I saw my wonderfully proficient and compassionate surgeon this week for my six week post-hysterectomy check-up. It turns out I’m healing a little slowly, about five days behind the average, and there’s granular tissue on the incision, which is essentially scar tissue covering up an unhealed spot. The granular tissue has been bleeding a little, and my proficient, compassionate surgeon cauterized it with silver nitrate so the incision can heal properly.
Since that appointment, I’ve been beating myself up for being incompetent and defective and a crappy healer and generally being mean to myself. I asked my husband last night if he was disappointed in me, then I cried. I was aware enough to know that’s nuts. I knew, for my own sanity and self-care, that I needed to consider what metaphor I was living in, because, as Martha Beck says, “the metaphors you live by shape everything.”
I realized I was seeing myself as a taker of some high-stakes test, like the SAT or Britain’s A-levels, who’s anxiously waiting for her scores. I believed there was some outside judge or external evaluator who had the power to say whether I was good enough, whether I was competent or incompetent. And woe to me if I was deemed incompetent.
But what would be a metaphor for healing that felt kind and compassionate, that allowed me to take care of myself? A seed? An egg? Those were possibilities, but they didn’t feel quite right. I went to bed pondering the question, and woke up with the answer. If “metamorphosis” seemed like a perfect metaphor for this hysterectomy journey (see my first hysterectomy blog post for the full story), then obviously a chrysalis was the perfect metaphor for healing.
When I chose metamorphosis as the metaphor for this process, I chose better than I knew. Because I made the decision to have surgery at this time, I thought I was more in control than I actually am. But a chrysalis takes all the time it requires to form a strong and capable butterfly. A chrysalis runs on kairos time (God’s time), not chronos time (clock and calendar time). A chrysalis is only incompetent when she white-knuckles life and short-circuits what needs to happen, when she pushes the poor butterfly out before it’s ready. So I’m giving myself the gift and grace of time. I’m accepting and embracing my wonderful body, walking in these familiar mountains, sitting in the luscious sun, and being kind and gentle with myself.
And I’m saying these words of Mary Oliver’s, over and over, like a mantra:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.