On Finding a New Normal

Yesterday was our first full day with Dan home from the hospital. Now comes the work of finding what our new normal will be since everything changed with his health and with our world. I think that both of us are beginning to process the realities of what has happened as emotions wash over us, breaking through the veneer of trying to hold onto hope for the past week.

Visiting Dad...

Dan is rediscovering the comfort of his own home and bed after his tortuous eight days away, trying to deal with a body that has been battered by surgery and COVID, and the realization that he has been forever changed; I am learning how to live in the same house with a COVID-19 patient, having to remain focused and remember to constantly wash or use sanitizer on my hands, mask up to be with him, glove up to touch him, wipe down doorknobs and light switches and any other common surfaces, keep the animals at a distance. It all feels so unnatural in this home where we’ve felt such freedom to be our true selves for so many years.

Quarantine countdown, trying to raise Dan’s spirits.

A friend of mine said that we needed to recognize what happened for what it was; an awful, traumatic situation that happened on top of a global pandemic. Just one of those would have been enough to tackle our psyches to the curb. We are hurting; Dan physically, both of us mentally and emotionally.

Outdoor beauty…
Indoor cheer…

Dan is horribly bruised from his surgery, but thankfully the COVID-19 symptoms have faded. He has to be very careful about what he eats, staying with foods that are very easy to digest. It’s never like Dan to stay still for long, but now he has to; not only because it’s going to take a long time to heal and recover from what he went through, but because he is exhausted. Just talking wears him out. He is afraid that he won’t be able to return to the activities that he loves…but one day at a time we will work together to get his strength back.

Shiva glares at me outside of our bedroom where Dan is quarantined. We aren’t letting her in there until we’ve passed quarantine. She’s not happy.

I have experience being a caregiver from many years taking care of my mother, and am doing my best to take good and loving care of my husband. I am grateful to have him home. I won’t lie; it is an exhausting and emotional experience to attend to all of his needs, keep things up in our century-old time-intensive home and yard, do my work for UAB online, and keep up with all of the wonderful messages of concern and support we have received…and we have only just begun.

Trike flag!

Dan has just begun riding his new recumbent trike two days before all hell broke loose, and yesterday his trike flag came in (for visibility), and the day before his trike t-shirt arrived. We put those out to encourage him and give him something to work toward as he slowly heals. I also created a quarantine countdown and taped it on the window casing by the bed so that each day we could rip one down and crumple it up as we move toward Dan being able to come out into the entire house. Anything and everything that I can do to keep him believing that he will get back to a normal life is so important right now.

Testing his new trike in the alley (he does wear a helmet).

I am holding fast to my routines between my caregiver duties; I’m sticking with the intermittent fasting that has done so much to help me improve my health, taking Marley on long walks, kickboxing, and finding pockets of time to write it all out here, teaching my students. Yesterday I was weepy and sad for my husband and for the drastic changes and experiences we have and will face. Today I’m going to do my best to lift my chin and keep searching for beauty that is there, even in these difficult times. The sadness, the grieving, will be part of this process for both of us. We’ve been through so much life together and each event only seems to make us stronger as a couple. This will be no different. Love will always guide us through.

My writing buddy.

14 thoughts on “On Finding a New Normal

  1. Celebrate the successes! That is as important as recognizing the changes and working through them. Dan was in good shape before the surgery and it will be easier for him to recover his strength… He has the knowledge and the will – muscle memory is a wonderful thing. (that picture of Shiva made me smile – she will not take no for an answer so you had better keep an eye on her!)

    1. I do believe that Dan can come back from this- J just have to. ❤️ As for Shiva, she was brought into our lives to teach us patience…and to make us laugh. 😜

  2. I have great faith Dan will be back at it in time (hopefully sooner than later). I am sure just being home is far more uplifting than that hospital bed. Continued prayers and thoughts for your family.

  3. Continued prayers, and healing thoughts, for you both…..
    You are an amazing team, and you will heal from this, together, as you always have.
    Please take care of yourself, as well, Denise. Although, I do believe, in secret,
    that you are the real “Wonder Woman”! 😉💪❤
    THANK YOU for sharing your journey.

  4. You’ve got this, Denise! Dan is strong, and will bounce back, just SOOO sorry he’s having to deal with the triple whammy of recovering from the appendectomy, treatment for the complications from that surgery, and having to fight COVID-19. We have a friend who’s a pediatrician in New Orleans who is already back at work after dealing with COVID-19 at home. Dan can do it, & you’ll both make it through to the other side. Stay strong!

  5. It is trauma you have both experienced, and it sounds like you are not minimizing it, which is so helpful. Gentle strength is integral to resilience, and you and Dan both possess gentle strength, perhaps more than any I know. However you feel is OK. It’s even OK to feel happy or joyful two seconds after feeling grief and fatigue. And every other feeling is OK, too.

      1. Yes–and it can feel so scary to wheel between those emotions! Energy and exhaustion alternating, too! But it’s all part of the way our brains respond and process. And I meant to mention, too, something which you are SO aware of: the healing power of music. Those vibrations really help our bodies heal and our minds process. Of course, I always turn to Bach! But you know the music that brings healing in your home! Sending you love!

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