Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Quick-Reference Guide to Making It Through

Life doesn't always go as planned.

I thought this past weekend would be busy: a good friend planned to visit for a few days and I was scheduled to both sing and direct the choir for Easter service.

On Thursday, I was trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done that needed to be done before the weekend hit -- grocery shopping, animal feed and bedding bought, house cleaned, Easter basket goodies procured. Then I took WunderGuy to the hospital for his MRI...

...and suddenly, the little concerns that had been filling my mind were forcibly evicted to make room for the rather morbidly obese concerns that came barreling in and started complaining about the tiny size of their living quarters.

Instead of our planned holiday weekend, WunderGuy enjoyed a brisk, midnight ambulance ride to U of MI, where they drilled holes in his skull and drained blood and fluid through tubes that ended in things that looked, ironically, like hand grenades.

Sleepless nights! [check]

Unexpected stress! [check]

Vast quantities of blank uncertainty! [check. check]

But now it's Tuesday. Easter is over, and in keeping with the weekend's themes of Passover and New Life, WunderGuy has made it through. He was released Monday afternoon. We are both grateful to be home.

Some thoughts on making it through a situation you never wanted to face:

Keep Your Spirits Up
The problem won't go away just because you want it to. You have to deal with it. Time will continue ticking and dragging you forward with it. Chin up! Instead of wallowing in misery or fear, focus on just one thing at a time, and leapfrog forward from moment to moment as positively as possible.
Find Something to Be Thankful For
Yes, there can be gratitude even in crisis. The past few days have made me thankful for skilled medical professionals, readily available coffee, and my amazing friends. I'm thankful for free hospital wi-fi. I'm thankful my car runs. I'm thankful that my daughter is healthy and is getting to spend some quality time with her grandpa. I'm thankful that WunderGuy isn't in a great deal of pain.

After talking with some of the other patients' families here, my List O' Gratitude grew exponentially. I'm also thankful that WG can see, that he is not battling addiction, that he can think clearly, and that his personality hasn't changed.

My friend, the fantastic photographer Charles Hilton, once told me about his first day as a soldier in Vietnam. Shortly after getting off the plane, his unit was attacked. He remembered lying on the ground, concussed and terrified, and opening his eyes -- to notice that the light coming through the jungle trees was the most beautiful he'd ever seen. And he thought "with light like that, I can keep on going."

Laugh a Little
I'm guilty of gallows humor. I can find humor -- usually wildly inappropriate humor -- in just about any situation.

It's a gift that's not always appreciated.

But laughter can go a long way toward making the unknown bearable. We spent most of Friday in U of MI's ER, waiting to be admitted, waiting for the surgeon... Waiting.

Fortunately, I had brought along a couple of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" books. Seriously. Fiction is a wonderful way to pass the time when the cosmic shoe has dropped upon you. It offers a quick escape. It provides quotable passages, enabling you to interact with others, if you wish, without having to search for something cogent to say.

It's amazing how quickly laughter can stave off fear. The two loathe each other and refuse to spend much time in each other's company. Given my druthers, I'd rather hang with laughter.

Send for Support
A crisis is not the time to try to go it alone. Let people you know and trust know what is going on. If you are a private person, you don't have to go into all the gory details. You could just say "Something has come up. It's too big for me to handle alone. I could really use your prayers and support for the next few days."

Tell people only as much as you want to. And don't be afraid to ask for what you need. 

I am so blessed that my father is nearby, so our 12 year old daughter could stay near home with him instead of chewing her nails 150 miles away in the ER. 

A good friend stepped in and took care of the horses, dogs, chickens, ducks, and barn cats while we were away. 

Another good friend came for a visit and brought a giant casserole of food, knowing that we'd appreciate it. (Thank God for her; when we returned yesterday, all we had to do was heat and eat. Mmmmm!)

My fabulous agent, who has her hands full with her own life, talked with me on the phone while WG was in surgery. Since at that point, I'd been awake for nearly 36 hours, I doubt I made much sense. Yet she never let on.

Have Faith
In the time it took for me to send a few hastily typed texts, WunderGuy was on multiple prayer lists and countless support networks. I don't even know how many people know about his condition. But I've heard from many people who heard from a friend... or a church member... or a colleague. And I am grateful for their well-wishes.

One dear Mormon friend, who lives half a continent away, made a few phone calls and sent a pair of missionaries to us, to bless WG. We are not Mormon. But their prayer was lovely and the blessing greatly appreciated.

One sweet friend who is an atheist sent short messages of love and encouragement. She does not share my belief in an all-powerful, all-loving God. But she is faithful with her support, which means the world to us.

Knowing that other people are thinking of us and supporting us, lifting us up in whatever way is meaningful to them energizes us enough to keep doing that moment-to-moment leapfrog thing I mentioned earlier.

Remember: Yours is Not the Only Battle in the War
Resist the temptation to think that your crisis has somehow become the center of the world. It may be what your world revolves around. But other people have to deal with their own things, too--often, at the same time as you.

While WunderGuy and I were in the ER, others we knew were in crisis as well. Fifteen hundred miles away, a writer friend was in the ER with her son, who is battling strep. A colleague in Colorado was in the ER with her business manager who had a torn rotator cuff and cracked bones. A good friend was losing a battle with addiction issues. And another friend was enduring a months'-long headache that refuses to be controlled.

60 hours after surgery: WunderGuy & I are headed home!
Commiserating with these people, as well as with the ones in the hospital with us, helped us avoid the "Why Me?" quagmire of narcissistic misery. Listening to what others are going through can do wonders to put things in perspective.

It's Only Temporary
No matter how bad things get, nothing on this earth lasts forever. Everything we experience here is only temporary. Tomorrow, today will be gone, never to return. Houses and health, work and wealth, can all vanish in a moment. No one is entitled to a crisis-free life. The good news is that crises can't last indefinitely. Eventually, "this, too, shall pass."

Until it does, wishing you all the best as you make your way through whatever life has thrown at you.


Alyson P said...

Amen. Awesome post, my dear. You know I love you!

Rozenia Marinho said...

I am amazed and thankful for you Ami, you are amazing women. Thanks for been so strong and helpful in a time like this for you. You are strong! I did know the last episode until know. May God Bless all your family. You all are in my prayers. AMEM.

akaterrie said...

You always make sense to me.

Ami Hendrickson said...

MWAH! The feeling is entirely mutual, my dear!

Ami Hendrickson said...

Rozenia: Thank you so much, for your spirit, your prayers, and your kind support. I cannot tell you how blessed we feel to know that people all over the world are lifting us up. :)

Ami Hendrickson said...

Awwww... ~blush~ I suspect you are just adept at translating. ;) Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending the missionaries to pray. "Where two or three are gathered in my name ...." Love you both and Alyson too.