Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fog and a Match

Amidst the cold weather and insistent rain here in Seattle the city is a buzz after last week's football win that will send the Seahawks to the Superbowl for the second year in a row. It's actually nauseating how many people are decked in green and blue, how many houses and cars are adorned with a 12th man flag, and how a common salutation is "Beast Mode." Needless to say, I am not a Seahawks fan, for many reasons we don't need to get into. This does not mean I will be pledging my allegiance to the Patriots, it just means I am so discouraged by this year's Super Bowl. Anyways, back to my point...Earlier this week as evening began to hover over Greater Seattle I was driving home and with the quaint background music of a favorite song playing in my car and I was surveying the scene of Seahawk pandemonium. Of neighbors laughing together, kids playing on the street, of a few houses with blue and green lights and all I could think of was if this were my own reality show they would be filming a girl surrounded by happy people who was almost always is lost in her thoughts, in a somewhat depressive trance, who doesn't even remember what it feels like to be happy.

I sent out an update to my family last week that I then forwarded to a few close friends to tell the basic un-progress of post-op. Essentially, after arriving in Seattle after the holidays my pain began to dramatically increase. I went to my surgeon where they ran a series of tests (hooray for more medical bills) that were inconclusive. I had blood work done and a urine sample, as well as swollen glands show that I was fighting off an infection. After, physical examination my doctor said, "well, I forgot to mention this the first time but normally individuals with your amount of endometriosis take more like 6 months to recover instead of 3. I'd like us to carry out all of the 3 month guidelines to 6 months and then see where we are at. Hopefully by about a year you will really have your body back and be able to do everything normally." First, I quietly laughed to myself because I will never have my "body" back and I haven't known what normal feels like for almost two decades. I've also just turned 31 and am in full-fledged menopause. It didn't gradually happen over time it came at me like a robber in the night. Second, you're telling me that for 6 months I'm not supposed to lift more than 5 pounds. bend or carry? The problem that i'm having is that every time I try and push myself to take the next steps in recovery I begin to bleed. Anytime I bleed I am told to take it completely easy the next day as bleeding can cause adhesions which will cause reason for another surgery. He also mentioned that at six months if I am still in pain, while this surgery rid most of my disease we were unable to get all of it and it wasn't a cure for my endometriosis and I will live with that pain forever. I have four months to get out of pain or I might totally lose it, and I am not kidding. The final kicker was that between pre-op and now I have gained 16 pounds. It has been very hard to understand why as I have barely had an appetite and was not exercising profusely prior to surgery because of the pain. The doctors say they are not sure why but perhaps it is just because my physical makeup has changed but it is not a good indicator of how I will react to hormones. As a recovering anorexic this is very devastating to me. I wanted my body to go to shambles when I had my babies not over the fact that I can't ever be a mama. I tried on all of my pants this last week as we have to go to Arizona soon for a wedding and not one pair would zip. Some I could not even get over my legs.

While the physical update is bleak the emotional seems even harder. My mom texted me earlier this week to tell me she was babysitting a good family friend's baby who I love so much. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Will my mom ever watch my baby? Will Nate and I ever make it to the other side of this? Will we ever even have the money to adopt? Will our hearts ever be ready for that? I am making strides by seeing a counselor and I feel like I've gotten to the point where I can smile for people and play the happy "Chronically Ill Katie" game again. Where I don't share much, definitely hide my tears, and assure people that I am fine. But it's certainly a game. I still cry every day. I'm still completely broken.

I love living by water. Or vacationing by water. In Seattle this is common, but it's even more common in the city or by the beach. Often times when you wake up in the morning it's foggy. So during the morning hours you're pretty bundled and it's very damp outside. You may venture out for a walk, but not without warm clothes, but a lot of times people stay in their beach houses and drink a warm beverage and read. But not to worry, by mid morning/early afternoon the fog has burned off and it's sunny and everyone head out to be in the sun and enjoy the beach.

Well, right now I'm worried the fog will never lift. That perhaps I'm trapped in one of those days at the beach where the sun never comes out. Instead everyone stays in their sweats all day and huddled inside. What if I'm always huddled inside? In the dark. Like I am now. I am desperately searching for a light switch that I think should be labeled "hope" that has some sort of latch to hold onto that allows me to see some sort of life or light out on the distance.

