Lessons From The Road

I feel like there’s a lot you learn about yourself while driving in the middle of the night. As the lines in the road speed by and your headlights wash across exit signs, the road strips away the ignorance and pride from your plane of knowledge and reveals to you the truth.

The things you’ve just assumed and hoped were always true start to unravel and in those moments of dead air between the songs and the station identification breaks,  you can see where the cracks have always been. The reflection you catch in the windows is your own, but it shows you as you truly are.

You’re a mess. You’re scared. You’re out of your element and you really wish you had someone there with you. You can still see your crown, so you know you’re still capable, but you’ve noticed it’s slipped. You’re unsure. Most of all, you’re feeling less than you.

The road tells you these things. The destination not so much.

 

The Crown Slips

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Such was the case for me one night at the of the beginning of this month. After a day of being sick, my husband was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Let me just state, one more time for the Universe to hear, diabetes fucking sucks. He has Type 1 and for some reason, his body decided to flip out and slip into diabetic ketoacidosis. As we have three children at home and are in the middle of flu season, I was stuck. I couldn’t go with him in the ambulance. I couldn’t follow behind with the kids in tow. On our previous trip to the local ER a year previously, I had learned that when the security guard says no one with children is allowed back to where the patients are, he really means it. And no amount of yelling and crying will convince him otherwise.

So I had to sit at home and wait for childcare to come before I could go and catch up. When I finally was able to join him, I was a wreck. I do not handle not knowing things well. Knowing that he was ill, possibly even gravely ill, and there was nothing I could do, drove me crazy. It was in that interim that I felt the crown start slipping.

 

I was at the mercy of those who I had asked for help. From the EMTs that transported him to the hospital to the ER workers who were working on him to the family members I called in tears, I was indebted to all of them. I had bent my knees before them and asked of them their service. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. I felt needy. I felt like a bother. And to their credit, the hospital workers and nurses, the EMTs and staff never once made me feel this way on purpose. They were just doing their job. They were pleasant and kind and gave me so many words of encouragement.

When I finally arrived at our local ER, I found out the process to transfer him from our local emergency room to the closest regional Veteran’s hospital had not only already begun but had been approved. After an hour or so, he was placed back in the ambulance and taken off to a waiting bed in the MICU at the VA hospital that was an hour south of us.

I said my goodbyes while he was being loaded into back of the ambulance and walked myself to my vehicle. If I had ridden with him, I would have been stuck away from not just my kids and my dog, but my home and all my other responsibilities. Just because my world hiccupped doesn’t mean that it stopped spinning around me. So driving myself down would allow me to drive myself home when I needed to.

So I did what I had to do. I got in the truck and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. And then I stopped, pulled up Google directions, and drove off into the night.

 

The Road To ReCoronation

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There’s a pair of owls that live on my street. I’ve seen them cuddling each other while sitting on the tree behind my house. Sometimes, I hear them calling to each other during the evening from different trees in different yards. Sometimes, the crazy birds hoot during the day, when I just assume they should be sleeping. No matter where they are, no matter what they are hooting about, they make me smile. They make me feel like I’m at home. They make me happy.

But honestly, I as much as I love them, I am not one of them. I am so not a night owl. So my drive to the hospital was extra complicated. It was well after midnight when I left the ER in my city and the place I was going was, according to Google, an hour and six minutes away. Maybe it was my worry. Maybe it was my fear. But at some point, being awake well past my normal prime didn’t seem to matter. I’m usually going to sleep with the chickens. On that night, while taking the back roads that lead me to the Interstate, I was one with the owls.

It was this time alone that allowed me to think about everything that was going on. It gave me room to evaluate what was going on in my life and how I should handle it. The wheels and the road were just rhythmic enough to zone me out to a state of thinking where I was able to assess what was and what was yet to be. I was also able to face the reality of the shallowness of the pool of physical, local support my family and I had our feet in. These revelations were neither positive or negative at that time. Like the shadows my headlights created on the trees that lined the roads, they just were. The emotions from them would come later, when more time could be assigned to them.

I’m not going to incriminate myself and talk about my speeding on the way down there. But for the most part, the stretch of Interstate I was on was pretty empty. And I was lucky enough that none of South Carolina’s finest were working that area that night. I made it all the way into the single digit exits for the city and found where I needed to go. With it being the early morning hours, I was able to find parking and somehow found my way into the back emergency entrance of the VA hospital.

It was then, when I crossed that threshold, that I felt the crown straighten. The kind lady at the desk helped me direct me to the elevators and soon I found my way to the floor and then the room where my husband was.

