Overprotective Anger

DSC01804I walked in to the dining hall and found my hospice friend sitting slumped over in her wheelchair. I kneeled down and gently touched her shoulder to say, “hello.” She barely looked up and then said, “You haven’t come.” She didn’t want to talk. She was mad at me. I tried to explain that my children had been sick and that I did not want to spread any germs to her. But she didn’t want to hear my explanation. Today was not a good day for her. I understood. I positioned her blanket more comfortably. I asked her if I could read her card to her. I got her a Kleenex and itched her nose for her. I tried my best to sneak past her frustration with me.

It didn’t work.

She rested her head down. She slept. She didn’t want to go back to her room. I began talking with her neighbor. Everyone at the table held a stack of stapled papers. I looked through the nine pages. Oh, it was a sermon to follow along with.

“It’s too long. They talk too fast,” one woman said. I agreed.

When you come preaching to the rehab and memory care unit, perhaps you should remember to keep it short and simple. Less than nine pages. Better yet, you may want to sit down and get to know those you come preaching to. Sometimes, we may want to be fixed and sometimes we want to be seen, heard and understood. Listening may be the best sermon you can give.

I suppose that not everybody understands what it feels like to lose all control. To be stuck in a place. To rely on others to move you, feed you, and get you to the bathroom. Not everybody understands what it feels like to be physically and emotionally isolated, angry, and confused. Unfortunately, not everybody has easy access to an imagination that will help them better understand.

I’ve been the one in the wheelchair. And the hospital bed. The shower with assistance. And in the bathroom with an audience of nurses, care assistants, and family. I’ve been connected to IV poles, pain pumps, drains, etc. I’ve been completely stuck. Trapped. Alone in a crowded place.

I’ve been the angry one. And so I’ve learned to not take it personally when patients express anger, frustration, or other emotions to me. I don’t expect an apology. Please, don’t. I sit. I wait. And I will leave if you would like to use a tiny bit of your dwindling supply of control over me. I will come back again.

As Shrek says, “Better out than in.” It’s a million times better that a person would feel comfortable telling me or showing me how they feel. Anger can be an overprotective big sister to sadness, loss, inadequacy, and so many other emotions and feelings. I will be much more hurt if you fake an emotion with me. I think it’s truly an honor to be a bumper, a cushion, a landing place or even a temporary target. I feel that its a privilege, the highest honor to help carry another’s emotional and physical burdens.

My husband asked me, “Do you ever just want to leave when she treats you that way?” No, well maybe, but I don’t. I know she loves me. We all have difficult days. I don’t take her anger personally.

I listened to a woman who needed to talk today. She was not the woman that I came to visit, but she may have needed a companion just as much or more than my friend. She talked and talked and counted her pills over and over again. She asked me questions and told me stories. I’ve talked with her and helped her before. But she doesn’t remember me. Or maybe she does.

Maybe she remembers that I will listen to her. And that I will answer her questions without frustration or annoyance in my tone or eyes. Maybe she remembers that she can tell me she is lost. Or confused. Maybe she knows I will laugh with her about lengthy sermons and the lunch menu. Maybe she knows that I will also help her.

The worlds of senior care and the worlds of pediatrics are not that different. Kindness, compassion, patience, love and your consistent presence will help you navigate both worlds. You should and you will most likely feel sadness, pain, helplessness and loss of control through the eyes and experiences of the patients and families in both worlds. But that doesn’t mean that you should not go back. It means that you must go back. When people stop caring, feeling, empathizing, and helping, this world will be far too dark. A hopeless place.

If you’re not hurting for the wounded, broken, helpless, confused, and isolated, perhaps you are numb. Or perhaps you have over-insulated yourself from the world. May we all find a way to push through the many layers of comfort to find the uncomfortable. Somebody needs you to see them, hear them, and sit with them.

Don’t be offended if you’re not the best thing they’ve ever met since sliced bread. Keep sticking around. Soon, you may proudly be introduced as a friend. Or mistaken for family. Soon, you will hear, “thank you for visiting with me. Can I come visit you, too?” You will walk out of the place with a heavy, yet full heart. You will discover a new kind of insulation that keeps you warm: an internal insulation provided by those you sat with, listened to, heard and understood. Those you loved and helped. And those who loved and helped you, too.

