I didn't blog here much last year. I kind of have a life principle not to complain and I tend to take it very seriously. My close friends know that the longer I go without calling or otherwise talking, the worse things are. And if I'm not going to tell them, I am certainly not going to splash it all over the internet. But I did mention a time or two that last year was a very bad year.
I limped to the end of that very bad year, keeping my eyes fixed on the prize: a week between Christmas and New Year's when the boys would be gone with Mike and the girls and I would be home with absolutely nothing we had to do.
After a year that saw financial hit after hit, I was going to sink into that week and just relax in knowing a Christmas bonus had breathed a sigh of relief into our bank account. I was going to catch my breath before the next orthopedic surgery, hope that there would be no bad developments in Mike's mother's struggle with cancer, no life-threatening adolescent crises, no new crushing necessary expense. I was going to sew. I was going to read novels. I was going to play games with the girls, and stay up late chatting about things that had nothing to do with the ER or broken appliances or cancer. I was going to take them to Zoo Lights and ice skating and out to eat. I was going to put the year to bed by framing its final week in hope and glory.
I got sick. I spent the entire week in bed writhing in intestinal pain. I did none of the above.
Then, ever the optimist, I just told myself that Mary Beth's semester didn't start until January 18th and Patrick's surgery wasn't until January 13th, so I'd re-schedule my Perfect Week and claim the time from January 2nd until I left for Charlottesville to help Paddy with surgery. There. Perfect.
Mike had been pleading with me to make some special plans for my birthday, insisting that decade birthdays need to be ACKNOWLEDGED and CELEBRATED. I told him I'd love to go to Mass at the Shrine downtown and then take the whole crew to Chinatown for lunch. He made sure everyone knew the plan and they would all be in town to make it happen. Game on. The first two weeks of 2016 were going to be full of all good things.
I got off to a fairly decent start. A friend listened to my fitness goals from afar and encouraged me to the Run the Year with her. Together, we'd cover 2016 miles. I knew I could do my half, because I knew I can go distances, but secretly I planned to push myself to cover all 2016. This was going to be my year. That time outside running and walking is time I'd missed the previous year, but time I knew had been so beneficial the year before that.
I talked with people who give good advice and settled on a word for the year. Great word. Great vision. In later conversations about goals, I found myself a little troubled by a friend's lack of enthusiasm for some other plans, but I tried to push those thoughts away. They didn't go away. I respect her and she clearly thought I was off the mark on my Goals 2016. Still, I was moving forward with my plan to bury last year and move full steam ahead into my firm belief that mind-over-matter would make this year better.
On January 6, I took the boys the gym. I logged my five miles and headed out of the cardio area feeling oddly lightheaded. I just couldn't catch my breath. I went home, found that the girls had cleaned the house, and I delightedly seized the extra time to go up to our local Montessori school and sit and chat with my friend Carmen, the directress. We have some big plans for this year and I was eager to talk plans with someone who'd be enthused. Later, I stretched well on my yoga mat, there in my super clean bedroom, and then I went to bed early.
The next morning, I awoke with a wicked cough. I didn't get out of bed that day. Or the next. We moved slowly into the weekend and the grand birthday plans morphed into Mass at the local high school auditorium (just like every ordinary Sunday) and carry-in Indian food. My whole focus was on getting better so that I could help Patrick with surgery. On Monday, I grocery shopped for the week and prepped so kids at home could eat in my absence. On Tuesday, I drove two hours to Charlottesville. I figured I'd been sick almost a week, surely this bug was nearly finished. I still felt sick. And then, sicker.
Somehow, Patrick and I muddled through his surgery day. Instead of waiting the fours hours in the hospital, I went and sat outside a coffee shop across the street. I knew that if I coughed the way I'd been coughing in that hospital waiting room I'd either be asked to leave or admitted. I took Patrick home to my father's house and he and my stepmother helped me to care for him. Breathing became harder every day. My voice was completely gone. I texted Mike--because I truly couldn't talk--and told him that the crackles and rattles in my chest were loud and insistent. We'd been here before and I was sure I had pneumonia.
Here is where I will admit that when you are a cancer survivor and your chest begins to talk to you under the scar tissue, there is a unique kind of terror that grips you in the middle of the night and haunts you when daylight comes.
I drove home two days later and collapsed into my own bed. The next morning, I was officially diagnosed and a course of antibiotics and steroids was set. I slept downstairs on the couch so that hopefully Mike wouldn't be disturbed by my coughing and I could more easily sleep sitting up. On the morning of the day I now see as the Rock Bottom Day, I woke to the worst asthma attack I have ever experienced. My husband came barreling down the stairs and together we nebulized and medicated and did whatever 28 years of parenting asthmatics has taught us. But we both knew that we were seconds away from dialing 911. The meds kicked in. We muddled through the morning. In the early afternoon, I was still struggling so hard to stop coughing and just breathe that I took the vaporizer from its stand on the floor and lifted it onto my lap. I wanted to hang my head over it and inhale more directly. I blame lack of oxygen for this poor decision. I poured boiling water onto my lap. Despite quick action on the part of my teens, large blisters formed immediately. Mary Beth went and got the biggest bandaids they make. I slept with ice packs on my lap for the next 24 hours. The next day, we all realized that in our haste to spread ointment and cover the wounds we hadn't bothered to make sure the bandages were latex-free. There were hives under the adhesive, bordering the blisters. Insult to injury.
From there, we had day after day of very slow healing. I still have no voice. It's been three weeks. We all hunkered down together for a blizzard--and the most snow this neighborhood has ever seen. Throughout these days of just concentrating on breathing and chastising myself for allowing myself to get so run-down, a voice has hissed in my ear. "Are you serious? You are actually going to have the audacity to invite women to come along on a journey of healing and restoration again this year for Lent? Clearly, you are the world's worst example of how to take care of yourself. You have nothing to offer. Nothing."
Honestly, I had thought I'd heard a friend say I had nothing to offer just as my saga began and somehow, in my misery, that distortion of what she'd actually said took on a life of its own and grew and grew and grew. How can someone who so clearly ran herself into the ground during a year that was everything she didn't want emotionally, spiritually, physically, and relationally have something to offer other women who are similarly tired and discouraged? Really, how can someone who got so discouraged and disappointed and defeated last year offer anything to anyone, ever?
Don't you have to have it all perfectly figured out and perfectly live what you know in order to offer something of value to other people?
[Um. Probably not. If that were so, we'd have no minsters of anything.]
I sifted through the pages and pages of Restore during a couple of those long days. There is truth there. Beautiful truth. The reality is that I know the contents of the Restore Workshop. I know every thoughtful, intentional component of the gift that workshop has been to me and the hundreds of women who have participated in it. Truth is truth. And I have never needed to focus on what Restore offers as much as I do right now. Today.
Honestly, I'm very grateful for the circumstances which made it so that these principles are thoughtfully collected in this manner for a time such as this.
Sitting in the wreckage of last year and looking at the dubious beginning of this year, it is clear that simply pressing the re-set button and starting over isn't going to cut it. What is needed is a total recommitment to principles of self-care that are necessary both to recover and to live this life of Christian womanhood with joy. I want to restore my joy.
Intrigued about Restore? Have a few minutes more to hear what it's all about? Click here.