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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Peaceable Man Files Issue #11: Getting Back to a Routine After Surgery

Random musings on my gypsy existence at my cabin in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.

Happy Sunday, and happy beginning of summer to all the peaceable peeps out there!

As I continue my recuperation from hip replacement surgery at the beginning of June, I’ve been reminded of the importance of routine in maintaining a sunny, balanced outlook on life.

As I write about in The Long Walk Home, for the past thirty years or so, I’ve been keeping up the same boring routine for my days. I get up at the ungodly hour of five o’clock in the morning, go to the gym, then come home, clean myself up, meditate for ten or fifteen minutes, grab a cup of coffee, and get down to my day’s work and activities. Along with being an early riser, I also go to bed early. By nine o’clock or so at night, I can’t keep my eyes open any longer, and when I hit the sack, I sleep like the dead.

I’ve kept to this routine even after leaving the corporate workplace last September because I know it works. As someone with a biological tendency toward depression and anxiety, I know how important physical exercise is to keeping my emotions and moods on an even keel. So as hard as it is sometimes (okay, most times) to drag myself out of a warm bed at five in the morning to jump into the car and go to the gym, I do it because I know I will feel mentally sharper when that workout is done. I know my day will be more productive. I’ll be happier.

Well, all of that has been tossed out the window since the surgery. I haven’t been at the gym for three weeks, and let me tell you, I’m feeling it. It’s not just my body that craves the endorphin-release of my daily forty-minute workout of cardio and light weights; it’s my head. Without that early morning workout, I slough through my days with a muddy head. I find I’m more irritable, more easily annoyed by little things that wouldn’t normally bother me.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t been sleeping well. The surgery has thrown off my delicate sleep equilibrium. I toss and turn at night, trying to find a comfortable position that avoids my left side, and when I do finally fall asleep, it’s not that deep, restful REM sleep that rejuvenates the body and mind. As a result, I’m in LaLa land the next day.

Now, make no mistake: this is a short-term problem, and it’s well worth it. Already, I’m seeing the transformative benefits of this left hip replacement surgery. I’m walking around without a cane. The old arthritis pain is gone—gone!—and the surgical pain and discomfort is receding as well. Every day, I can put more weight on my left hip. My walks are getting longer. Yesterday, in fact, I surpassed 10,000 steps on my Fitbit for the first time in a month.

I couldn’t be happier with the decision to have surgery and the work the done by the amazing medical team at Rothman Institute, and I know it’s just a matter of time before I get back to my old routine. In another week, I plan to start going back to the gym to resume my daily workouts, albeit at a milder pace until I get back to full strength.

Still, the experience has reminded me that routine is vital to our health and happiness. The best routines, I have found, are those that into account the holy triumvirate of mind, body, and spirit, since they’re all connected. We human beings are complex creatures, intricately and grandly fashioned in the image of our Creator and Nature from which we spring. Each of us is an orchestra, and within us plays a thousand instruments. Routine is the daily practice that keeps all these pieces playing and singing in tune.

Want to play music that fills your heart, and the hearts of those around you, with joy? Find a routine that keeps your system in tune, and then stick to it.

What’s the routine that keeps you balanced and happy? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, hope to see you at the gym in a week!

Best wishes to all of you for a peaceful, blessed week.

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