Embracing the Giant Monkey

Laura Zigman Health Guide
  • And so you're home. It's two weeks after surgery. You've gotten through the worst of it -- the drains, the constipation, the pain management, the shock. Your husband or primary caregiver has gone back to work; you're home alone, and now you're just killing time, watching a lot of television, waiting for your body to knit itself back together.


    Some people might find this part of the post-operative process boring to live through but I have to say, the idea of being forced to lie in bed and watch television -- knowing there was absolutely no way I was supposed to be doing something productive, like working and earning a living -- was liberating. Freeing. As the primary breadwinner (my husband works in Special Ed.), the mortgage had always been a giant monkey on my back, beating me over the head as I worked or tried to work or opened the mail and stared at the bills. Now the giant monkey was lying next to me, grabbing for the remote, napping in between Court TV forensics shows, developing an unnaturally close attachment to "The Barefoot Contessa" on The Food Network and sharing my little bowls of nuts and raisins.

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    Politics makes strange bedfellows, but so does recovery. By the end of the third week of living in my bedroom, the Giant Monkey and I had never been closer. We spent most of our time together but barely ever said a word. We didn't have to talk, or argue, or bicker, or point fingers. We were like an old married couple who didn't need small talk anymore. The mortgage was what it was: it was big, and it was bad, but it was quiet, and sometimes if I stared at the TV long enough I sometimes even forgot it was there.


    Which was an unexpected gift and the proverbial silver lining in a situation that seemed not to have any lining at all. Sleeping with the enemy had never been something I'd expected to be doing during my recovery but that's exactly what I did: I was forced to rest, forced to silence the voice in my head that worried, that poked and prodded and came up with a thousand nagging What Ifs? and Then Whats? contingencies.


    I was forced to make peace with the Giant Monkey and co-exist with him. No, the mortgage did not go away and miraculously pay itself, and no, I didn't forget about it entirely. But thoughts of imminent financial ruin were silenced out of necessity. Fear, anxiety, and existential angst are luxuries when your body is healing from such a major assault.


    Maybe you have a different giant monkey. Maybe your giant monkey isn't a mortgage but an elderly parent, putting a kid through college, worrying how your office is getting along without you. Whatever it is, you will need to ignore your giant monkey. Long enough for your body to heal, anyway. Which really isn't that hard to do since your monkey, like mine, could probably use a little "space."

Published On: January 15, 2008