, the last few months, my mind has been a little overextended, but that’s not a bad thing. With the big milestone birthday approaching in 2015, I think it is a really opportune time to relax (as much as one can, given the circumstances), get into my happy place (trying to ignore the nagging itch) and to review, reflect and reconnect with my passions and my priorities.
It didn’t take long for me to review and to realize that I am pretty much where I want to be. It’s not perfection (in theory it shouldn’t be, we all have things to work on) but I really have nothing to complain about. Coincidentally, my relationship with time is a work-in-progress for me, as I always seem to find myself in a time deficit, despite trying to achieve a balanced life. In order to stay focused on my priorities, what seems to work best is to introduce major milestones. Committing to a weekly blog ensures I consistently make time to write. Signing up to run a half marathon in the fall ensures I train regularly to prepare for the physical challenge ahead. Committing to reading a book each month ensures I stay on top of my must-read list. The measures may seem a little artificial or contrived, but if these are what will keep me on track with those important projects and the connections I wish to make with the world, then I believe they are justified.
When I reflect on whether I am on the right path for where I want to be next, one never really knows for sure. We can always do what we can to the best of our ability and knowledge to ensure we are on the right path and hope for the best. But whether we are or not, it doesn’t really matter as the “scenic routes” are sometimes the stuff that great memories are made of, and the detours are often what prepare us for the more challenging parts of life. In a nutshell, I like to think that the gift of time offered to me is an opportunity to refresh the “Google Map” of those journeys and find my way back to my path if I am a little off course.
The gift of time has also become an opportunity for reflection in recognizing and navigating situations I have little or no control over and to reconcile my response to it. I found myself repurposing a current challenge into an opportunity, hoping to make it work more smoothly and to try to make it a positive experience for everyone involved.
In the time I am taking to review, reconnect and reflect, gratefulness found me, given recent life lessons I have had the opportunity to work through and the great people who have contributed to seeing me through them. I am very fortunate indeed!
As much as shingles is a serious condition that can drive busy people crazy with its symptoms and its duration, I can only interpret the free time as a huge gift. The busy pace we lead sometimes makes it difficult to get the clarity to get beyond quick gut reactions when introspection and judgement need to collaborate on the important questions in life. It isn’t easy, but the time is there. Whatever develops along the way, I believe it will potentially be more fruitful in the long run, personally and spiritually, than three weeks of just watching daytime TV.