I received a message from an encouraging friend today. It said, “Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day.” It is ever so true.
Here is some of the good I found today:
Power socks. Always show up to battle with appropriately chosen socks. I have a few special pairs reserved for such days when lucky socks are necessary .
Bananas and morphine. You really can’t go wrong. My pump was turned up a bit today to try to help control my pain. I was met with unexpected kindness and understanding, and it made the whole process better.
Signs of Spring. I am so ready.
A gift of an open spot…
Which was especially nice because…
Some reminders along the way…
And an incredible gift of love from a new friend… she brought over a delicious meal from one of our favorites, Cracker Barrel.
The littlest was so tired from all of our going, combined with missing a nap, he got a case of the giggles which proved quite contagious. Conversation was lively as we recounted the best moments of the day, punctuated with chocolate cake.
It was a hard day, but we were carried. Prayed for, encouraged, helped along by generous friends, and there was definitely good to be found.
Thank you dear friends for coming alongside me today; it made all the difference.
Last night I slept solid for the longest stretch of hours I have in weeks. With my other half away on work, I barely started the bedtime routines, gave kisses and songs, and left the littles to finish helping each other tuck in, because there was no way I was going to beat the clock to bedtime last night. A single tear slipped from my cheek to my pillow, because in the end I didn’t even have the strength to cry.
I hoped this morning’s sun would rise with a fresh store of renewed energy, but the early hours found me reaching to steady myself as I shuffled to wake little people for school. Yesterday was a long stretch of sitting for a doctor out of town. Sitting for the drive out, sitting in wait for the doctor, and sitting for the ride back. My small frame is rebelling at having been made to hold the uncomfortable sitting position, and morning tears have fallen with the growth of pain overnight. For a morning that I hoped would bring the hardest already behind me, I am extremely discouraged to face the week ahead. I have smaller, more manageable things to accomplish this week, and right now they feel like mountains.
I wished it would all be easy after Monday, but this morning as I’m vomiting from the influx of sharp pain, I’m overwhelmed at the thought of even making it to the next thing. It’s a tough Tuesday, and I’m fighting hard to find the sweet spot of what I can handle, having to dig deeper to find the fuel to carry me through. My tender-hearted oldest girl is so graciously helping me this morning. Skipping the first class of the day to help me with the little one and getting out the door for another doctor. I will sit quiet in the waiting room, willing time to skip ahead to the snuggling of my little people this evening. I will try to be polite even though the office staff will be detached and matter-of-fact, this pain and weariness making me want to scream. In my mind I will wander ahead to a quiet vacation with my loves so that I don’t feel the needle prick that I hold desperate hope will bring me relief. I’ll push through my day by each tiny step at a time, choosing to sacrifice all my wants in order to simply accomplish the needs. I’ll be pushing through with my eyes on the hearts of the people who make it worth doing, because I know they’ll keep holding me, even in my tears and my hurting, and my near despair.
I know today won’t last forever, and I’ll be able to say that I made it, but goodness, it’s going to be a fight.
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Dark has dropped again, and with it the quiet throughout the rest of the house. I planned to turn in early, gearing up for a full and busy day tomorrow. That is kind of silly, because I know I won’t sleep regardless of what time I crawl into bed.
Tomorrow I meet another doctor. Another new name with an important list of abbreviations after it to add to my growing list of specialists. I’m a list-girl, I love lists. Not this one. I’m tired of having so many people revolve around me. I wish I could tell them, “your schedule has cleared for today, enjoy some time off because I am running away into the brightening sky with my people, and I won’t be back until late!” I wish this appointment, and all the appointments could just hold up for a second; let a girl catch her breath and sit and just breathe… and feel… and be… with nothing interrupting that feeling .
I suppose mostly, I’m struggling with my attitude. There are many things I would rather be doing, and so I’m grumbling about these hard things. I also am avoiding them just for the fear of the matter. I’m afraid of what they’ll say, afraid of the reports and what they will mean, and afraid of what the next thing coming will be. I’m not really sure how many chips I want on the table, and I’m not ready for it to be my turn yet.
