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4 Lessons from My Hernia

August 10th, 2011

Aaahh, transition. My husband and I have moved from China to New York. I’ve bounced around a great deal over the past decade, but this time an extra adjustment is in the mix. Upon returning to the U.S., I had hernia surgery. A minor event, in the grand scheme…but the ordeal was taxing, and it taught me a few things. Read below for lessons from my hernia!

Lesson 1: If something is amiss, investigate. For an entire year, I noticed a bulge developing in the lower right side of my abdomen. And I ignored it. My excuse was this: Given our international flux, going to the doctor just seemed like too much work. Finally, in Beijing, I decided to get it checked out. There was a brief scare in which the doctor surmised something more serious than a hernia was growing. Thankfully that turned out not to be the case, and the path to surgery was clear. 

The lesson for me here (especially after my health scare) was to stop ignoring things that don’t feel right. A better approach is usually to grab a flashlight and investigate. Can you relate? Is there anything that feels off in your life, whether in your body, relationships, work, or elsewhere? Is it time to set down the excuses and dig a little deeper? 

Lesson 2: Sometimes you need to surrender control. Few things in life freak me out as much as undergoing anesthesia. The utter loss of control is tough to accept. Sure enough, as I lay in my thin hospital gown before surgery, and the nurse poked me with a needle to hook up the IV, I began to cry. What ifs? swirled like a sandstorm in my head. And yet. Even as fear pulsed, so did the recognition that much of the control I cling to is a flimsy illusion anyway. The energy of life itself breathes and guides me, far more than the other way around. I dried my eyes and tried to trust that things would unfold as they should. And they did.

How about you? Call to mind a situation that’s stressing you out at the moment. Are you trying to control someone or something that doesn’t want to cooperate? Is resistance adding to the problem in any way? Would it help to take a deep breath, loosen your grip on the oars, and allow the tide to carry you forward?

Lesson 3: When you’re in pain, soak up comfort. Yikes! Those first post-surgery days hurt! Luckily, comfort shows up in endless ways. And perhaps never do we need it more than when we are in physical or emotional pain.

If you’re hurting, make a point to soak up your favorite calming comforts: nature, your pets, good music/books/DVDs, a steaming bath, yummy herbal tea, sessions with your journal, let-it-all-hang-out conversation with a friend. Or, as in my case, relax in the care of healers (posing as humans) who prop you up in bed and whip up your favorite foods. Can you say homemade onion chip dip?

Lesson 4: Be grateful. Oh, what a simple, even cliché, directive this is. It floods airwaves, self-help books, and spiritual traditions alike. I never tire of hearing it, though, as gratitude is a lifelong lesson. Despite the discomfort of surgery, I’m filled with thanks. The ability to go to a doctor, then get diagnosed and treated, is a massive gift I hope never to take for granted. Countless individuals and families around the world lack access to even the most basic medical care, much less elective surgery. So when I notice the effects of surgery—a long scar, a funny numb patch, mesh protruding like a tootsie roll from underneath my skin—I am immensely grateful.

Whatever our struggles, there is usually a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Or two. Or ten. Thank you, hernia, and all who have healed me!

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  1. Carolyn Spangler
    August 11th, 2011 at 07:42 | #1

    I'm glad you doing okay, Ann. Lovely descriptions. 

  2. August 11th, 2011 at 08:14 | #2

    Thanks Carolyn – I’m healing nicely. :)


  3. Katherine D
    August 18th, 2011 at 05:29 | #3

    Beautifully put.  This may have been your best writing yet.  I have so much to reflect on after reading this.  Thank you for sharing.

  4. August 18th, 2011 at 09:53 | #4

    Thanks for such a sweet comment, Katherine. We are all growing and changing, all the time. I love it when we are catalysts for each other’s learning…


  5. isabelle W
    August 18th, 2011 at 20:29 | #5

    I forgot about your upcoming surgery the last time I saw you. I am sooo glad you are fix. As the others arcticle  evrything you write is truly interesting! XOXO

  6. Alicia
    August 24th, 2011 at 13:25 | #6

    Thanks Ann! I enjoyed it so much! Great to read you are on the mend.  I learned a lot- per usual, and am grateful for these insights. Thanks again!

  7. August 24th, 2011 at 19:38 | #7

    Alicia & Isabelle – great to hear from you! I was surprised by how strongly the whole experience affected me. I suppose surgery is surgery. Really appreciate your support!


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