If I wasn't 31, I'd call my parents Mommy and Daddy, and I would beg for them to just make it all go away. To "fix" it because it hurts more than I knew was possible. When I think and really realize that no baby can really come from me I weep. And I weep for the road that took me here. And to be honest I am exhausted at the journey it will take to find daylight, for the fog to burn off.

There's no doubt it would be absolutely the toughest task of a football player's life to make it to the Super Bowl. And besides just that it would be the hardest game of his life. It's the best of the best, up against the best of the best. I would say maybe this is my Super Bowl but I doubt that because I don't think my journey ends here. But I at least need to make my way through some of this fog because I need to see more than just my hand out in front of me. I need to find peace in issues regarding how we will pay for everything (, in that I can't go back to work yet, in the changes in my body and how i will manage and what I will wear. I need to rest, to let myself cry, I need to grieve-I need not pretend and I need to have a goal to experience my own authentic joy. That's my game plan right now. It's not Super Bowl but it's a start. It may just be lighting a match but any light is better than none and if I focus on that I don't need to concentrate on any of this Seahawks mania. I have too much else at stake.
Because by the way, they're not even the original 12th man. Go Aggies.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Dark Room

I felt like a little girl, scared and alone. She didn't take the time to warm the jelly up saying it wasn't too big of a deal and so there I was, cold and exposed and when I was able to see inside I remember having to catch my breath. I had to slowly inch the lump in my throat back down because I would not cry in here, especially not with her.

The first thing she blurted out was, "this is where your ovaries and uterus should be or would normally be." Instead all it was, was utter and complete darkness. That room was so dark, like someone had thrown away the key and we weren't supposed to be in there. At least I didn't want to see what wasn't there. There wasn't any place for a baby. Not even a place to see a cyst.

Having had ultrasounds now for years I'm used to them, to what it looks like, to what it sounds like. This time there was none of that. I wanted to yank her probe, to throw it at her face and repeat her words back to her, "used to be? Supposed to be? Why don't you get off your high horse, get my husband, my mom, and a box of tissues and never ever step foot in any hospital again."

Instead she left me in that room for about twenty minutes while my anxiety built and then came back to tell me I'd need to empty my whole colon before they'd be able to see anything based on the way my new anatomy lays.

I got off the table, grabbed Nate, and told him I had to empty my colon over the weekend before we tried again. In my head all I could think was, "so I just paid an extremely ridiculous amount of money to see my dark room, a place that once held my dreams and now looks like a fire took down the entire thing?"

We returned home Friday with a call from the doctor saying there was an infection in my urine and once my colon was clear we'd go back in to find the source of the insurmountable pain.

I crawled into bed Friday and while I made trips to the restroom, for the most part, laid in bed in pain or slept through the weekend. At about 5:45 on Sunday evening I got up to have more water and I started to cry finally sharing with Nate how traumatizing the ultrasound had been for me.

I'm not sure why it hit me so hard but it was awful and I hope to never visit again.

Can I tell you a secret? I'm scared. I'm so so scared. I wonder when the pain is going away. I tried starting a new job this week and had to pull back because I am still a wreck physically and now with complications and more tests I'm worried about our finances. I'm scared I will never not be sad. Many people will tell me the answer to that is counseling but again, more financial resources and what if it just leaves me here. I'm committed to trying it but I still feel so much pain physically, emotionally, mentally... Lastly, can I tell you that a lot of days I'm just scared to be on my own. With Nate at work and me at home I run scared, thinking of the empty room and trying to take care of my pain. Last week I went into a store to buy a birthday present for a friend and I spent probably 20 minutes looking at the JellyCat stuffed animals wondering if there was some way to send s telepathic message to Nate that we needed one. Is that not the most ridiculous thing? I just turned 31 and I need a stuffed animal? It kinda just shows the depths of the brokenness. Will you please pray for us?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winter Snow

Today is our last day in California, the final day before we head back to Seattle, where our soundtrack of pain and uncertainty inevitable plays on. Luckily, I think we can turn back on the radio and the Christmas carols will be over. No offense to anyone out there who loves them, I normally am right there with you, but this year I couldn’t get behind them. If it had been up to me I think I would have taken this holiday season off. Perhaps, called in sick or at the very least, opted for a pinch hitter. Yet, at the request of my husband, who so desperately deserved time away from work, and the opportunity, to clear his head in a sunnier state with the support of family and friends we boarded a plane and headed to California.