Tomorrow will come however, no matter how late I worry over it, and I will best survive it in manageable chunks. So I’ll take big bites of the best things like early morning snuggles and the friendly steam of hot coffee, and I’ll look past the shuffling papers and the nervous hands. In between whatever moments tomorrow is going to mean for the future, there are going to be joke contests, splashy puddles, treasures to find, and extraordinary moments of laughter and love. Because that is life… joy, fear, hope, despair. Rinse and repeat. And it’s still beautiful.
What difficult thing are you wanting to avoid this week?
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I have been hiding. Well, maybe waiting. Or wishing. Or hoping. I guess I hadn’t really quite realized it until a good friend recently said to me, “/this/ is what you should be writing about.” And I realized I hadn’t. Right away I knew all the reasons I had avoided it, but I also knew as I counted up the months in my head… 9…10…11… that those reasons are not showing any sign of stopping, regardless of my waiting. So maybe friend, you’re right; maybe there will be some healing in the unleashing of it all. Or maybe nothing at all, but at least in the telling of it, the twisting, twirling, never quite predictable story that is mine, it will feel more like just that; mine.
I suppose we all have things we hide, or, try to hide, and some of them are easier than others. For a while, I hid well enough that I almost could fool myself. “Fake it ‘till you make it,” right? I suppose without actually formulating a plan, that had become my default strategy somewhere along the way. See, my big secret is that I cannot be my own hero. Who am I kidding… I cannot be anybody’s hero right now. And for a type A, never quit, refuse to fail kind of girl, it has been a hard pill to swallow. A lot of very hard pills to swallow.
Instead of being the pair of boots that lift the weakest to their feet, I am the one dazed to the sound of boots carrying me. Instead of being the reassuring face that will explain things 5 different ways to calm an anxious mind, I am the fearful tangle of unanswered questions. I am the one needing rescue.
I didn’t say anything at first because I supposed it was temporary. I didn’t say anything a little later because I imagined it could be a mistake, or I would wake up from a bad dream. Then it became not saying anything because I refused to accept this story for my life.
That sounds ugly.
I don’t really know how else to put it though. I have been going through these motions of life-fight ignoring that this could be my future, rejecting the very idea of coming to any kind of peace with it, and stubbornly clinging to the absurdity that this just needs to get figured out and everything will go back to normal. That there’s no reason to even explain to anyone, because by the time they find out, I’m going to be back in the saddle; wrangling smiles from my kids, scrambling mountains with my friends, and feeling the siren thrum with the roll of the next due.
Eleven months of being so angry and scared and just, broken. My friend is right. This is my story. It is my story whether I tell it or not.
We are what we show…
But we are also what we hide…
In the scarred and painful exposure of the unknown, I admit I do not have a tidy word to leave here. My body is sick. Every day is fighting a fight that I will selfishly admit would often tempt me to quit. There are days it feels far easier to stay in a ball in bed; to avoid the pills, the pokes, the tubing upon tubing and meticulous regiment that grows monotonous and wearying, especially when I still feel myself fading away in spite of it. It has shaken my life in every way, and taken me far from the home and the me that I once knew. That is where I am; in a strange body, in a strange land, fighting a discouraging and uncertain battle.
Perhaps there will be more of the days that find me with strength and willpower to share the coming pieces here… or perhaps you will know by my silence that I am simply clinging.
Speechless or not, familiar or not, this is my story. One I am still struggling to contend with; I’m not going to feign sainthood and paint you a picture of the peace and assurance I have in accepting whatever new ending is being rewritten for me. No, I am still wrestling. Wrestling hard, wrestling deep and ugly. Some days I come out on top, and some days I’m pinned quick by all the sharp and broken pieces of it all. But that’s the thing I guess… I dreamed my life would be a beautiful mosaic… I suppose that means I have to begin with the pieces.
This may not be the story I would have chosen for myself, but it is the story that will shape me and color the way I view each of my future moments. I have been learning that the sharing of my story brings healing, and hearing the hard stories of people brave enough to share them has made me brave, and I hope that courage will continue to be passed from one to another. We are all broken in some way or another; meeting each other in those broken places provides a safe and healing place to face our deepest, most painful questions together.