I’d like to say it was a joyous reunion and that the night was one of those magical nights where the love of the couple overwhelmed whatever sickness was happening.  It was not a Disney movie type night. It was a night in an intensive care unit with someone who very ill and his significate other who was very worried. Nurses were in and out taking blood and doing glucose checks. There was vomiting and pain. There were machines beeping and malfunctions. And needles. So many needles.  And when there was sleep, it was fitful and separated by tubes and bed rails. For me, it was in a hardbacked chair with a pillow and a blanket kindly brought by a nurse who might have actually been more than just a human.

But we were together. I was there when he needed me. And even when he didn’t know I was there, I was there. And slowly, the crown righted it’s self on my head. I was fragile and unsure, but I knew what to do. I wasn’t helpless. I was able to step outside my fear and do my best for the ones I love. Even if that act was nothing more than holding a hand, rubbing a leg, or getting more ice chips.

 

Ever After

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Now because all of that happened, the rest of the first weekend of February was pretty much a shitshow. There were trips back home, trips to get the kids, frustrations about feeling like I was not getting what I help thought I should be getting. It was hard you guys. Being separated from where I felt I needed to be and expected to keep just pounding along like life was normal was excruciating.

But what could I do? There’s no option for curling up and crying until the hard parts are over. Slowly, the minutes turned to hours, the hours to days and after more worrying that I’ve done about anything worth worrying about, we got the notification. After recovering enough to be moved to a normal room and having his levels be normal for 12 or so hours, it was time for him to come home. So that evening, it was just a process of loading up the kids and making the drive down.

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It was a lot different this time. I was a lot different this time too.

The road didn’t hold the same amount of self-reflection in the daylight. Even though the sun had managed to slip out of the sky while we were driving, the car was filled with too much excitement, relief, and still nervousness for there to be any meditative feeling. It is a known fact that when you are traveling with children in the vehicle, any drive becomes less ‘Oprah Super Soul Sunday’ and more ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.

After getting turned around in traffic and entering through a non-entering way, we finally were reunited. And with him entering the car, it was over. The lessons we learned were not.

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While his health is paramount here, there is a whole stream of things from this I learned about myself. I learned about the holes in my circle and the need to fill them. I learned that I need to believe in myself and my abilities more. I am responsible for so many people, wallowing in my doubt is just not an option.

Sometimes shit is going to go down and I’m going to be the one who is going to be one to hold it together. Whether I want to be the one or not. It’s just what it is.

I can’t rely on the road to remind me of that.

I have to wear the crown and all its weight in it’s full glory.
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It’s been a while…

I really hate that so much time has passed between postings here Dear Readers. I’m sorry for the unintended break. 

As Fall has slipped deliciously into Winter, it seems the Holiday season has hit full force and covered my everyday activities with the stickiness of maple syrup.

With the official end of The Husband’s employment and all the ensuing doctors appointments and paperwork that followed falling right before Halloween/Samhain, then my birthday and Veteran’s Day being followed by Thanksgiving, it really has been hard just to find time to have a normal day. Especially when our normal days aren’t even that normal. It feels like everything is overlapping and requiring so much of my attention that after I try to attend to it all, I’m left with nothing but cold sticky oatmeal for brains.

That’s left me with the capacity for nothing much but mindless Facebook and Instagram scrolling. I haven’t even been posting or interacting there much, just scrolling by, slightly amazed at the colors as they bleed down my phone or monitor screen. I have contributed to a friend’s Facebook-based newspaper, The Chronicle Star.  Each Friday I drop a short column there. (If you don’t mind crude and often offensive humor like Iron Shiek impersonations and horoscopes that are knowingly wrong, you should totally give it a follow) But even that has become something I have to force myself to write. The ability I had a few months ago to make words just fall from my fingertips like a leaky faucet feels long gone.

It’s not that I think the well has run dry. I’m 34 now. I know my ebb and flow. I burn hot on things for a while and then I cool off. Part of me feels it could be that. But a larger part of me doesn’t really buy it. This doesn’t quite feel like I’ve lost interest in writing. I have pieces I make up in my head that I really do want to peak out at the keyboard. Sometimes it’s just the act of getting to said keyboard and having the mental energy to make myself function. Even using an app on my phone sometimes is too consuming. It’s so much easier to be lazy and just gawk at already created content than to make my own.

I’ve seen my dear friends who struggle with disabilities and illness talk about the Spoon Theory. The Spoon Theory says that each day you x number of spoons to use, and each activity you do in that day requires energy (physical, mental, or emotional) costs a certain amount of spoons. You may have 10 spoons on a good day, but washing your hair takes away 2 of them. But on a bad day, when your illness or disability is really kicking, you only have 5 spoons. The same activity from your good day could still cost you 2 spoons but it would be a greater hit to your energy supply on your bad day. So somedays you are able to achieve all your usual activities with ease. But some days you hit empty long before you reach the finish line.

