Life never gives you more than you can handle. Wise words once bestowed upon me by my loving grandmother. She’s right, but she chose her words carefully. In reality, it should read more like, “never more than you can handle, but damn humbling”.
Previously, I’ve mentioned my inherent disposition. Timid and meek aren’t words I made myself familiar with in my youth. Self-assured, stubborn, strong-willed, even pig-headed, if you must, are all accurate depictions of my character. Let me wander a moment to make my point. So, I’m three years old and not so patiently waiting in the butcher’s lineup with my proper and polite English mother. The butcher, moving through molasses, is taking her time creating the perfect cut of meat. As she makes her way back to the counter to face us, I had lost my last ounce of patience. “That lady’s a son of a…” Needless to say, that was the last time my mother shopped in that grocery store. I speak my mind, whether or not it’s warranted. I am right. I am always right. I very perfectly do my research to ensure this. When I make up my mind, good luck to the poor soul trying to change it. So… living my childhood, through my teens and twenties, and wrangling my thirties I plowed forward like hurricane Katrina through Louisiana. Until one day, things changed. Suddenly, my tightly gripped handles of life were swerving into oncoming traffic and the tighter I held on the bumpier the ride got. I was now in new territory.
I remember the day clearer than most, even though my vision was doubled and the world was upside down. Wednesday. I couldn’t tell you the date, but the fact that it was Wednesday somehow stands out as relevant. Lord, knows why. My alarm sounded, as usual, but this time I swatted and swerved in the dark unable to locate it. Feeling as though I was rising from a triple bender slumber reminiscent of my twenties, I shook my head. Yikes. Ok, so don’t do that again. Swirling and twirling, the world went round. “To your feet” I thought. Desperately rising to my feet I quickly found myself grounded again. “Did I drink last night and forgot?” My foggy mom-brain strained to remember last night’s events… dishes, laundry, screaming baby, and bed. Nope. Not a lick of hooch. Let’s be honest, it’s not as though it hadn’t crossed my mind when she refused to go to sleep, screaming in agony over the newest tooth cutting through; but truthfully I had been too tired to put any effort into uncorking a bottle. Now standing in the bathroom I slowly, almost robotic, watched the blood drain from my face. Suddenly, the booming bang of my heart overwhelmed my ears. My breath quickly left my body and my knees buckled under pressure. But, instead of fading into the dark I quickly became reacquainted with last night’s pasta el dente. Hours later waking from, what felt to be, a drugged slumber I felt confused. I hadn’t experienced stomach flu like that. Ever. Truth be told, I thought I’d had a heart attack. Moving forward, episodes like this became commonplace, some more severe than others. Eventually, I began to lose dexterity. My right arm lost sensation and writhed with pins, needles, and pain. Soon to follow were my feet and eventually my left arm.
Fast-forward a year and a half and my daughter is almost three. “Sick”, “tired”, and “doctor” are words she knows, and uses, well. I wish I could reassure you, pat your tortured soul and give you the happy ending your heart is yearning for, but I can’t. The thing about being stubborn, strong-willed, and independent is that you refuse to neglect your duties. You don’t easily slow down. Truthfully, you try your best to keep your family afloat, in the green, and plastered with smiling faces. You deep breathe through the spins, nausea, and pain. You keep your thoughts to yourself, your pain hidden, and try your best to keep up. Unfortunately, this only works for so long and doesn’t do you any favors.
I watched a business, I painstakingly built, crumble. I watched a career I scratched and clawed my way up to disappear like summer fading into fall. I watched friends judge, discriminate, and walk away. I have even watched as family members second-guessed my health, my choices, and my direction. But, after enduring loss, agony, confusion, and anger a weight lifted. It took time, but one day I got it. Life never gives you more than you can handle. The words I had cursed over the last year and a half finally made sense. I know, you’re sitting there thinking I’ve actually lost it. I’ve headed to the coo-coo house never to be returned, but hear me out. Patience is a virtue. A valuable lesson I never learned as a child. However, when you’re sick and needing care all you can do is wait. You wait for the next referral, the next test, or the next medicine to kick in. Tick tock, tick tock. Eternally waiting. Being sick forced me to slow down. It made me become vulnerable, softer, and pensive; said qualities being the definitive opposite of my own. It allowed me to learn three intrinsically valuable lessons: don’t make mountains out of molehills, patience is a virtue, and go ahead and let your hair down.