“We are all in the same damn leaky boat together.”-quote from one of my hospice friends

Clean Bathroom Rug

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I laid my head down on the rug of my bathroom floor. Only because I had just washed it. It had not gotten all smushed down from repeated post-shower use. Yet. It was still fluffy and clean. And that worked out well because I was exhausted. Sad. Confused. Emotional. Beyond repair. Boggled thoughts. Unable to articulate what exact thought or event had triggered my current “distant” and sensitive state.

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought.

I emotionally scanned myself. It’s always difficult to determine what may be the exact reason for a sudden onset of the blues. Parenting exhaustion. Disease fatigue. A wave of grief. The grumps. A negative outlook. A sour face to go along with a curdled disposition.

My husband knows me well. It’s as if he immediately saw my thoughts escape somewhere else, away from the rowdy dinner table. I couldn’t tell another boy to sit down and eat. So I sat there apathetically. I knew that a glass of milk would soon surely spill but I was prepared to not react. My husband asked what was wrong.

“It’s complicated,” is what I thought.

So, I said nothing. One of my boys waved his hand across my eyes because I stared out the window. Apparently, I had not blinked or changed my facial expression in long enough for him to notice.

Occasionally, I get a bit overwhelmed. Maybe we all do. By life, in general. Or every little and big thing from the laundry to a busy next week to aching kidneys. And all the changes. The big adjustments. And the little ones, too. The future. The unknowns.

I can overthink. Overfeel. I can beat myself up but that doesn’t ever help. There are so many days. Juggling life’s moments scattered with a lot of relationships can be tricky, especially if you’re not so graceful like me. Balls drop. I sometimes bend over to pick them up quickly. Quick! Nobody saw that! Other times, I can’t get to them before my little people hand them to me. Then nights like tonight, I just plop myself down on the ground. I take a break from all of the juggling because I’m tired. And sad. It feels like one of them nailed me smack dab on my face, right on that sensitive part of my nose. Ouch.

Shhh. Be very quiet.

There is a hidden great grandma introvert rocking away inside of me. There are times when my extroverted self needs a break. I need to retreat to a serene, distraction-free place. All by myself. It doesn’t matter the place. A bathroom floor or a secluded overly full closet will do. I just want to curl up like a baby or a tired long-legged child. I don’t want to answer any questions. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want to worry about the present or the future. I need to release a swarm of tears. Alone. I don’t want anyone to worry about me because I will be okay. I really will.

I promise.

I will get up off of the clean rug. I will say goodnight to my big boys and cuddle my six and a half year old baby boy. I will wake up to a new day full of life, hope and endless possibilities. I know that the same three energetic boys who hugged me as tight as they possibly could when they said “goodnight” will wake me, tickle me, wrestle me and laugh me out of bed when the sun rises again.

Tonight, I told myself that it’s okay to be sad, grieving the past and overwhelmed at the future from time to time. Here you go self, sadness permission granted. I think I do a pretty damn good job of being genuinely happy and grateful most of the days. Some moments or days are just harder for whatever reason. However big or small.

I’m not giving up, just taking a moment to recover. I try my hardest to cherish most of the days, even the challenging ones. I typically push myself to find the good. The sparks of light or the gigantic sunset in front of my face. I try to recognize and embrace the fleeting moments.

But there are some moments that come at me like a fall off the monkey bars. They knock the breath out of me. They arrive quickly and unexpectedly. Wind escapes and it’s just so hard to breathe. I try not to panic, or overreact, so I can just get through them. Wait. Don’t try to breathe yet. Oh, dear Lord, see me, hear me and help me. All the time but especially during these hard overwhelming moments. And help others like me.

Slowly. Gently.

Breathe in, and breathe out.

There. I did it.

I step out of the bathroom and think,

“Goodnight, tonight. Welcome, tomorrow. It will be so nice to see you.”

 

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

-Psalm 147:3

 

Favorite Doctor Thank You note

IMG_9661I walked out of a new doctor’s office today with two discrete green bags. It looked like I had just bought several new pairs of shoes. Feeling all-Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” I walked out to my car. Where did I park again? I drove to the bakery because I had pre-determined my post-doctor’s appointment destiny. I told myself that I could go get a pastry and a coffee after my appointment. Yes, an incentive or grown-up prize motivator for completing a dreadful task.

I love this certain bakery because there is a kind woman who works there who accidentally shares great stories with me. I thought if she’s working today then that will be an extra prize for me. I have too many -ologists. Pulmonologist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist, urologist. But, I do have pretty spectacular health still. I can drive myself to my appointments. And by golly, I can drive myself to the bakery following my appointments if that’s my Thursday destiny.