This theory intrigues me because it makes so much sense. While I do not consider myself in the same world as my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities, I do struggle. I’m a caregiver to three children. I struggle with migraines and depression. And I am married to someone who has an autoimmune disorder and all that goes with that. There are times when I am the battery that powers the family machine. (And I don’t say that to boast. I’ve been around too many people who put stock in being the “matriarch” of their family. It ain’t like that here.)

We are a machine that works together. Sometimes though, it’s not an equal 50/50 slip and some parts work more than others. In our case, it’s not because someone is lazy or neglectful, it’s because that’s how the cards fall. There are things that are just outside our control. So when someone needs to step up and wear the crown and control the kingdom, sometimes it has to be me. But while that sounds glamorous, in reality, it’s not. It’s cleaning the litter box and meeting with school officials. It’s checking to make sure bills are paid and phone calls are returned. It’s making sure everyone has clean clothes and has eaten and taken their medicine. So maybe my troubles in getting things created come from my percentage being greater than my spoons can handle? Maybe I’ve used up out too many spoons so now I have none left in my “create cool things” reserve? It’s an interesting concept that I think has some truth to it. 

One of the contributing factors to this piece getting written right now is that I’ve been forced to take it easy for a few days and relax. I hurt my knee while taking the dog out the other morning and have orders from The Husband to stay off of it as much as possible. So instead of my factory setting of “Chicken Little”, I’ve been set to “Couch Potato” or “Propped In Front of the Computer”. There is a nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps saying this is a painful reminder from the Universe to slow my ass down and focus on myself for a little bit. I have a feeling that it’s right. Maybe by allowing myself to write this up, I am acknowledging that voice and honoring it with the reclamation of a few more spoons.

Thank you for sticking around, even thought the sporadic postings. This blog is a project that I very much love and want to continue. I really want this to succeed. And by that , I guess I mean, I want myself to succeed in keeping it up to date and alive with content, thought, and connection. It seems that the biggest hurdles I face are always the ones I put up myself. 

I hope the Holidays and all their madness have found you well and continue to treat you well Dear Readers. 

The Queen and Her Crown

My husband had been vomiting for six hours. I had been on hold with the medical helpline for twenty minutes. In the living room, the two youngest kids were going to war with each other and the older one was trying to mediate. The dog was barking at the cat who was drinking from the dog’s water bowl. All of this played over a soundtrack provided by the whichever annoying Youtube Play-Along video the kids had previously been watching. The automated message telling me someone would join my call in just a moment repeated over and over in my ear. And for some reason, there was suddenly not enough air in the room.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no pause button on life. If there were, this would have been when I hit it, went outside, and screamed all of my worries and frustrations right into the face of the sun. Since that didn’t happen, I did the only thing I could. I took in a breath, put on the crown and started handling the shit in front of me like a Queen.

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Obviously, this was no a real crown. I’ve got some beanies and maybe even a baseball cap or two, but I do not own a crown.

Or a Queenly dress.

Or fancy shoes.

Or anything else you’d imagine a Queen has.

That’s because for me, being a Queen has fuck-all to do with outward appearances.

Being a Queen means taking a stand against the forces of self-doubt. It’s about bringing sovereignty to a world of chaos. More so, being a Queen is about justly, fairly, and fiercely reigning over your world. Most importantly, being a Queen also means not giving into and becoming incapacitated by fear.

I’m afraid a lot. In fact, I think it’s my factory preset is to be anxious. I have always been a Chicken Little type of person.  In the last few years, I’ve realized that letting this fear and its anxiety rule my life is unfair. It’s stolen moments and relationships. Its made me dependent on the wrong people. I have put myself in the hands of people who have not had my best interest in mind because I was afraid. When I look back at my life, there are so many times when instead of inspiring me, fear clipped my wings and locked the cage door.

As the primary caregiver for three young children and a husband with multiple health problems, I can no longer allow this fear to exist. By acknowledging my Queenhood, I rebuke the helplessness that fear brings. It gives me the confidence I need to accomplish the things I think I can not. I have people counting on me. And I can not let them down.

So when things get tough, when I feel overwhelmed, and when I’m certain the sky is falling, all I have to do is reach for the crown. My self-professed royalty lifts me up and turns me into the type of woman who bows the head and bends the knee to no one. Especially fear.

2018, so far, has shown me that my family needs a Queen who is not afraid to stand, back straight and chin high, in front of the adversaries in life and tell them to sit the hell down. Heavy may be the head that wears the crown, but someone needs to slay these dragons.

So since it doesn’t seem that this year is going to get easier

Note to Self:

Queen up, Buttercup. It’s time to reign.

 

P.S. The Husband ended up being taken to the hospital for a four-day stay. As a Type 1 diabetic, complications can strike at any moment, especially when battling other illnesses. We are still all recovering from this hectic and frightening start to the new year. The week of this posting, he will be returning to work. We’re hoping the bad times are behind us. Even if they aren’t, I’ve got my crown on.

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