Taking Care of Myself…Maybe Not

Old Man on a Bench

© Donny Hornstein

I live alone. I’ve lived alone most of my adult life. I’m 62 years young.

Just a few months ago, I had a cervical discectomy at three levels. In less complicated terms, I had four cervical discs in my spine which through time had degenerated to the point where they needed to be cleaned up and fused. The symptoms I was having was loss of sensation in my hands. I couldn’t type. I could barely tie my shoes. I was dropping things. I had lost a huge amount of feeling in my hands. After many months of struggling with this and trying things such as acupuncture, electromyography, various meds, chiropractic, physical therapy and I can’t remember what else, I saw a neurologist. He did an MRI which finally showed the cause to be the degenerating discs. After a few more months of struggle, I picked a surgeon to ‘make me better.’ I have a great neurosurgeon. The result is about a 95% return of my hand use. I’m astounded almost every day.

For about five weeks after the surgery, I hired a friend of mine to take care of me and my cats. Really, the most important thing was the cats. The doctor had told me I shouldn’t bend below my knees and the cats eat on the floor, so what I needed most of all was someone to feed them twice a day. I also needed some personal care right after the surgery. Changing the dressing on my neck, transportation (I wasn’t supposed to drive) and sundry other things. I wasn’t paying him much but early on, I was expecting more than I had a right to.

About three days after the surgery, I had an incapacitating event related to the surgery. It was something so intense, I called the local fire department for help. I had never, and I mean never, had anything like this happen to me before. There was nothing the EMTs could do short of taking me to the ER. I didn’t want to do that, so I called another friend. He and his wife came to my aid, thank the heavens.

You might ask, “Why didn’t you call your friend you were paying?” And that’s where I’m headed.

He was involved with a local men’s training he and I are a part of. He wasn’t really reachable. And…it was neither his responsibility or fault he was out of pocket. I wasn’t paying him for round-the-clock care. I had retained his services for feeding the cats and doing little things for me when he could. Surprisingly, for me, I wasn’t angry I couldn’t reach him. I was angry with myself for not having thought how I might need him in the days immediately following the surgery. I was angry at myself, for trying to do things, as I have often done, on the cheap. More than that, I was angry & very sad about the choice I’ve made to live alone. Why should I have to pay someone at all to take care of me? And, yet, that, is the consequence of the choice. By choosing to live alone, I also choose to make alternative arrangements to get the care I need when necessary. This, then, became one of the times where I was not happy about living alone. And, there’s yet a third lesson in all this. I’m fortunate enough to have friends, such as the couple who came to my rescue, who will come if asked. The work, is in the asking.

I’m the son of depression era parents. I did not grow up in an affluent family. We by no means struggled, but neither did we live in luxury. What I learned from my parents was to be cautious about money. I will often consider the price of something, even food at the grocery store or at a restaurant, when making a decision. Although recently, I was making a salary where that really didn’t need to be a consideration, I continued to do so. It’s one of the things which cost me my friend’s help when I needed it.

Surprisingly, I will often not be quite so austere when it comes to an impulse buy of one of my toys; typically some electronic item I think I need or want. So the question I have for myself here and now is why? How does it or does it not serve me to continue being frugal over my daily care or food but not so over materialistic items? Why, do I continue to weigh the difference of a dollar here or a dollar there for many necessities? (By the way, while in my opinion I am materialistic, I don’t drive a fancy car or live in a house which says anything about success or money.) I find it an interesting paradox. Trying to love myself more, and yet, staying with old non-blessing habits. The dilemma then is how to love myself more AND do more things which bless me. Not just to simply allow myself the ‘possessions’ which give me a sense of pleasure or well-being, but to allow myself basic needs, such as food or care when I need or want them. For these needs, is it simply the “I’m not good enough” syndrome? Is it the lessons from my parents? Is it a combination of these two? I think so. I think nourishing myself, whether by food or care just seems extravagant. It seems such a silly thing to say, yet it has a ring of truth for me. The question I want to answer then, is this the way I choose to live my life? I really hope it is not. While I don’t want to place myself under an economic hardship, I also don’t want to have missed out on living in a way I will regret. I don’t want to be the guy on my death bed who says, “Gee, I wish I had taken better care and loved myself more.”

So what’s the small step I’m willing to take moving forward? I’m making a commitment to myself to stop penny-pinching on things like food or care. If something is within my means, by George, I deserve to go for it. Whether it’s a meal at Joe’s Stone Crabs (I hardly ever get back to my roots in Miami) or ponying up to have someone take care of me when I might not be able to. It’s the right time to say, “Yes!” instead of “Maybe” or “Someday.” There might not be enough “Somedays” left. While I am young-at-heart and in good health, there’s no way of knowing when the call to go ‘Home’ will come. (I’ve promised myself when that time comes, I won’t try to barter for extra time. I’ll go with the peace of having done what I can in this life as well as I was able. Isn’t that what writing this blog is about?)

Are there things in your life you don’t bless yourself with? Leave a comment if you feel brave; I do believe it takes courage to talk about these things. Courage, is something I am finding I have more of. Ever since, December 2000.

How Am I Changing?: I’m willing to bless myself more when it’s called for. I  want to live a life of fulfilling my desires. And, by asking for help, when I need it. That may in fact be the bigger challenge.

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6 Responses to Taking Care of Myself…Maybe Not

  1. Reid Heller says:

    This well written, honest self appraisal is a blessing for anyone who reads it, Donny. I am sorry to hear of your problems during recovery.

    • dreh15 says:

      Thanks, Reid. This blog is my outlet for doing my work to be the best Donny I can be. I appreciate your empathy on my recovery, and, I know it’s about the lesson the Universe and Spirit has for me to learn how to deal with those times. Thank you for reading.

  2. Ed says:

    Donnie this article really speaks to me. Thank you for holding the mirror for me, my brother!

  3. nannieofthenorth says:

    Curious as to what’s on your bucket list. This intense self-examination made me curious as to if you’re taking on the list.

    • dreh15 says:

      I don’t really have a bucket list. This is really just me doing my work around issues in my life. If I don’t do it here, Lynn, it likely will leak out somewhere else without thought. So, better here than there 🙂

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