This past year, I received two letters in the mail. Letters from two of my different -ologists that he and she would no longer be practicing medicine at a certain location. This can be somewhat disheartening, discouraging and all-together overwhelming for an un-administrative assistant like me. I stink at meeting new doctors. I hate new patient paperwork, new doctor small talk, the waiting. The medical history. Blah. Blah. Boringdy blah. Blah.

But I got to thinking, what if doctors could send a pretty or funny or sympathetic greeting card when they left? I know they’re super busy and have a lot of patients but if they could, I thought of some meat for the card.

“I’m sorry. It’s not you. It’s me…..I’m moving. I’m leaving the practice. I’m retiring.”
“You’re a really awesome patient. I will miss our medical and non-medical talks. P.S.-Sorry for all of the waiting.”
“I’ve seen a lot of patients in those weird paper gowns, but you always looked the best.”
And so on. Oh, wait. One more.
“I wish I could fill out all the new patient paperwork for you. And fax all your records the first time you call, too.”

Ack. What if my doctor left because I never wrote him or her a proper thank-you note? I thought I should do that.

Dear Favorite Dr. or Doctor,

We, experienced patients, get rather attached to our good, old worn-in and perhaps worn-out doctors. You’re the courageous messengers of difficult-to-hear information. You’re the sympathizers, the cheerleaders, the healers, and the gardeners of hope.

You’re with us in some of our darkest, most difficult moments. And you gently help us reach the light switch with that fancy tiny rolling doctor’s stool of yours.

I keep forgetting to write you a thank you note for all that you do. Is it too late? Will you stay now?

I know that you carry your patient’s worries, fears and hopes and dreams with you in that genius brain of yours. How do you remember so much life-saving information?

Your mom must be so damn proud of you. I would have liked to know you under different circumstances, when perhaps, you weren’t wearing your work cape. But I feel honored and privileged to have someone like you taking care of a complicated person like me.

Thank you for seeing me as a “me,” not a disease or a diagnosis or a case study. Thank you for all the times you handed me one of those cheap hospital grade kleenex. Or thanks for sitting next to me on the bed when you had to deliver bad news. Thank you for doing the jobs that you could have had somebody else do. Thank you for being honest in the most respectful and delicate ways. Thank you for handling me and my precious family with compassion, patience, kindness and never-ending care.

Thank you for all of the sacrifices. Please thank your family, too. I know you have spent time away from them helping all of us. Thank you for coming back in the middle of the night. Thank you for your willingness to learn, to adapt, to grow and do the things the right way, which is rarely the easy way.

Thank you for helping me. You’re famous to me.

I will miss you.

And I would fill out the new patient paperwork a million times for a doctor like you.

Love,
Amelia

I don’t always need a self-pep talk or (several)post-doctor’s appointment treats, but today I did. Did I mention that I don’t like filling out all of that new patient paperwork? When I complete it, can I consider it a memoir of sorts? Hooray, I’m a published author. You will have to check my medical records. Boring much? Bonus: There are so many signatures that you won’t even need a signed copy.

Cheap paperback only.

Overcoming

IMG_9649I’ve spooned many dark nights with sadness. I’ve arm-wrestled with anger. I’ve sobbed on the bathroom floor with disappointment. I’ve had one too many drinks with resentment. I’ve hand-cuffed myself to shame. Apathy and I have stared outside my kitchen window. I’ve shared a tarnished best friend’s necklace with inadequacy. Fear has driven me home many nights.

Uncomfortable. Miserable. Trudging. Falling. Bargaining. Despising. All-consuming. Short-lived. Neverending.

I will allow you a brief cameo in my life. On my stage. In my thoughts. Then, I will close the curtain on you.

I recognize you. I’ve met you. I know exactly who you are. And what you are. You’re necessary. Yet, you’re one dimensional.

But I am not.

Goodbye for now. The unknown. My temporary struggles. I have made long term plans with peace. Joy is on my speed dial. My soul patiently holds her hand out for me. Grace knows the code to my garage door. Self-compassion opens her arms wide to hold my truths. Because I have love and mercy overflowing, I will not run dry in the midst of pain, uncertainty and my struggles. My discomfort and questions and lack of answers will not consume me. My faith will steady me.

