My sister asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday last year. I told her that if I had been well enough, I would’ve wanted to invite friends over to make sandwiches to bring to hungry area children. I used to do this type of thing in high school sometimes, and last year fantasized that it might make for a unique summer birthday gathering that my friends would like to participate in (being my awesome friends). I was really only thinking out loud, and then asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday (since our birthdays fall inside the same week).
When my birthday came around, I went to stay at my parent’s for the week. On the day of my birthday, my family gave me a small photo album filled with pictures of smiling children. “How cute…What is this?” I asked, curious what my family was up to. My parents and sister had arranged to spend the day volunteering for a back to school program called Give a Kid a Chance which prepares underprivileged children for the coming school year. My family donated goods, packed backpacks and checked little heads for lice. They spent their entire Saturday volunteering for this wonderful program in honor of my birthday!!!! I was crying, they were crying, we were all emotional as they shared the details of the day. It is absolutely one of the most heartfelt and most humbling gifts I had ever received, (which others received) and I know I will never forget their beautiful selfless gesture.
When my mom explained why they did it, she said, “Volunteer work has always been such a big part of who you are. After you couldn’t help in the community any more, you turned your attention to caring for people online. Your sister told us what you would have wanted to do for your birthday, so we did this because you would have been doing this if you could have.”
I didn’t realize how much I needed a wake up call until that moment. I felt like a doorbell was being rung to the door of my soul that a warrior part of me had to close in order to stay alive. To fight the illness, I had to know my enemy, and get in the trenches with him. But the price was that a piece of me had to be shrouded away, protected in that way, while I fought through the very worst of it. My family didn’t know how much I desperately NEEDED this reminder of my core, of who I am.
No one had spoken of my former self out loud in what felt like years. Their gracious act and words were like an unlocking spell. Something awakened inside of me on that birthday that started a transformation- which is still in progress. I am so thankful and fortunate for them, for having the ability to see the good in who I am now, and for never forgetting the person I have always been.
I woke up the following morning with this poem trickling from my brain:
In the time and space between
dark rooms and restless painful nights,
you might have time to count
too many stains on the paint.
The time between forgotton breaths
may have left you wondering
who you used to be.
Did the air sneak your old life out?
Under the door?
Through the cracks in the floor?
Like Russian dolls,
the top one falls:
And mama sweeps it away.
Those who recall that ghost,
tip toe beside the host of the demon.
They bring pieces of the past,
until at last you remember.
The apparition waits outside.
Now, you can smell her perfume.
There are times during the fight that we must lay down our old lives and find a way to nurture today, without looking back or too far ahead. But I’ve also learned that reminders of your past can boost your spirit in the midst of a struggle. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you have someone in your life who sees the strength in you and reminds you of it.
Blooming Beauty is by one of my favorite artists: Peggy Wolf. Check out her gallery on Etsy, you’ll love her as much as I do.
You might be waiting for an important test result to come in, for doctors to finally diagnose you after years of unexplained illness, for the medication trial to become available, or you might be waiting to see if your surgery heals without additional complications. You might be waiting for a loved one to return safely from a dangerous trip overseas, for important news about your finances, or you might be waiting to see if your friend will recover from cancer.
Waiting is a helpless feeling, no matter how much we can “help” the situation…the feeling that we are not the ones in control of the outcome makes us feel useless. Not knowing the outcome causes anxious, nervous impatient feelings that, for me come in waves which are accompanied by a racing mind.
For a person who started out bread to be the go-to person for fixing and fast problem solving, it seems life instead has been teaching me about patience, seeking guidance and waiting out storms. Instead of giving me problems to solve, I have problems that can only be solved through the healing of time.
Even though it is a useless feeling to wait, wait, wait, I don’t believe in waiting we are supposed to throw our hands up and stop seeking guidance. There are always more calls we can make, more specialists we can see, ways we can take care of our health, and people we can reach out to. But, if you have been waiting on something that weighs on your heart, there is only so much you can do to push the pace of the answer you so desire. Sometimes we can spin ourselves into a frenzy trying to get the answer we want to come to us faster, when some things are out of our hands. Praying, quietly seeking guidance and listening are also useful actions- though exceedingly more difficult to choose.