What are you hiding from?
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Lying there in the scratchy, unflattering folds of hospital blue, the crunch of paper stuck to the pain-sweat that slicked down my skin. My eyes were fixed on a wavy, colored light that slowly melted from warm blues and greens to soothing purples and golds, and back again. I was startled by the green scrubs that began chanting at me “We are breathing in together. In through your nose, out through your mouth; nice deep breaths. You’re doing great.”
She was wrong. I’m not doing great. In the deep inhales to distract my mind, I still hear the fear even louder. The blurs of soothing light draw my focus only enough to be jolted back by the cold touch and the sharp jabbing of the unnatural. The tearing raw of my skin during weekly routines, and the endless waking and checking and measuring and eternal dripping of the life-giving liquids feels no longer a hope, but a taunting anchor or what used to be.
I hold tight the salty wet of my eyes until the dark refuge of my quilts, because sets of young bright eyes are looking, watching, being brave for me and hoping to find me brave too. Those faces are what give me war-blood to push back hard; to carve giant chunks of living that are difficult and excruciating, but to them are memories treasured. Today’s sorrow leaves me wondering what I have left to give, but just as the sun relentlessly continues to peer over the treetops to light each dark morning, I know night will bring a small refreshing, a renewing of strength, and a little more fuel to burn for each one more day.
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Hope has been a weighty word for me over the most challenging seasons of my life. I have clung to it, believed it, pressed into it. There is much beyond me that I cannot grasp, and I do not pretend to have the answers. What I’ve come to rest in though, is that whatever we are each hoping in, whether it is something tangible or not, is worth pursuing when it keeps our feet hitting the floor on the most suffocating mornings. Hope is worth clinging to when it gives us the will to keep fighting an impossible battle. Hope is worth reaching for when it magnifies our purpose and causes our love to multiply and reach far beyond our own borders. So until the time comes to lay down your battle, keep finding something that gives you hope. Keep waking up and remembering it each morning, and using it as the fuel that propels you through the thick storms and out into the sunshine of triumph.
You may pick up on the change in the normal flow of my writing…. though I am doing my best to dig back to where the therapeutic pouring of my deepest thoughts come from, I am finding a new struggle in finding the right words. Perhaps C.S. Lewis said it best… “Life is too deep for words. So don’t try to describe it. Just live it.”
It seems like just yesterday we were pillow-fighting among a Christmasy pile of wrapping paper and bubble wrap, the weight of my new fire department badge was hanging proudly against the deep background of my blues, and I was eagerly shifting weight back and forth to carve the smooth edges that were getting me in shape for a new season-long adventure of snowboarding. That’s the thing about blinking; we all have to do it.
This blink, standing on that edge of adventure flashed uncomfortably quickly to the fighting for my life. I know without the lows, the highs would have no context, but I find myself surprised and restless, uncomfortable with the depth of it, and ravenous for another taste of the mountaintops. This valley is broken, so broken.
My little sister and I long ago made a habit of texting each other every day a small although valuable list of what we have found to be thankful for each day. Some days those lists come easily, some days you can tell that it was a harder day than most to find some good in, and some days well, some days when the list is something like, “I’m grateful I have socks,” you send back a whole line of emotion-appropriate emojis and a prayer that tomorrow will be kinder. Nonetheless, I am grateful for this habit she has tried to ingrain in me, because when faced with a trial such as now, there is something in me still trying to make lists of the good. I mean, not always, because it’s much easier for me to fall victim to self-pity, or fear, or anger, but let me put it writing and proclaim to the crowds that in spite of the suffering, there is very much good in my life. Every day. Even when I don’t feel like admitting it.
There have been gifts from friends who know exactly what I need…
There have been hands to hold on the hardest days…
There has been company to uplift me when I’m feeling isolated…
There have been bright and loving reminders of where I came from, to make being away from home more embraceable…
There have been friends who have sacrificed their time, their gifts, their cooking, their families, their sleep, and their tired, cramping hands to sit at my feet and rub them for hours…and never complain.
