Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go.
~Henry Austin Dobson
I discovered these adorable Ralph Lauren shoes in storage recently. They were mine, circa 1986. The size looked about right for a certain sweet five year-old I know. I set them on the stairs, knowing my youngest girl would find them. (She has a thing for shoes). She came home from school and the next thing I knew, she was dancing around in my old shoes. They fit. The fact that my childhood shoes fit my little girls feet made me very nostalgic and heart-sick in an instant.
I wrestle with the idea of time passing me by. It mystifies and troubles me. It shocks me when I see pictures of myself as a child or in college – not to mention pictures of my girls as newborns. Where did all those days go? If I wasn’t witness to each day, it would seem impossible that my oldest child is eight and my youngest will be six in November.
“The illimitable, silent, never-resting thing called Time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing ocean-tide, on which we and all the universe swim like exhalations, like apparitions which are, and then are not…” Thomas Carlyle
I vividly remember sitting on the floor of my baby’s bedroom in our newly purchased first home, extremely pregnant with my first child and feeling a sense of panic. I wasn’t worried about having a child. My thoughts were, “I want to remember every second of my time with this little life. I can’t wait to love her. I don’t want to miss even one thing.” But I have. It’s inevitable. I let days go by without being present in the moment. Life happens and days come and go. We get older. Children grow and become adults. Life moves with a deceiving gentle ebb and flow. In reality, it is only a breath. As J.K. Rowling wrote, “Time is making fools of us again.”
“Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.” Charles Caleb Colton
We fight it frantically. We move and we hide but we cannot out run time’s passing. Your shoes will become someone else’s shoes before you know it.
For me, the only thing that brings perspective to this wrestling with time is scripture. The words calm my thoughts. God is speaking through Isaiah and He says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isaiah 46:10) God is above time. His purpose remains throughout all of time. He knows the end from the beginning and understands it in ways I never will. God has given us a time for everything. Seasons will change and we will die but God does not. We are promised an eternal life that will never end and that is something to live expectantly for. It is hard to lament the passing of time on this earth when we have the promise of an eternal life with our Creator.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.” Ecclesiastes 3:9-15
It’s 2am. I’m in pain and I’m mad. I’m mad that Lyme is keeping me up once again from the rest that I so desperately need. The pain is in full force, but writing keeps me distracted and distractions help almost more than the Advil, which is all I have to take at the moment. Pain meds would be wonderful to have, but my current doctor is not giving them. Instead he is sending me to a specialist who I have waited weeks to see. I am told he will be able to prescribe me something for the pain but I don’t know if this is true or why I need to see yet another doctor. I do know that I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis. I have Advanced/Chronic/Late stage (pick a word, any word) Lyme disease and what I need is some relief from the pain.
I am also upset that my pain comes at very inconvenient times. It messes up my plans, church responsibilities, family responsibilities, my daily normal routine and my social life. I am mad that I can’t trust my mind to work the way I’m accustomed to it working. For instance – before spell check this post is full of typos and spelling mistakes, because I can’t even remember how to spell simple words sometimes. I can barely think in complete sentences when the pain strikes and if it’s accompanied by nausea, my day is completely wrecked. The past couple of weeks have been hard because my illness is becoming unpredictable again and I absolutely HATE that. I hate that I have had to cancel and drop out of things I committed to do because I cannot physically do them. I really can’t stand it that my passions and the loves of my life are affected by this awful illness.
However, I think one of the hardest things to go through is the disbelief of others – the questioning looks, the “but you look great” comments that are so often heard by chronic Lyme sufferers. Last week, my illness was totally minimized in a way I had never experienced before. I have had doctors look at me and think I was crazy. I have had them tell me they weren’t going to help me anymore or run tests for my “symptom of the week.” They have asked my husband privately if he thought I was making everything up in my head and they have told me to my face that I am just depressed and that is all that is wrong. Do you know what it feels like be told you are crazy and you aren’t really sick when your entire body is aching? It is a very isolated and lonely place. But with those comments, I could chalk it up to doctors that couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, so they wanted me to feel crazy instead of admitting that they had no idea what was causing my symptoms. I could rationalize their reactions to my pain especially when I finally got a diagnosis and test results that showed clearly that my body was ravaged by Tick-Borne Diseases. Sweet validation!