Mountains & Molehills…
When you walk a tight line between the living and the dead, simplistic worries become irrelevant. Silly things couples quibble over seem bemusing to watch. Does it really matter who takes out the garbage? Whose turn it is to get up with the baby? Why does it matter whether the couch is grey or off grey? When there are no turns because mommy is singing to the porcelain gods again, you’re grateful to get a turn on that bumpy marry-go-round at all. You begin to see the beauty in life. Not just in the beautiful things, but also in those we discard like weeds. You see beauty in the simple tasks, in playing with your children, in working, or even in doing daily chores because your choice is now vacated. These things no longer seem like annoying obstacles, but privileges bestowed on the healthy. The lesson I learned is fight over the big stuff and let the little things be little. Don’t inflate the mundane to be Olympic in size. No ones winning medals by conquering those battles.
Patience & virtues…
Google, McDonald’s, and the Autobahn… society is obsessed with speed. As if it isn’t bad enough that we want all that and a bag of chips, we also want it NOW. Driving over the speed limit already, I can see the red car behind me quickly approaching my bumper. I look in the rear view at my daughter and she’s oblivious to the anger seeping up behind her. She’s humming her own version of “Old McDonald” to herself. My vision focuses back on the gentleman behind me, red in the face, clearly holding his breath, with his hands flailing. I can only imagine the commentary in that car. We reach a clearing up ahead and his red car flies by like a belligerent version of The Flash, screaming obscenities as he passes. Really? 68 in a 60-warranted foul language, rising blood pressure, and Evil Knievel like stunt driving? Lord help the old lady that pulls in front of him next. I sigh relief he’s passed and be thankful that I can still drive. Period. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but driving is a privilege and not a right. If I’d lost more feeling, had more pain, or my symptoms progressed in a different fashion, perhaps I’d currently be without a license. After a year and a half of playing the waiting game, I’d come to see the serenity yielded by a patient mind. It used to be so hard for me to just be silent. No books, televisions, telephones, magazines or distractions, just myself and my thoughts. I cringe thinking back to a younger version of myself, struggling to master tree pose because I couldn’t quiet my mind to concentrate. The lesson here folks, is freaking slow down! Your children will age much faster than you anticipate, your youth will fade quicker than you’d like to wager, and you’ll park yourself so steadfastly in super speed you’ll be lost and befuddled in retirement. Enjoy life, savor the little moments, and learn to just be.
Hair & Do’s…
As mentioned, I am right. Always right. If you’re not one of these people let me expand the scope of said neurosis for you. It isn’t just about having the correct answer; it’s also about looking just so, acting just right, and about being the one. Long story short, you strive for perfection. You want to look perfect, sound perfect, and be envied. This is a battle in and of itself for those blessed with health. The daily morning battle to primp and prime one’s appearance, the endless careful thought to ensure one’s words are poignantly poised, and that one’s image is always untarnished. But, when your biggest hurdle of the day is keeping your lunch down, preventing north from trading south, and not stumbling as you walk, things like your appearance, carefully thought out words, and your status fail in comparison. Eventually my makeup routine dwindled from twenty minutes to two, I stopped straightening my hair, and realized if they don’t love me for the goofy, funny, light-hearted, life-conquering warrior that I am, then screw ‘em. I flash back to a moment in my youth. I must have been around seven, old enough to have an intermediate knowledge of right and wrong. Perusing downtown with my grandmother, she begins to jaywalk across a main road. “Nanny, the do not walk sign is up”, I holler in dismay. Cool as a cucumber she turns and says, “It’s OK, dear. If they catch me, they’ll think I’m senile in age anyways” and confidently continued on her way. I didn’t understand her sentiment at the time, but I do now. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let your hair down and do as you please.
I won’t be so tacky as to say, “in closing”… so, I’ll just leave you with this. Don’t expect to read this and suddenly have your halleluiah moment. Even if some of this wasn’t a complete and utter lack of sense for you, you need your own substance to give my words truth. Reading the black and white alone won’t magically color the page, but one day, when you’re not expecting it, life will throw you a curveball and suddenly the black and white will be a rainbow of color. All in all, I guess I’m saying I don’t expect to blow up the world having written this, but perhaps create a small crack. Create something tiny, but memorable so that one day it may leave a mark as meaningful and vast as the Grand Canyon. Until that day, my friends, keep an open mind, hug your loved ones, and try to remember to be grateful for all that you have. Or don’t. It’s your life; you live it as blissfully ignorant as you please.