Today is Shrove Monday, or Karneval: a bit like St Patrick’s Day in Germany (if that makes sense). Today, you’d stick out like a sore thumb if you venture out onto the street in just your ordinary dress. Even police(wo)men and train conductors put on a funny red nose, huge eyebrows, or a funny hat in order to celebrate the last few days before lent starts this coming Wednesday.

I had to think about that today, when I saw myself in a hospital gown. It didn’t feel real. Having spent the best part of the past few years in several different hospitals, there was I in a hospital gown, with ECG contacts on my chest and the O2/heartbeat monitor on my finger, getting ready for my very first ever in my life full anaesthetic and surgery. Virtually risk-less, every-day, routine laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon explained to me (what did that remind me of?) before he painted a few arrows and his initials onto my skin – just so they wouldn’t mix up the side on which they were going to operate. (They also asked me my name and date of birth a dozen times, so that they were sure that I was what it said on the label who I was and they wouldn’t operate the wrong guy. To be honest: my confidence was slowly oozing away.) (Another of the many questions they asked was if I drank alcohol and I said ‘yes’, and when he asked added ‘about seven units’ — what I meant was: a week, but with the best efforts in the world cannot remember whether the nice doctor also meant ‘a week’, or ‘a day’; I can’t get rid of the funny feeling that I’m listed in the hospi-tell files now as a candidate for AA.)

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The most incredible thing is that I am now lying in my own bed, at home. Having had a full anaesthetic and surgery (routine, every-day and all — but surgery) for which a few years ago I would have spent days in hops-tell. I had walked there this morning (sorting out a few messages on the way Pat had asked me for) and getting a lift back with one of our daughters. Ok, I’m slightly confused – but what’s new about that?

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Operate THIS side – NOT the other.

Of course, what was on my mind the whole time, and is tonight, is that this was my First. A tiny little bit of surgery, a few hours being a patient, a couple of hours on an incubator with a tube down my throat. And I felt so incredibly helpless. I have phlegm in my throat I can’t get rid off. Talking and using my voice feels distinctly uncomfortable. I have a feeling of constant heart burn. And all this with the morphine still in my system.

What was on my mind the whole day and still is, of course, is that this, my own First, was just a teeny-tiny taste of what Pádraig has been going through since the day of his accident. And without a voice. Without being able to ask what was going on. What was being done to him. How much time had passed. Is passing. Why he was where he was and for how long he’d be there with whom looking after him when we had to leave. Being deprived of so many things that I can’t even begin to grasp. With a tube down his throat for a year and a half, not just a couple of hours, producing so much phlegm that they stuck another tube down his throat to suck it out so that he could breathe.

Today I felt as calm and collected as I have felt in a long time, as balanced and relaxed as maybe never before. It was like having (re-)discovered what life is all about. Everything became so clear:

We love each other so much, that this love will carry us wherever we want to go. It gives me the inner strength, self-esteem, and security that allows me to break free from imposed and artificial restrictions, to go beyond the limited tunnel vision of dysfunctional systems, and to live a life that allows me to be kind and understanding to others, to treat everybody with respect and dignity, to be honest and fair; while being extremely clear, in a very calm but very determined way, about what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not, what I do and what I won’t do.

Ok — I hear you. No, this is not who I am. I am not a saint.

But — dare I say (before the morphine wears off completely:) that this is my prayer for tonight. My positive action plan for the upcoming cuaresma.