Catalyst Strategic Consultants

How does your business need to grow?

My time in infirmity…

June 2013

I’ve just spent a week in the company of the infirm. I have been given a glimpse of what it’s like to be sick. Hurt. Cancerous. Injured. In recovery.

Not to worry about me, it was a routine operation. But it did lend me a point of view for a time…I was in recovery and was surprised by what a relatively benign intrusion on the body can inflict. I report from there…

It is a very special existence. A reduced state, a half life on the fringe of the stream. And I realized how many folks must be there at any given time. And how, if it became more permanent, more irresolvable, how it would come to change perception and prospects for living. I think you would become resigned – to what you have been allotted.

A smaller slice of lifeworth – weak tea. Tinier than that given others, but mine. And taken in to a private space – one which few others inhabit, therefor unique and not understood by others. Of miniscule diameter.

I seem to be run down, unaccountably, given the sleep and rest I have had and continue to crave. It is a fatigue that is close to the bone, at the centre of my reactor.

I can only operate in a very small radius. For one thing, I don’t trust myself far from my familiar resources. I may need to get back there, and, if I do, there will be desperation, not a generalized or abstract need, but a real and present requirement

Appreciative and resonant
Others do things for me. Sometimes they are slightly off target with my real need, but I am grateful. But I am more grateful for the small graces of my existence, which is held a touch more tremulously than before. Scent of new mown grass, the sudden warmth of sun on my skin, a baby’s gurgle. These have a poignancy I didn’t think possible and are taken in at a depth that is new.

I can only do so much for myself and that is significantly less than when healthy. The tiredness seems to cut in with a very present limitation on my capabilities. Therefore, I must rely on others to have the basics looked after. I don’t want to risk taking on too much and finding myself short of resources to meet the task.

Due to my clearly circumscribed capability – of which I am only too aware – I must mete out only what energy can be spared for each activity I take on. I cannot take on what I may not complete or be equal to. I am likely to be conservative in that estimate lest I be caught out and found wanting on even the simplest of undertakings.

The buffer is gone – I am operating at the edge of my tolerance. Someone exceeds or intrudes or is inappropriate and forgiveness or indulgence are called for. This a normal part of everyday interchange. I have no reserve. I may react irritably.

My normal wellbeing has deserted me. I feel cool to the touch. My guts are out of sorts and I am aware of their malfunction on a moment to moment basis. My muscles feel stringy and weak. These awarenesses crowd in on me continually as I sense my abnormality.

An Outcast
My face is drawn – even in normal greeting. People sense my tentativeness even in making small routine commitment. Their antennae go up. They know something is different about me. The forthright ones enquire and withdraw after expressing regret. The others keep their distance. No one wants a problem on their hands.

Core drawn down
There is little left for normal life after the basics of self care speak for their vastly increased slice of the pie. Now everything is a burden, as if the power source had been dialed down. Extending the self is a fantasy. There is no such thing as drive.

Self absorbed
My little world has become about meeting my basic requirements and I have little left over to lend extravagant care to others, something I normally find effortless. To strain and attempt that is a fraud. I really can focus only on myself, and it intrudes on my consciousness continually. The longer this goes on, the more I become reminiscent and regretful. Mourning my passing – now diminished life.

To leave my protected circle would expose me to risks. My assessment of those tends to exaggeration. I don’t want to chance it. So I won’t and don’t. If I were to be in a circumstance that required more of my depth than I have in this teacup, I would be out of luck – and I know it.

Energy deprived
Never have I been so aware of the store of life force available to me and never has it been such a finite pile. I have been tired before after giving an inordinate effort to a task or muscle sore and run out after exceptional exertion.   Now I fall short even by ordinary and very limited life and need to get back to my chair or my bed.

Now I have time to do all those extra and interesting projects I have been deferring. Painting, reading.   Except I have no appetite, no interest. Just the act of committing to launching on some project seems a bridge too far. There is nothing behind it, no animating force.

Flawed and broken
Reminders of my incompleteness haunt me. My consciousness is full of what’s missing, what can’t be done, what doesn’t feel right. I am acutely aware that aspects of my physicality are out of order and would not work if asked. When I push myself to do something normal that contravenes my new edges, I am instantly reminded. That activity is not for me. It may be for others, but not for me.

Bereft of appetite
All food tastes lifeless in my mouth – even if wasn’t for the sour taste I carry around. I try to enjoy but there is nothing in it. Likewise reading, watching, listening – all manner of amusement seem hollow and useless. The underlying interest is not there and, if tried, there is none of the familiar return to the activity. It is pointless to set the path as there will be no satisfaction in it.

This lurks behind all other sensation. What if this is permanent and never heals? What if I never recover the fullness I enjoyed previously? What if this is how I will spend a significant portion of the span allotted to me – even if that is in the future? Is this what it feels like to have the life force slowly flow out? Am I launching on a long and slow decline and will be marooned on this island forever?

I am being in this a pessimist of course. A pessimist is one who believes that a present adverse condition is permanent.
But I am dwelling on it with a purpose. I believe it is a dark preview of a portion of life we all shall inhabit unless we are granted one of those miraculous exits from this life we so often fantasize about. You know, one minute walking along the street in the sun at the vital age of 93 having had sex that morning, the next – struck down and gone.

Another, more trenchant reason to explore this estate I experience now is to extend this awareness to those who either are infirm or who may have to understand someone who is.

For the first, this description might be normalizing and validating. For the second, it may help open a window into empathizing with the internal reality of “the Patient”.


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


Past Posts