I will be watching the setting sun before me admiring the gorgeous colors of the sky as they change every day. I will hear the giggling boy beside me. I will push on his left-sided dimple and I will point to mine. I always will be healing. I will never stop growing. As long as I am living. I will stumble. I will fall. And I will get back up again.

Struggles and strengths. They will lead me through this complicated world filled with hope.

God has never left me. He hears my sighs, my laughter and my tears. Jesus feels my pain. And He willingly fills my love tank. The Holy Spirit revives me, recharges me, inspires me. Time after time again.

I am overcoming.

Magic Dog Poop Trick

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I have this pretty fancy trick up my sleeve or at the bottom of my pant leg. I think it could totally become a dog walking trend. I walk my boys and dog to school most days. I get pretty crotchety old-man irritated by dog poop on the sidewalk or right next to the sidewalk because that’s also a danger zone for three running boys. Or me. I typically try to carry a plastic bag for my dog’s poop. Because, inevitably, if I don’t have a bag, he will poop… two times. If you’re like me, you may not have the best memory. Or you may get easily distracted when you enter your house to grab a poop bag and accidentally may never return to find your dog’s poop. You had the best intentions, right?
Here’s a simple way that you can prevent this poop faux-pas from never happening again. Never. I guarantee it. Drum roll.
May I introduce the idea of taking off your shoe as a poop marker? Say what? That’s absurd. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a bit awkward walking the rest of the way home with one shoe on. And your neighbors or spouse may think or say, “where’s your other shoe?” But, you will not forget where your dog pooped. You will be able to walk back with a plastic poop bag, pick up your dog’s poop and then put your shoe back on.
Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.
“But how did you think of this? This is amazing,” you may be thinking.
One day, my pre-coffee morning brain came up with this “poop shoe” idea when I had taken my dog for a long walk. Basically, I was in my head feeling like I needed to contribute to society more. So I decided to start picking up some of the trash everywhere.  I let my dog off of his leash to run around. I never seem to be able to go to those “clean up the creek” days so I thought I would just use a previously found mulch bag and start filling it with trash. I seized the moment. I cleaned up the creek. Well, not all the way. It was too easy to fill up the mulch bag with empty cigarette packs, 40’s, snack wrappers, etc. Littering. Ugh. Another thing that gets me ready to take my shoes off. I don’t even know what that means but it did sound serious. Don’t litter. End of story.
After I filled my trash-mulch bag, I realized I had lost my dog’s leash. Somewhere in the woods. Dang-it. Well, good thing I had my handy dandy plastic bag. I went all boy-scoutsy and tied the plastic bag to my dog’s collar and used it as a very short leash on our walk home. You’ll never guess what my dog did about five houses away from home?
He pooped.
Crap. Literally.
I couldn’t use the plastic bag that was now being used as a leash. I decided to take my shoe off to mark the poop. A committed move. I was dedicated to the cause of picking up my dog’s poop. I one-shoed my way home, took my dog off of his plastic bag leash and went back to reclaim my shoe and clean up the dog poop like a good citizen who detests stepping in dog poop.
You will most likely be surprised to learn that there was not a choir of angels in my driveway upon returning home. However, in my head, there were a lot of crotchety old folks giving me high-fives.
I’ve used the poop shoe trick several times since this first “losing the leash” occurrence. I’ve tried to persuade my husband but he would rather use those gas flags or other random items. I know he put a gas flag next to a dog poop the other day. You will have to ask him if he remembered to go back and pick up said poop. If it’s not your shoe and you’re easily distracted, chances are, that poop is going to end up making someone say, “SHIT!”
Poop Shoe Disclaimers:
*I can’t be held responsible if you have a funny neighbor that goes and gets your shoe out of their yard while you head home for a plastic bag. I do love that neighbor, though, so send them my way.
*It stinks if the ground is wet. Wet socks are the worst. One wet sock is pretty annoying. NO, actually, leaving your dog’s poop in somebody else’s yard is the worst and the most annoying.
*Why don’t you just take two plastic bags? Oh, stop, with your simple-mindedness.
*Dog diarrhea….this is a difficult subject matter. I’m not ready to talk about this yet. Please wait for a future blog post addressing this challenging situation.

A Winter Hummingbird

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I’m trying, God.
I’m trying.
But you’re going to need to help me out tonight. Right now.
This is a really long shift.
How am I doing?
I feel like I’m flailing. Tumbling. Or failing. Maybe all three.
Where do I need to improve? It seems like everywhere
.