Recently, I struggled to get out of bed with joint pain and muscle stiffness. It felt like gravity was against me and weights were on my back as I slowly got ready for the day. There was no time to rest or take my time on this day because I was scheduled to volunteer at the girls school and I was determined to be there. After the teacher showed me what to do, I sat in a little chair at a desk outside the classroom and proceeded to make booklets and cut out letters for the bulletin boards.
I sat next to a mother of a child in a different class. My mind was very foggy, but I tried to be friendly and think of things to talk about. I did not feel good at all and was very uncomfortable, but I pushed through the pain. As we chatted, something in the conversation led to the upcoming fall field trip and she asked if I was going. I told her I couldn’t, but that I really wanted to. Then she asked if I was the room mother. I told her briefly that I wanted to be but was unable because I had been chronically ill for quite a while with Lyme disease and at the moment, I couldn’t trust my physical abilities from day-to-day. I didn’t really want to tell her about Lyme (it gets overwhelming to constantly explain the illness to those who don’t know about it.) Before I had a chance to think through what to say, everything was out there. I’m not in the habit of telling strangers or even acquaintances about my disease. Before I even had a chance to regret saying the words “chronic” and “disease” she said with a laugh, “Oh! Well, maybe that’s what I have, because I’m not feeling great today either.” This was after telling me about how even though she is a stay at home mother, she has a part-time job because she can’t stand to be at home all day and has too much energy, so she likes to keep busy all the time. Something that, at the moment I can only longingly dream about. She finished her tasks quickly and left for work.
Most days I have to mentally and physically prepare myself the day before I leave the house to go to my girls school, that is just down the road to cut out some letters and sight books. When I get home from simple activities like going to the store, I feel like I’ve run a marathon and it is vital that I don’t schedule anything the next day so I can rest up from my “day out.” At times, it feels like my body is my own prison from which escape is impossible.
For some reason, the flippancy of the words pierced me differently than any response to my illness has so far. I know she was probably just uncomfortable talking about sickness – most people are. She may have just meant to change the subject and I’m sure she didn’t mean for her words to come across harshly. But I felt really small in that moment. I think it was made worse because it was coming from a woman, a mother and someone who is in the same stage of life as myself. It stung and pricked my heart. It hurt to hear how others may view my illness. In a heartbeat, everything I go through was minimized. I felt like I was minimized… and simply because she was uneducated about Lyme Disease. I’m certain if I had said I was in treatment for Cancer, those words that were hurtful to me, would not have been said.
The pain, frustration, and heartache that I have become accustomed to was laughed under ones breath as if I had apologized for having a runny nose, grabbing a Kleenex and popping a Day Quil – because that was something she could relate to. She heard what she wanted to hear because we don’t want to think about stuff that hurts or makes us uncomfortable. She didn’t want to talk about disease or pain or being taken out of life. Neither do I. I desperately wanted to be the energetic mother about to leave for work. I sometimes wish to be on the other end of the conversation. When someone mentions disease, I want to be the one that can’t relate. How I would love to be unable to understand what chronic illness is all about. But I do – too well and I want others to learn from this conversation that inadvertently threw daggers at my heart.
When someone is telling you about something hard they are going through, something that hurts and is awful – just listen to them. Maybe it would help to imagine it happening to you or your loved one, even if you “can’t imagine what they are going through” don’t say that because it isolates and makes others feel very alone in what they are dealing with. Tell them you are there for them. Even a simple hug or note does wonders for me on my bad days…and my good days. Just be kind.
“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Henry Ellis
I know it’s only September but before we know it, it will be 2013 and the months will float furiously past our doors. Lately I have been thinking about all that has transpired since last September. This year has been a chaotic and emotional roller coaster ride. I am so over this year already. In January I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease after years of trying and failing to figure out WHAT THE HELL was wrong with me!! The months that followed are a muddled blur of IV treatments, natural antibiotics, injections, regular antibiotics, supplements and way too many doctors visits. I believe that I am at a place where I have let go of any and all expectations for my health. I simply had to let high expectations go – for my sanity, for my family and so that “one day at a time” won’t seem so disappointing, when each day seems harder than the last.