I am waiting for some very important answers in my life right now…Some answers that will forever change life as I know it to be. Maybe you remember a stretch of time like that from your past, and how you felt. How did you fill those long days waiting for tomorrow? Because of so many years of chronic illness, it feels as though waiting has been a regular part of life. Life with chronic illness teaches us to find the good, useful, and gratitude inside of the seemingly unlivable. These years of health struggles have taught me to lean into my faith and seek spiritual guidance. I am so grateful for the support and wisdom from those I respect, and I hope to be molded during this trial – what is God teaching me in this moment? …Because nothing is ever wasted.
Earlier this year, I wrote that “strength comes at the step we are on. Not weeks or months ahead.” As I work on waiting, and asking for patience, I try not to dwell on what challenges might come tomorrow. If you remember, my opening post for 2015 was a “No Fear Campaign.” It makes me want to shake my head when I think of the year God has been preparing me for!
About waiting, many say, “Just give it to God” as though it is as simple as forgetting about your heartache with your spouse, or your worries with your family, or your daily physical struggle with health that I know so many reading this are living with. I’m sorry if anyone has said that to you without compassion for what you are going through.
The past couple weeks have felt like an avalanche in many ways. When all of the rubble and dirt fell over me, and I went sliding down the hillside into the valley with the mound, even though I’m covered in a whole pile of dark unanswered questions, underneath, I’m praying, and studying, and being still (listening). Hopefully, this trial of waiting will lead to growth from that soil and rubble. My story is not finished. God is not through with me. Waiting is not doing nothing, waiting can be the most growing period in a person’s life. I am asking to be transformed during a time in limbo.
What did you do or what did you learn while you were in a season of limbo?
“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“What we are waiting for is not as important as what happens to us while we are waiting. Trust the process.”
― Mandy Hale
Have you ever thought that you are the best friend you know? Are you the most responsible, caring, compassionate, shoulder-to-cry-on kind of friend who drops everything to be there for the people you love? Have you ever wished for a friend like yourself?
I used to think that. Although I so adored the people in my life, there were times when I felt some of the things I did for them went under-appreciated. When I had problems in my own life, when I needed someone to make me feel better, I felt empty handed. Sound relatable?
I was a doer, a giver, I needed to be needed. I set my life up so that I was the go-to person for all of my people. I was the Olivia Pope of my world. Even when I moved to a different state, within months I was the one person anyone who knew me could count on. I constructed a safety net for everyone else, but when my own life turned upside down in the form of chronic illness, I felt there was no one to lean on.
Even after illness set in, things did not change. In fact, I felt that no one had a grasp of anything I was going through. For the first time in my life, I was desperate for some care from others and it seemed that no one knew what to say or do for me. Looking back now, some people were generous, and a few did reach out to me. I think it’s because I never learned how to ask for help before, I couldn’t recognize a gift of compassion and I was too prideful at the time to see when people were trying to be there for me.
I was so programmed to say, “No thanks” and “I’m fine” when people tried to help me out. I think I probably pushed them away without meaning to. I didn’t fully learn the gift of receiving until later on.
Sometimes tragedy is like this. The harder things get, the more clarity we can find.
You get so accustomed to being self-reliant and needed by others for so long that when it is time to accept help from another person, it’s like a foreign object that you naturally repel.
People who cared about me wanted to be there for me, but I usually shut them down. There were those who never knew what exactly to do or say, but they tried to just be in my life. I know now that the people who stick around in uncomfortable times are keepers.
Letting loved ones know how exactly they can help makes the people around us feel less powerless. If you give your loved ones specifics, they can learn how to better help with your complex needs. Hints and mind-reading definitely doesn’t count.
I know from personal experience that receiving help and asking for what you need can be a humbling experience. It’s lovely to help others but it can be humiliating when you’re the one who needs the help. That is the first thing I had to try to accept. You will have anger about it…try not to take it out on those giving to you. Don’t say things like, “I’m sorry you have to do this for me,” or “you will get tired of helping me,” or “I can tell you don’t want to be doing that for me.” Don’t critique their attitude, or predict future resentments. Instead, lead with gratitude. Say “thank you.” Your appreciation makes others feel positive.
Gratitude isn’t only an emotion, it’s also a state of mind, and a form of personal expression. The great thing is you can choose to be grateful even at times you don’t necessarily feel that way.