The day we left for California was Nate’s 30th birthday and instead of meeting up with family right away, I planned for us to spend some time alone in the city. Not for a celebration, because of course we had ruled all of those out, but for a time where the two of us could acclimate to the holiday cheer we felt bombarded by. It was our opportunity to take a minute, just he and I, to rest on a comfortable bed, relish in our anonymity in a city busy with holiday preparations, and for me take one more deep breath before having to see anyone who might expect anything from me. Even if those expectations were as small as a smile, a hug, or a simple answer to a question. As time inched closer to our impending arrival with family, my anxiety arose.

My dad welcomed us into California by picking us up in San Francisco and driving us to San Jose to meet up with the rest of the family.  I remember feeling shame the first time my eyes met the soft, gentle eyes of my dad. I was embarrassed and sad that his little girl, the child of his that relied on him so heavily and still called him just to “talk” would never present him with a red-headed, freckled grandbaby. Maybe a child as pale as the two of us. Earlier in the week I had expressed to Nate that I was frustrated that if perhaps I ever got to a point where I thought I could adopt, by the time the financial resources were all in place, I was incredibly nervous that our children would never have the opportunity to be loved in the same capacity and for the same length of time as my nephews have experienced. In my head, they are delighting in the golden years of Missy and Scud and had my time table worked out (which of course we know that’s never the case) I’d have two little ones being loved by sweet Grammy and Gramps now too. I’m not sure if my dad knew when I look at him as I gingerly got into the front seat for our drive to my sister’s house by my tear filled eyes, but I wanted him to know I was sorry. I had already told my mom the same sort of thing.

When we arrived at my sister’s we gathered with the whole family for dinner. Unlike usual, I quietly ate my soup and just kind of took it all in. I was exhausted from traveling and overwhelmed by everyone around. What I had wanted to do so badly was walk in there like everything was just peachy. What ended up happening is I left earlier than anticipated, needing space to breathe, to rest, and to be in pain in some peace and quiet.

The rest of our time for myself was quite uneventful. Something I’m ashamed of because while I can normally pull it together enough to carry on in the face of my physical or emotional pain, this time around has been much different. Nate and I stayed at my brother’s and his wife’s house and for the majority of the time they were out of town. Most all of my days consisted of laying in bed, while Nate went over to my sister’s house to be with the rest of the family. For the life of me, I could not bring myself to do it. I was afraid I’d be reprimanded for having been in bed so long or than I’d be interrogated for every thought rushing through my head. While I still am physically battling a grueling recovery from my operation, my heart is a deep chasm that keeps me separated from so many things.

I missed Christmas Eve service at Church because it took me much longer than anticipated to wrap everyone’s gifts and it was so out of character for me to show up over an hour late to our family celebration for Christmas Eve dinner because I couldn’t find an outfit that was suitable attire and yet still fit my swollen body. When I found myself barely smiling for family pictures that evening and back in bed directly after breakfast on Christmas morning I knew there was no way to hide it. I was in a bad, bad place and it wasn’t something we could all just easily ignore. I wanted so desperately to go “home.” To that new apartment where I still wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not sure where I am at. To the place where I sit lonely and afraid while Nate is at work and I must sit and work through all levels of this pain head on. All I knew is I wanted to leave my original “home” because I was the big elephant in the room, the broken one, who sometimes got out of bed for a bowel of cereal, rarely had enough words to say that could actually be counted as a full sentence in the English language, and for the first time ever avoided her nephews because of a new raw, open wound sort of pain that they unintentionally represented.

I never made any plans with anyone while in California. No catch up dates for coffee, or after Christmas shopping. No day-long road trips up the coast to go exploring with Nate. Every plan became absolutely nothing other than me. A fight against my pain, my menopause, and my pride for feeling overexposed to my family. And while I avoided as much as possible the celebration of Christmas and the merriment that would easily send me into a panic I did not forget what this true season was about, which I think in some ways made it a bit harder to digest. We weren’t exchanging Christmas presents this year or decorating the house with all the usual trimmings, this year we were just waiting for the Savior. For Jesus to be born as a baby, so that he could come to Earth and we could have relationship with Him. As silly as it sounds, while He’s the only baby I will really ever need I didn’t want to think about a baby this Christmas and as I was searching for songs of comfort God presented to me the perfect non-Christmas carol anthem.

