don't get me wrong. my romantic spirit adores the idea of chivalry. what woman isn't crazy for the shining knight in white armor...the gallant stead...the sweeping off of feet...and, of course, the castle high on a hill. i have always been enamored with this idyllic way of life. picture with me the delicate damsel in distress, adorned in gowns of silk and flowers in flowing hair. there she reclines on velveteen pillows of purple high up in her castle turret. can't you just see her? let's face it though, not many of us are sitting around in castles or turrets with daisies woven into our golden curls. this just isn't happening. i am much more likely to be the mother in mayhem clothed in a stained t-shirt. i rarely wear silk. the only thing adorning my ponytail might be, on occasion, some peanut butter or some touch up paint. and chances are if you catch me reclining it will most likely be upon a pile of laundry in need of folding. it doesn't hurt to pretend though. so i've learned to keep all of that idyllic stuff in my little fairytale box and, on occasion, i pull it out. my reality is not harsh. i won't pretend that it is. but i have deliberately chosen to be a strong and capable and resourceful woman. perhaps a little lacking in the romantic ideal, but terrifically and pridefully independent.
then my picture became clouded with cancer. and suddenly there was no power tool or determined spirit or achievement large enough to make much difference. and i can assure you, i am finding little about this which would qualify as fairtytale-ish. yes, i can fight. yes, i can have a good attitude. yes, i can try everything alternative. i can and i will. but i had to face the fact that i have, for the first time in my life, come across something of gigantic proportion. the tumor itself wasn't so big. but everything around it sure seems to be. the mystery, the treatment, the decisions, the results, the future....everything else feels monumental. overwhelming. massive and ugly. it has also stripped me of my desire to look at the big picture. there is so much unknown. i feel, all of sudden, like a bona fide damsel in distress...and there is absolutely nothing romantic about it.
i came home from the hospital yesterday. so glad to be home. but frustrated. everything here reminds me of a different jody. climbing the stairs to my bedroom required my husband's arms. it took a step stool and two people to get me into my bed. i am dependent on straws to drink and pillows to prop and medication to numb. my girls brushed my hair and my boys went for water. a friend dropped off a meal and another one ran to the store. i needed help last night squeezing toothpaste on my toothbrush. and this morning my sister had to shower me. oh friends, i cannot tell you how hard this is. i feel as if the layers of pride are being physically peeled off my stiff body. i am raw underneath. it hurts. it hurts so much to have to ask for the 99th time for someone to hand me this or scratch that. i am not a good patient. not one bit. while in the hospital, my calves were wrapped up in massaging compression pads which helped keep my circulation going. how did i go from running miles on a treadmill last month to having my legs kneaded by a machine? this just doesn't make sense. i am walking around my home with bandages and tubes and medications and it all just makes me want to flee this unsightly sick ward. i feel wounded. i know i am in need of all the helping hands which come to my rescue but i fear i may snap at them before this is over. i feel like a toddler who in her moment of frustrated and false independence yells, "i can do it! let me!" except that i can't. not right now.
i am overwhelmed by the beautiful help. the hands and hearts and feet which come daily to assist: my sister who has taken a week away from her own family and busy life. my friends who show up with flowers and cards and candles and books and health food and brownies. i look at it all and it makes me want to cry. tears flow with the fullness of what they bring. they don't bring things. they bring love. they bring whatever it might take to let their weak friend know she is loved. how lucky i am. and still i sit like that disobedient toddler wanting desperately to do it all by myself. my way. i am not asking to go out and hit 100 tennis balls, but i'd like to be able to dress myself. in the past, i've clearly taken for granted the pleasure of pulling back my own hair in a ponytail. i thought this morning i could handle the shower, until i realized i couldn't even open the shampoo bottle . i stood there in the hot water and felt the hot tears of my neediness well up. i wasn't ready for this kind of dependence. this kind of reliance. i am the big sister. i am the strong woman. what has happened?
and so i sit tonight in my bed. my laptop resting carefully on a pillow before me. the computer which my son brought and the pillow which my daughter arranged in the bed which my husband has gently placed me. my eye catches in the corner of the room a cobweb. its stringy dirty-ness blows in the air-conditioned breeze. i cannot do a single thing about it. i sit here and watch it blow. taunting me. and though i'd love to hop out of bed and whack it right out of here...i can do nothing. nothing. it is only a cobweb and it will not conquer me. but it is a reminder of where i am this week. weak. it will get better. all of this will get better. i know that. but it is hard to see past my immobility and my bandaged body.
i want to believe i will never again take for granted good health. i will always treasure my strong arms and able body. but even now, i can't promise this will be true. it should be. i should learn this lesson well. it has been a hard one. and it may become even harder still. but i know the stuff i'm made of. and i know that it is easy to forget the valley. we are forgetters. we allow our circumstances to dictate our emotions and create all kinds of vows and promises and decisions to change. and then we turn our faces and our stiff necks and we forget. we walk out of the dark wood and climb out of our deep valley and we have forgotten once again. instead, we return to our determined selves and our pretend fairytales and lose sight of our desperation. our neediness.
so on this evening...just a few days out of surgery i am stopping to take note. i am pausing to feel the pain and see the wounds and remember my neediness. it hurts. i don't want to acknowledge any of it. but i must. these are the very things which bring me to my knees and to His feet. these are the sharp rememberings which open my eyes to the beauty of brokenness. it doesn't feel good right now. at the moment i look anything but victorious. but i believe in my God and i know deep in this broken body...
when i lay myself down
when i bow before
when i fall at His feet
when i break
when i hurt
when i call
when i cry....
He comes. He sees. He hears. He hurts. He heals.
"the Lord is faithful to all His promises
and loving toward all He has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down....
the Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth."
~ psalm 145
"He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds."
~ psalm 147
"but He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient
for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 corinthians 12:9