Every now and then in our lives we come up against a situation that stretches us. Something that forces us to not only step outside the box, but to remove the box entirely and create a new one, with new boundaries, borders and rules. These are the kinds of things that we maneuver through, only to emerge a different person than when we started. Life altering experiences come in many different forms, illness, divorce, job loss, a death in the family. Not all have to be of the unpleasant variety, it could be a huge job promotion, a new baby or signing the mortgage on our first new home, but a lot of times it is the unpleasant that forces us to take stock of our lives in the most basic of ways. We tend to grow when we are uncomfortable with the way things are at any given moment.
I have had a few such pivotal moments in my life, caused by a variety of circumstances, some good, some not so good, but all of which I have grown and learned important lessons from. Looking back over my life right now, however, I don't believe I have ever had a period of more discomfort and uncertainty than I have over the past month. I have been stretched and pulled in so many directions that I am not at all sure of up and down at the moment and feel that life is just a shapeless blob; nothing fits neatly into any type of box.
It all started The last weekend in January; the weekend of my daughter's 16th birthday. We had been planning the party for months and everything was mapped out, but a lot still needed to be done before the big day. The party was set for Saturday afternoon. On Thursday morning I started feeling sick with a cold, I took some cold medicine, vitamin C and lots of water and continued with the party prep. No time for Sick Mom; I had to be In Charge Mom. By the time Saturday rolled around I was still not feeling well, but the party went on without a hitch. I looked forward to the next week when I could rest. Rest was not to be that next week however, since there was ice and snow that forced the school to close four of the five days that week. Four kids at home, bored, arguing and frustrated, does not a peaceful week make. Okay, maybe I could rest the next week.
Well, I woke up the next Monday morning and my tongue felt weird, as if it were numb, by Wednesday of that week, yet another Snow Day, my face was half paralyzed. I braved the frigid weather and went to the minor emergency clinic where I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy and told to follow up with my regular doctor, which I did that Friday. He concurred with the previous doctor's diagnosis and sent me on my way with advice to keep my eye (not blinking) moist and wished me luck.
Not a big deal, I thought. Yes, my eye hurt some, and I couldn't move half of my face, but I could do this, I decided. I would just sort of hibernate for a while until all was well again. I have been plagued with social anxiety throughout my life and the fear that people are staring at me when I am out in public niggles at the back of my mind at times, on a regular day, but throw in my noticeable physical deformity and that is enough to send me into full blown panic attack mode. Yes, I told myself, it will be fine, I will just lay low until this resolves itself.
How naive that thought was. I suppose I forgot that I am responsible for/to more than just myself. I have a husband, four kids and two dogs too. And just as I was begging to just sit at home, I was forced to go out. Someone close to me needed care urgently and it was up to me to navigate through a maze of paperwork and systems about which I knew nothing. Not only did I have to go out in public, but I had to meet new people, talk to them face to face, be an advocate- in short, I had to step way outside my comfort zone into the unknown. This would have been stressful under normal circumstances, for sure, this kind of thing always is, but the added pain and discomfort from my illness made it more challenging. I had to put my own discomfort aside. I had no choice, I had to press on - through a 10 day process that I hope never to have to repeat.
As that week drew to and end and the sun began to shine on a new week (by this time it is nearing the end of February) I had high hopes of things settling down in my life. Yes, I still had the Bell's Palsy, but I didn't feel it would be as much of a handicap as I, at first glance, had thought it would be. I had made it through the worst, I thought, which was good, because I didn't feel I could handle much more. I felt I had been stretched to my limit. I was glad that I had made it through without completely losing my marbles, but I was certainly glad it was over. I breathed a long, deep breath that I think I had been holding for about two weeks and thanked God and my friends' support for getting me through the crisis. Now I could rest.
Alas the story does not end there, but as this post is already reaching novella length, I will continue the saga tomorrow, including some of the wonderful lessons in surrender, humility and thanksgiving I have learned on this journey.