The song, I’ve been playing on repeat is called, “Winter Song,” and it talks about how our Savior arrives and how God reveals himself to us. How he comes in like a winter snow. Quiet, soft, and slow. Falling from the sky in the night, to the earth below. It mentions how he could have come like a mighty storm, or the strength of a hurricane, perhaps even the force of a forest fire. It says our sweet Jesus, our savior could have swept in like a tidal wave or rushed in like a flood but he gently just came in like a winter snow.
            Clearly this winter snow can be compared to a baby but this year it was best for me to just picture him like a blanket of soft snow. Gently rushing in- softly, quietly, slowly, and covering all the earth. Our Savior met us here like a Winter Snow.
            It’s hard to imagine leaving California tomorrow. As ashamed as I am for where I’m at physically and emotionally and while there is comfort in thinking I can hide away in an apartment, in a city, in a state, where I am so clearly a stranger- I have already panicked a few times this week at the thought of leaving, knowing that my family isn’t a couple of blocks away, or in the next room and while I may be prideful or embarrassed for how not together I am, sometimes it’s nicer to know they are there waiting in the wings.
            24 hours from now that old familiar soundtrack will be playing- pain, uncertainty, brokenness, and grief will fill the air. But I’ll add to the playlist “Winter Snow” and recognize that despite our desire to ignore Christmas all together He came in like a winter snow. He blanketed the Earth below, by softly covering all the earth in a pure cover of peace. With all His authority and power He could have raged into our lives and demanded our attention but instead He so gently let us see His beauty. He did not come down in the form of a natural disaster or violent plague but as an infant, like winter snow. And somehow I think that a blanket of this winter snow might keep me warm.
            I’m sorry that when the question arises of how I’m doing my answer still remains the same. I’m hurting. I’m in pain. We are fumbling through this very, very messy part of God’s plan for our life and it’s like He may have forgotten to send in the cleanup crew. But I suppose for now, in times of panic and absolute destitution I will reach out for that blanket of Winter Snow, realizing His gentleness, quietness, and softness that He has offered to surround us with.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Just Lean Right In

On the original Nintendo Entertainment System there were two buttons on the front of the two-toned gray console. On the far left was the power button that you had to push all the way in until it clicked into place. To the very right of that button was the reset button. This little rectangular button, with it's capitalized letters spelling a promised "RESET" were there for the player to push if you just wanted to start over. Had the game not started out as you intended? Did you miss the chance to gain the extra life along the way? All you had to do was ever so slightly, place some pressure on that right reset button and you were granted a new game, a chance to start all over. This button never stayed in place or locked into position like the power button, yet instead it was always facing outward, allowing the players easy access to begin again.

Today marks the first of the New Year and as Nate and I drove up the winding mountain rode to my parent's house last night I felt a heaviness for this New Year's Eve. The messages that so commonly surround this time of year are ones where we reflect on the blessings and the bests of the last 365 days. Most people highlight their accomplishments, the events and gifts that made their hearts swell, and make mention how while there may have been a few bumps in the road they feel taller or stronger, filled or fuller than they did when it all began. When they look up and onward to the new year ahead it's common for wishes of uneventful years of little drama, extra sleep, to stay out of harms way, and even for happiness, health, wealth, and dreams desired. It's almost as if on December 31st, they do their last load of laundry and tie up any loose ends for the year, neatly fold it, place it in a perfectly stacked shoe box of sorts, print out their most memorable moments, place them in their picture album and with their black sharpie label them 2014.  Without a second thought they lift them overhead onto the shelf, and just easily transition into another sparkling New Year's Eve.