You already know how good it feels to do for others. Learn to be a gracious receiver.
Remember, you are worthy enough to accept the very thing you do all the time for other people. If the situation were reversed, would you be there for your loved one in the same way?
It has taken me a while to learn that lesson. I am still learning… Those who give of themselves are always teaching me to be humble.
I had to consider why my life had always revolved around being helpful, yet I could not receive the help offered to me. To top it off, I was too prideful to ask for help.
When I was finally able to say “thank you” and mean it from the bottom of my heart without resentment, anger, shame or fear: gratitude swept over me and lit up everyone in my life like Christmas lights.
Before, giving and being needed was how I defined myself. Learning to receive showed me the love everyone around me had to offer.
This lesson has been such a challenge; I am still learning to receive and to appreciate the blessings in my life, but the gift of gratitude has been a life-changing lesson. I believe learning to receive with a grateful heart makes a person a more understanding, more compassionate giver.
People love you and are there for you, too. Maybe not in the way you want them to be, but they might be exactly what you need. You are worthy of their love and their help. Please don’t miss out on receiving the blessings that God is trying to bring into your life.
After many years of pain I then came on a time of suffering so unforgiving, it appeared my body would not make it out alive. But finally, I feel an awakening is upon me. In some ways, I believe my brain is renewing itself.
The putrid smell and taste of physical rottenness dissipated. The illness and ongoing pain have not left me by any means whatsoever, yet over this past year I have felt a change occurring inside of my mind. Maybe a transformation.
I did not realize how large a gap I had put between myself and my body these past years. I suppose the traumas experienced under medical care contributed to my drifting. My complete and sudden loss of physical independence surely didn’t help. However, there was no crueler attacker than my own body. To endure this unending physical pain and other debilitating maladies, I must have cut so many ties between me and my lump of person. To live under a physical betrayal so strong you realize no sense of personal willpower can guide the outcome- was an enormous blow. The only way to survive it was to drift beyond my physical self.
~Free My Self~
After the damage to my brain.
After disengaging from my great betrayer: my body.
After the pain went from unspeakable to so immeasurable,
I could no longer speak.
After there were doctors who were unafraid
to use uninvited hands on my body in its weakened state.
After family members had to dress and clean my flesh.
Yes, “my self” liberated from “my body.”
It had to, you see?
This recent awakening began with feeling present again. And new creative thoughts and senses followed. More than my only thoughts, “just breathe, drink, eat.” After years of survival alone, something new surfaced, like a tiny green sprout pushing its way through heavy concrete.
For the past few years, eating has been an uncomfortable challenge and chore. Although I have little appetite, I notice the smell of foods with a new curiosity. And my tastes have changed. I favor different foods and savor scents, flavors and textures I never enjoyed before.
All of my life I have been a sort of “Tom Boy.” Collecting bugs and rocks as a child, preferring to play outside with boys, spending far less time thinking of my appearance than most girls and women it has seemed. The only lotions or perfumes I own have been gifts. But coming into this renewal of myself, I have become acutely aware of my skin. For so long I didn’t have any connection to my flesh-I have even detested it in some ways. The betrayal, the dying, stinking body I could feel slipping away from this world. But it fought. It held onto life! And now, I dab a scented lotion onto my living body in appreciation. I inhale the mild fragrance all day knowing I am the bearer of this pleasant lingering smell.
When did my eyes become attracted to jewel tones like fuchsia and purple? I long to shop for clothes and home decor some day. What!? This is unlike me altogether. Then, as I practice my handwriting, it appears much more feminine than before (my scribble used to be a family joke). Reuniting with my body has brought about a womanly change in me. And I do feel different. Aware of new things. So much has occurred; I don’t think I can go ever back to being that person I used to be. I may as well transform into someone new.
My brain is making connections and is attempting to make friends with my flesh once again. Obviously, there are some new connections, as well. It is challenging to make friends with a body that constantly bites back, but some friendships are difficult yet still rewarding, right? I’m learning a lot about Neuroplasticity and how much the brain renews itself. I hope in time I will be making even more transformations. Who knows what other discoveries I will make along the way and what new connections I might find.
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This entry has been included in The Spoonie Daily online magazine!