Living Between the Lines

Life in the slow lane

I am living life in the slow lane.
I have only just realised it. We’ll get to exactly how I noticed it in a minute. There is no rush. No, honestly, it will wait.
The thing is, when the consultant advised me to do nothing for 6 weeks and possibly repeat this ‘doing nothing’ for a further 6 weeks, I was quite looking forward to it. I saw myself reading, writing, knitting, (yes, knitting) and letting everyone else do the work. It sounded great. It sounded easy.

Let me tell you, IT WAS NOT EASY. (Sorry to shout)

Now, there will be others who have had to do nothing for far longer, for far more serious reasons so this is just about me it has to be said.
I was told emphatically not to lift anything over 1.1kilograms. As someone who works in pounds, I translated this to being, roughly, a 2lb bag of sugar. I was told not to vacuum or iron and not to push or pull heavy objects and absolutely, no lifting of grandchildren – unless a newborn baby, when I would be allowed to bend the rules slightly and no driving for a while.
In the first few days after surgery, I was glad of the rest I admit. It was quite nice to have everyone else doing the work and for me to sit and watch television or read a book. I was tired and did not feel like doing much anyway.
When we held our annual BBQ a mere ten days later, (a legendary event hereabouts) I was only a little frustrated at being allowed to neither prepare nor clear up. I managed to ignore the empty beer bottles and the carpet that needed vacuuming along with the general untidiness that followed the invasion of 90 guests including two dozen children.
I settled into a pattern of reading and writing. I began to enjoy my enforced captivity. It was certainly very productive on the writing side.
The following week, everyone was back at work and I was beginning to feel a little better and a little bored. The wet washing sat in the laundry basket begging to be hung out on the line. The sun shone, the sky was blue. It would be a crime to leave the laundry sitting there wouldn’t it?
I couldn’t carry it all. I guessed the entire laundry basket and wet clothes, to weigh far more than a bag of sugar.
I had a brain wave. I picked up a pair of socks and put them on the kitchen scales, adding more until my limit was reached. Then, off I went into the garden with my 1.1KG of wet socks to hang on the line. Returning, I carried out the same procedure for the rest of the load—now what? —back to twiddling my thumbs.
Three weeks into my rest period—grandson number four decided to arrive in the world, two and a half weeks early. A tentative cuddle with newborn who weighed 6lbs 6oz (considerably more than a bag of sugar) and then it was back to being good and weighing socks.
Today marks the sixth week since surgery. I have grown used to doing little. As everyone rushes to and from work/shops/urgent business, I have grown used to taking things easy. I am driving again and although I am still not allowed to lift more than a bag of sugar, I am managing to do the shopping by putting things into my trolly—I think I am allowed to push it if it is kept reasonably light—choosing small sized items only, and wheeling the trolly to the car where I unload it item by item. Arriving home I then have to carry the goods into the house, item by item.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to do everything at the pace of knots. Correction, I did tend to do everything at the pace of knots. These days, I think ‘the slower the better’. I have had to train myself to take my time. What’s that phrase about slowing down and smelling the roses?
I did not know just how relaxed and unhurried I had become until today. Well, I did say I would get round to telling you eventually, didn’t I?
I was just back from a shopping trip. I had carried in a few items but decided to leave the rest in the boot of the car for a while. (This in itself is a major breakthrough) I was gasping for a cup of tea.
I took a mug from the cupboard and put the kettle on, half filled as per strict instructions. While it boiled, I decided to peel an orange. The orange proved tougher than expected to peel, the kettle proved quicker. The kettle boiled before I was even half way through peeling the orange…
…What did I do? Now, normally, pre-enforced rest, I would have rushed to the kettle, poured the boiling water over the teabag in my mug and then gone back to the orange, hurriedly peeling it while the tea brewed, rushing back to withdraw teabag and pour in milk. Did I do that?
I casually continued peeling the orange and ate same, before walking slowly back to the kettle, re-boiling the water and making my tea.
As I ambled over to put the used teabag in the bin, I had to smile at myself. Where was the rush? Where was that old need to get this done so that I could get on with the other thing so that I could do this earlier and finish that quicker?
That’s when it hit me.
My goodness, what a turn up, it had taken an orange and a kettle to make me realise, I really am living life in the slow lane!

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • patricia

    I had major surgery and was supposed to not lift, carry or drive for 6 weeks – The children were not old enough and I had to get up and clean up after the incision became inflamed with infection. It was a nightmare scenario. The kids got ferried to where they needed to go, and I went back to cooking within 4 days as no one wanted to attempt to cook for my allergy/Celiac Disease eaters. I have no feeling in my abdominal region and it is very difficult to deal with on a daily basis.

    I needed a plastic surgeon to put me back together and he wanted to me to sue the Dr. who did the surgery. He had made such a mess “worse than many patients the plastics fellow had seen in Viet Nam

    This is just a straight word of advise – except for the handling of newborns STAY IN THE SLOW LANE….Remain there forever, truly you will live longer and be happier, this is something that I know for sure.

    Do not just enjoy it under Dr.’s order – stay there – You will eventually reach the same destination just feel better when you do.

    • Deborah Barker

      Thank you for the advice Patricia – I do intend not to rush all the time in the future and I will not be lifting heavy furniture, heavy toddlers or ridiculously heavy shopping bags either. Lesson learnt! 🙂

  • Teresa

    It must be sooo difficult, but I’m glad you’ve been so good with slowing down and following doctor’s orders. And I hope you can stay there in the slow lane, like Patricia says, you’ll feel better for it 🙂 x

  • Deborah Barker

    Teresa, we all need to get into the slow lane at times and I am enjoying it for the most part. Unable to take Flossie for her walk in the woods (I leave that to others at the moment) I have been strolling along the lanes in the sunshine on my own – what bliss! I am sure I will enjoy walking Flossie again but there is something very calming about walking on one’s own. 🙂

  • hilarymb

    Hi Deborah – the most important thing for now is the 12 weeks to ensure you get fully recovered – then you can decide your pace of life … no point in having your body decide how fast it can go for the rest of your life!

    Enjoying the late summer lanes, as no doubt the Autumn will slowly creep up to us … anyway – I’m glad you’re doing what you’re told … and so delighted about your new grandson – must be fabulous to see him … and he can lie softly against your thigh on the sofa … gurgling away – while others watch.

    Look after yourself .. sounds as though the orange and the kettle have you worked out! Cheers for now – Hilary

  • screenscribbler

    It is good that you are sticking to your post-operative regime, Debbie. Life in the slow lane may have it’s compensations for you, as it gives you greater opportunity to open up your mind. As a writer to a writer you know what I am saying. Take care my friend, you have the strength of your family around to help you through this.

    • Deborah Barker

      Thank you for your words of wisdom John – have just got back from a trip to Essex, the outward part being most definitely in the slow lane as the M25 was at a standstill for two hours. As a passenger, I was decidedly chilled 🙂

  • deb

    It’s hard to imagine you housebound and moving slowly. I love the picture of you finding a way to hang laundry. I hope your recovery is complete and that you find ways to maintain the benefits of slow-lane living as you resume life at a faster pace.

  • Andrea

    I remember this from a surgery I had a while back, and it was amazing to learn what was really important to rush for and what was not. If only I had held onto that wisdom. The mind jumps in too quickly to tell the body what’s what, when clearly the body knows. I hope you can hang fast to all you’re learning now as you weigh your socks and load and unload items with care. I’m sorry if there’s pain (you didn’t mention it, but it’s likely), and I hope you continue to enjoy this side trip from a fast-paced life.

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