I knew as I made the journey to my parent's last night that when I arrived they would be in the middle of hosting a lively New Year's party. There would be laughter, friends, food, and a warm environment that my parent's home is known for. But both Nate and I felt that this New Year's Eve wasn't bringing with it any magic. As the guests of my parent's party made their way home much before midnight and my parents told us goodnight, Nate and I made our way to bed. Just after we had brushed our teeth and were climbing into the sheets the ball was about to drop and we could here the countdown quietly escalating in the other room. Together we quietly tiptoed out to the living room to see the glowing television signal in the brand new year. Times Square was filled with exciting screams, cannons of confetti filled the air, smiles spread across the faces of celebrities and commoners alike as everyone embraced in hugs and kisses and amid the laughter, faintly in the background was the familiar tune of, "Auld Lang Sine."

I stood frozen in my loose pajamas, still swollen from surgery, aware of my physical discomfort and the heaviness of my hurting heart. As I watched confetti blow in the cold midnight sky and stared onto a stage where glasses clanked and toasted to a new year and a new beginning, I felt trapped. Because while champagne is being poured and toasts are being made there are others out there that aren't so  swiftly moving into the new year, who can't just glide into 2015. It's not possible for all of us to fold it all so neatly like a blanket and place it up high and out of reach. Sometimes page 365 isn't the end of the story, the last page where everything so neatly ends, even if that's our greatest wish. We can't always close the book and place it up on the shelf. Sometimes those pages run together, the ink may smear from one page to the next, and the pain we are in gets carried with us as we pass the stroke of midnight.
It would be nice if when each New Year hit we all could hit that right reset button on our Nintendo systems of life.  And then magically we'd get to start a new. Perhaps we'd be out of debt, or maybe the cancer would be gone, or the house would be organized and clean, or you'd no longer be longing for the son you lost a year or two ago. What if when the clock strikes twelve it would be somewhat of a reverse Cinderella syndrome for all of us, where you're no longer grieving for the person you miss more than words can explain or you'd suddenly have a desire to get out of bed every morning. 
This year for us, the new year didn't mean too many things. While I knew another calendar would need to hang on the wall, Nate and I knew that the ground beneath us would not somehow raise up where it so recently fell from. I knew that come January 1st, my broken heart would not find wholeness and that the shattered dreams we have been laying among would not suddenly disappear. With this new year I would not magically stop mourning the loss of my womanhood, my ability to carry my babies and my tired and aching body would not just find itself physically mended in every way. Unfortunately, there is no way to just press reset on the real pain Nate and I feel as we journey through this pain and anguish that physically aches and has emotionally whipped through our world like a hurricane. 
While we know God will not leave us here forever we are aware that we must work through the hard parts of our stories in order for a rebirth of our joy. As much as a reset button would be ideal it's just not natural. 
We don't stop grieving at the push of a button or the stroke of a clock. Pain doesn't magically disappear. And while some people can easily compartmentalize year by year there are times when our hearts will bleed from one year into the next and there's no way around it. 
This year there was no magic at midnight. And when I look back on 2014, while it was a beautiful year of love for two of the people I love most in this world, for Nate and I it was a year of incredible grief, mourning, sadness, and pain. When I look into 2015 I am too far stuck in the raw intense pain of our recent physical pain and broken hearts to see a light in the distance. So for now, I think we will just lean forward.  We won't reach for the reset button because we know that's just not possible this year. We know it's silly to imagine waking up and this all being gone. It's too late to lean back and drag our heels, we are too far in the middle. Standing up on our own won't simply cut it or get us through. And as much as my heart longs to look back and grasp at what might have been, I'm becoming ever aware if only by the heavy sobs I find when I realize what I wanted will never be, looking backward is not my best bet. I'm finding as hard as it is to move forward or to sometimes just keep going, today we can work on a heavy lean. A long time time ago I wrote in my bible that I would lean into God. I think this year He knows I can't put all of 2014 neatly on a shelf and He also knows I can't carry it with me. He knows I'm stuck and I'm in pain and while I have no glass of champagne raised to toast to the new year I'm promising to lean in. To Him. To the fact that He's still here in my brokenness, and that He somehow is catching us when the ground floor fell out from underneath us. He sees the pieces of my heart laying all around and I'm leaning into Him. He's whispering that there's no hurry, that I don't have to rush. No stroke of midnight means it all has to be better. No pressure to Push Reset. He just reached out His arm and told us to lean right in.