I prayed as I loaded the dirty dishes. Tears dripped down my face. Below freezing temps give me the never ending chills. The winter funk. I thought about stepping outside to see if my tears would freeze. They’re probably too salty. Maybe the bitter air would numb my overfeeling heart. And solidify my tears. A cool crying experiment of sorts. My dog would probably come lick my face repeatedly and ruin my weird backyard science lab.

Why do the smallest things ignite the fastest growing fires?

I need a winter hummingbird, God. Please. Send one.

Spilled hot chocolate. Rejection. Dishes everywhere. Insecurities fall onto the floor. I sop them up with a small stained dishcloth. Back and forth I walk to the sink to wring out the mess.

I hear the dragging sound of a nine year old boy’s house shoes behind me. He doesn’t pick up his feet, much like his mother.

“Mom? Sorry your day was stressful.”

Oh, he noticed. Perhaps he sees my smeared eye makeup. Or did I remove my heavy daytime armor revealing my worn-out nighttime emotions and feelings underneath?

My sensitive-souled boy hugs me. I rest my head on his. A few tears slowly sneak out. I don’t let go. Not yet.

“I love you the morst, Mom.”

I know in my thirty eight year old heart. It’s not possible.

“I love you the morst, buddy.”

My winter hummingbird stares me in the eyes. Hanging in my kitchen window. Sheltered from the snow. A reminder of my Grandma’s love. Given to me by a dear friend who sees, hears and listens with her heart.

I am trying. And some days my trying is better than others. You know this, God.

Thank you for moving me. Past my fears, insecurities, failures and doubts for tonight. Thank you for helping me notice the fluttering boy that entered the room.

I trust that God sees me. He grabs the paddles and resuscitates me with endless love and ever-present hope. Fills me with a warm peace. He surrounds me with tiny moments that reveal the love tucked away, sometimes under the snow. He hears my cries, the silent and the loud ones, in between the running water and the dishes clanging. He holds a place for my busy thoughts, slithering worries, constant questions and my hopes that get trapped, forgotten or lost in my heart-mind translation. He gently transforms my defeated thoughts.

Please send me a winter hummingbird.

I asked for one. And I had the honor of saying “goodnight” to three.

Oh, my beating heart. Thank you for those hummingbird boys of mine. They love with an energy and passion and joy that leaves me humbled. Inspired.

I’m trying, God.

I will keep trying.

 

Super-glued Soul

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We break things. All of us. It’s one of our strongest family traits. My boys play hard. I unload the dishes hard. Sometimes I even put ice cold water in crystal bowls and pitchers to cool them off from the steamy dishwasher. Perhaps they got a little pissed that I didn’t hand-wash them so they retaliate by shattering. Everywhere. Overreaction, much? Or maybe they overheard me say one too many times, “I never registered for crystal.” I’m not a crystal person. Because I break things, remember?

We have a specific designated area on our kitchen counter where we place broken things. It’s similar to a waiting room at a doctor’s office though it’s not on Google maps yet. My husband waits for enough of these broken pieces and parts to accumulate to justify a super glue session out in the garage.

“Next in line. The super-glue doctor will see you.”

Despite my clumsy tendencies and big-hands and haste that often makes broken waste, I have a patient, loving, gorilla-glueing husband. I believe in him. Truly. I think he can super-glue damn-near anything back together again. I’m talking to you, Humpty Dumpty.

“Mooooooooom….this broke.”

“Just set it on the counter. Your Dad will fix it,” I confidently tell our children.

He’s not only spectacular at super-glueing back together broken pieces and parts of toys, pottery, chairs, tables etc. he also helps fix people. He harvests time, even when he’s exhausted and burnt-out on people. His time is always in season. He listens and questions and hugs and forgives and tries so hard to understand. Jesus would be proud. Super proud.

He has helped super-glue my worn-out and anxious soul back together time and time again. Especially when I feel so unfixable. Or broken in too many pieces. He waits and searches under the bed or in the closet. He gently knocks on the bathroom door. He helps find the parts of me that matter the most. My joy. My laugh. My compassion. My empathy. My weary confused soul. My resilience.

My
hope.

Life can be fragile yet it can break us. There’s nothing wrong with having a special broken space on the counter or in your room or in your car, especially if there’s a certain someone who knows how and when to super-glue you back together.

It may be thoughtful to let this person know from time to time how he or she mends you.

Thank you, Cory. You’re the greatest super gluer I know.