This year, I also let go of my desire to have another child. We tried for years after my youngest was born and it was a shocking surprise to me that it didn’t happen quickly like it did with my girls. I wanted another baby so bad I could feel it. There were days when it almost seemed like I could wish myself pregnant. I saw the bright pink lines on the test. I thought I felt the nausea. I had the dizzy spells. I just knew I was…but I wasn’t. One negative pregnancy test after another, month after month was more than I could bear. Around the time of my diagnosis, I realized that I needed to stop going down that road. I’m not healthy so I know it would not be wise to get pregnant. It is for the best and for so long, I wanted to believe that sentiment but I couldn’t. God knows best but I wanted to know better. I wanted one more time to be pregnant, one more season to hold a newborn baby, one more sweet soul to watch grow . I didn’t know with my last pregnancy that it was the very last time. We had planned to have more children so looking back, I wonder if I took it for granted. I want to go back in time and soak up every second, relish each pregnancy kick, each nighttime feeding as the last time to experience that sweet bonding time with my baby. I think if I had known that my last pregnancy was the last time, I would have done more, maybe even loved better, seen differently or in the very least…looked with new eyes. But I have let it go. I am blessed beyond belief that I have two amazing little girls. My heart is full. I am content.
This year was also the year I had to start letting go of my baby girl. She started Kindergarten and it was awful to see her get on a huge bus and be driven away from me for eight hours every day. We were joined at the hip the last few years so the first days of school were gut wrenching. But it was more than just a rite of passage, more than the thought of my last child growing up. It was what we went through the years before that day that made it so difficult. When Little C was almost three, she started having severe temper tantrums because of sleep issues and being a stay at home mother, I was the one that caught the brunt of her break downs – frantic flailing and hitting, yelling that she hated me in grocery stores and fits that would last for hours. HOURS. After each tantrum, I would hold her and rock her and just be there for her. Those days were definitely some of the worst days of motherhood. We painfully got through that time together but not without wounds.
Quickly following that season, I found myself dealing with pain and illness in a way I never had before and Little C was the one at home with me every day, for better or worse – all day long. Since she was not in school yet, she bore the brunt of my illness just as I had taken the brunt of her tantrums. And this time, she was there for me. She lay beside me when I was too weak to move and brought me water when my legs could not be trusted to walk. We bonded in a deep way and I think it was because we had just weathered a terrible storm together and here we were, weathering a different kind of storm, again – together. She came with me to most of my doctors appointments and IV treatments. She would sit in the chair next to me, patient and quiet – with a little worried expression when the nurse would get out the needle but I always assured her it didn’t hurt and that Mommy would be ok. I took special precautions to make sure she didn’t see the needle as it threaded through my vein. Being able to look over and see her sweet, smiling face in the chair next to me made me forget about the pain and the hours that I felt were wasted. After my treatments we would get Wendy’s (her favorite) and then belt out Coldplay in the car on the way home.
There were times when I passed out from pain or fatigue while we were playing puzzles on the floor and she would entertain herself or cuddle next to me and gently wake me up. She rarely complained if we couldn’t go to the park or the library or if I had to cancel a play date. She understood (as well as she could) and she knew that I couldn’t help it. She seemed to be fine with our ever-increasing “pajama days.” She loved being with me and I loved being with her. Our old wounds had healed and the scars – barely visible.
As I write this, she is probably finishing lunch sitting next to good friends already dearly loved. When I run errands and see mothers with their little ones in tow, my heart sinks a little bit. I miss my buddy. I am beyond thankful that my sweet girl doesn’t have to go through bad days with me in that capacity anymore and I hold tightly to my memories of afternoons at the park on my “good days” when her laughter and spontaneous dancing would make everyone on the playground stop, notice the extreme cuteness and smile. Or when we would make a Starbucks run and she would want every cookie and pastry she could see and of course, I always got her the over priced cake pops…because she loved them…and because, why not?! Life is so short. Get the freaking cake pops! Or when she would look over at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes – jump in my lap, grab my face and tell me that she loved me and was praying for me. Those days were hard…really hard. But I wouldn’t take back the last few years for anything in this world. It is incalculable how much I gained during those hardest of days.
Even though it is September, I have let go of you, 2012. I have let go of faulty and flawed expectations, dreams that will flutter back into the shadows – never to be. I have let go of old regrets that creep up on me in the middle of the night. I have let go of a time that will never be lived and memories that haunt and hurt. I am embracing what lies ahead while at the same time keeping a death grip on my memories of cuddling with my babies in footy pajamas and dancing in the kitchen with tiny toddlers on chilly fall nights. I am letting go of wanting to be “normal” and embracing the truth that God will give me strength for each day, each hour and every minute. I will keep my eye out for miracles that might be disguised but may just need more time to be revealed. I am letting go of so much, which in turn creates more room for hope, possibility, and more moments that will be forever seared onto my heart.
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”