There has been no shortage of snuggles…. waking…
There have been friends who not only haven’t let me quit, but have also quietly let me attempt a few /potentially unreasonable/ things, just so I could feel like a normal person who still had some sense of control in life…
There has been beauty found in surprising places…
There has been laughing…
For every day that I have met with fearful gasps for breath, or had to cancel my favorite plan because I wouldn’t be walking that day, that ever-cheerful sun has still risen over my brokenness, and found my dearest people continuing to show up for me. Whether I’m digging deep to use all my energy to get out for a bit, or I’m tearfully wedged among pillows, grumbling at my inability to meet the day how I wanted to, they are here, doing their best to meet my needs, make me smile, and help me learn to live with these new broken edges.
I should be counting these gifts all day, every day, but the fear and the pain and the sheer exhaustion pulls at me hard enough sometimes to shake my focus. Help me remember, will you? Whatever the future holds, these stepping stone days of getting there are rich in beauty if I am willing to let it in.
Where do you find beauty in your broken?
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There has been so much staring at ceilings lately, and so much I want to say, need to say, yet perhaps for the first time in, I don’t know,
-ever?- I am finding myself at such a deep loss I don’t know how to begin. The words start to come, gently… bravely, and then a swipe of fear and anger sends the letters swirling again into a meaningless pile. Perhaps I need one of those, what are they named? Where you hand them your disarray of crumpled papers, scribbled on napkins, and mismatched words and they turn it into a beautiful slice of neatly bound literature. Yes, perhaps I must find myself one of those. In the meantime, it’s coming. These emotions I am learning to put words to are braving the sticky ink and the foreboding pages, and they are gaining strength with the hope that someday they could be the mantra to someone else’s impossible. Someday they will be someone’s cherished slice of remembering, so I had best get to writing.
Chances are many of you have already read this, but I’m going to re-post this here so that I may reference it in the near future with a pretty important post I have forthcoming. This was originally an essay I wrote for one of my nursing pre-req classes for school. The assignment was pretty vague; it simply had to be about a learning experience. Many of my friends and family stood witness to the deep shades of gray circles that took up residence beneath my eyes as I battled life, death, and sleepless nights, all for the right to trade mine in for one that said Paramedic. My learning is never done, but here are some of the initial boot-shaking things I learned about that sparkle patch in my earliest days.
I will never forget the very first call I went on as an EMT Basic student. Only a portion of the way through the semester, that first ride-along was to give me a taste of what I was working toward, and put me to the test to see if I had what it took. There I was, sitting in the back of the ambulance, my pockets stuffed with all the equipment and cheat sheets I thought I would need in order to save lives that day. A quiet voice crackled across the radio, and my life would never be the same. Adrenaline surged through my veins as we flew, sirens screaming, toward the victims of a car accident that had called for help. It was in that moment, trying to reign in my fear and excitement, that I knew this was where I wanted to be. That first call turned out to be a simple scenario that would come to be routine for me in the months and years ahead. but it was the steps in between that changed me and shaped me into the Paramedic I am today.
Becoming a Paramedic seemed a noble feat, a position that was cut and dry; you call for help, I come save your life, we all go home at night. Those tinted glasses of naivety blinded me from some harsh realities and some amazing truths those first few months, but time and experience cleared the lenses, revealing the gray that washes between the black and white. Within a week of testing out of EMT Basic class and receiving my license to practice, I got my first major trauma call. It was the Fourth of July and I was hanging out at the fire station with a bunch of fellow members that were barbecuing and enjoying the holiday. When the tones went out, I was hustled out to one of the responding vehicles and wished enthusiastic “good lucks!” My own pulse thumped louder than the sirens as I went through every mental checklist I could think of, certain I was going to have this one covered.
I took in a sharp breath as we pulled on scene and I took in the horrific sight strewn across the road. First glance told us all this was a bad one, but two things changed me that afternoon. The first was as I walked up behind the car that was being cut apart to free the mangled driver. On the shattered glass of the rear window was a faded Star of Life sticker, clinging to the broken shards. That was when reality whispered that it could happen to anyone, even those you know and love.
