What Is Simple?

Simple is a matter of perspective

Guest Post by Miriam Harkness

It has been three weeks since my first (and hopefully last) major operation. Those twenty-one days have been some of the best and the worst of my entire life. It was remarkable how a situation can completely flip around in just a little over three hours. I am now only just beginning to reflect on what has occurred and gaining a better understanding of what I still have to face.

Two weeks before the surgery, I sat down with my brother and asked him what was his biggest concern for me. After five minutes of trying to avoid the question, he said, “Will you wake up?” At the time I laughed and said, “Of course! I’ll be fine.”

But when I saw his face when he visited me just a couple of hours after the surgery, it began to hit home. It did not matter how much I, or anyone else, reassured him then. He was scared that the big sister who was always there for him, would not be.

As he walked in, I could see him let out a breath that he had probably been holding in for weeks, if not months. When he saw me awake and smiling, he smiled a small smile, but his whole face lit up with joy. I was awake!

How often do I ignore the little issues? How often do I think that someone’s smallest concern is silly, illogical, or even stupid?

How do we know that a ‘simple’ step to us is not an enormous gorge to cross for another person; an expanse so wide that they do not even have the idea of how to begin to cross it? Who are we to define what is simple or easy?

When my brother saw me, it also started to hit home that I was already limited in the ‘simple’ things I can do. We have a tradition, one that he sometimes pretends to dislike. We hug, whenever we have been apart for a while (hours? days?). As I was lying in that hospital bed, I realised that I could not hug him, even if I wanted to. My body was not cooperating. But even for him to hold my hand, he had to pause, go back to the door and use the nearby hand sanitiser first before he could hug me. And my brother was quite happy to sit there in silence, just smiling at me and holding my hand. It is in the ‘simple’ little things that often the most emotion is conveyed.

Now I am home. Who cares about the size of the container, except that it fits all the leftovers from dinner? My family has to place food in the smallest containers for me to be able to remove them from the refrigerator. My greatest frustrations have not been in what I can and cannot eat or drink, but in those small things. I cannot pour myself a drink unless the bottle is plastic and more than half empty. I cannot drop my phone because my arms can barely reach past my knees and any further causes pain and loss of balance.

Do I sit, cry, or whinge about how I cannot lift a full glass of water? No. Instead I found a beautiful crystal wine glass that weighs close to nothing and now I drink from that. Rather than be upset that I cannot take out many of the items stored in the refrigerator, I open the freezer and scoop out some of the delicious Belgian chocolate ice cream from its nice little tub.

I am now spending my time reflecting, not on what limits me, but on the unique ways that I am learning to do the simplest of things.

I am learning to open my eyes to the opportunities that these ‘simple’ problems present.

I am re-discovering what it means to admire the simple things in life.

I am learning to be patient with my pace of recovery, for even in these things there are many lessons to learn.

How about you? How do you respond when suddenly you become limited in what you can do?

What do you do when obstacles are in your way?

How do you react when something so simple becomes quite difficult?

Who do you turn to when it feels like the sky is caving in?


Miriam enjoyed listening to music while she was in hospital. This is one of her favorites. Hope you enjoy it, too!

“Beautiful, Beautiful” – sung by Francesca Battistelli

“Like sunlight burning at midnight
Making my life something so beautiful, beautiful
Mercy reaching to save me, all that I need
You are so beautiful, beautiful…”

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