The second sight that sent my thoughts reeling was the driver of the other car, standing unscathed on the side of the road, frantically pulling empty beer bottles from his floorboard and smashing them on the side of the road, trying to cover up what he had done. Is this real life? Innocent people crushed by the weight of others’ deliberate poor decisions? Why is it the bad guy makes it out ok, and our young friend is left clinging to life? This was not the heroic glory I was expecting to feel.
As my career progressed, my eyes were opened to the other truths that had been so buried in the myths I believed as a child. My parents taught my siblings and I the value of 911. We learned the dire situations that would require you to dial that number, and held sacred the seriousness of that action. Bleary-eyed and hungry after marathon dashes from call to call though, I learned a surprising practice that was all too common in the real world. 911 was a convenience, not a privilege. People called for us for scraped knees, for cracked calluses, and for feeling anxious. They met us in their driveways with suitcases packed, standing next to the family car that seemed in perfect working order, even in the ER waiting room where they felt the wait was taking too long. We raced through red lights, risking our lives and the others around us to arrive to find patients who had run out of medication and would like a ride to the emergency room; but don’t worry, your tax money will pay for it. This was shocking to me, but as much as we all hate it, there are enough loopholes in the system that this will continue to happen day after day. And we thought it was about saving lives…
In spite of the grueling demands on my body and mind, I continued to further my knowledge by moving on to pursue my EMT Intermediate license, and eventually my ultimate goal of becoming a Paramedic. Years of class and hundreds of hours of clinical time later, I reached the top. My patch sparkled with the golden threads that signified my new standing, and my mind was packed with the maximum ability to perform all the skills and give all the medications I possibly could. This is it I thought. Now I can really help people. That’s what we believe; we learn as children that when there’s an emergency, the firemen and policemen and paramedics come and fix everything for us. That is where the harshest reality brought me to my knees. I was educated and rehearsed to handle every situation. I could perform every life-saving skill in the book. What I had forgotten was that it’s not always up to me. The limp body of a two-year-old boy was hurriedly lifted onto my stretcher. As my ambulance went lurching and squealing off to the hospital, my hands took over as my mind calmed into the rhythmic muscle memory I had practiced so many times . I stabilized, supported, breathed, and provided everything I possibly could for this young life. My prayers surrounded each breath I pumped into his tiny lungs as he clung to life. I watched each miracle flutter of his heart struggling inside his sunken chest, and kept on begging for one more beat, one more beat. Later I stood at his bedside next to his parents, tears blurring the features of the cheesy grin that gleamed back at me from a photo of him taped to the headboard above his breathing tube. He held on for a week, and then he was gone. All the fancy treatments in the world couldn’t save him. I cried. I cried because he was innocent. I cried because the faces of his family were etched deep into my memory. I cried because I, the Paramedic, was supposed to have saved him, and at the pinnacle of my experience and knowledge, there was nothing I could have done.
My road to Paramedic was long and not as straight as I had imagined. It was disappointing on numerous occasions and heartbreaking on more days than I can count. I have learned that there are only few things that are black and white, and people aren’t who they pretend to be. I have learned that innately good people sometimes die, and people hellbent on being hellbent sometimes live. I have learned that no matter how capable I am, there are times when nothing I can do will help. Most importantly, I have learned that where I am willing to change, I will grow. Being weak will make me strong, being wrong will show me right, and being willing to change and learn will keep me from growing hard. There will be call after call that leaves me scowling, but in the midst of them, there will be times when I really do make a difference. And that, my dear friends, is what will keep me coming back for more.
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Ok, I’m a little late over here… my blog is having epic crashes trying to keep up, and it hasn’t wanted to let me put up my Christmas post! Changes coming soon! Anyway…Christmas…
We knew we weren’t going to be able to plan much ahead of time this Christmas, so we didn’t commit to any travel or any visitors or activities. Sounded kind of bland to me, but it turned out to be just the best. It was a quiet and very low-key, snow-dusted day with just my closest people at home. It was a day of playing and resting and soaking up the sounds of the bookend brothers and the middle sisters giggling and singing and thoroughly enjoying making magnificent memories.