Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blindly Walk On Water

""You're going to be blind someday." The doctors say it with all the tenderness and compassion they can muster. When you're the patient though it feels like someone is asking you to walk across the Pacific Ocean.
Now that I'm missing my eye sight the prospect of strolling onto the sea shouldn't be so bad. Being blind should keep me from being distracted by the lapping waves. However, walking on water is still a challenge I struggle to face. Walking into the darkness isn't so  different. darkness has a texture like smoke. Somewhere beyond the grasp of my fingers. Acrid in my mind as it drifts unseen. Invasive as I shiver in its clutches. The darkness itself is innocent of any harmful intentions, but the prospect of being trapped in it with out something solid for an anchor turns a docile creature into a toothy monster in my mind.
When I first lost my sight, it was only a piece of it. I wasn't absorbed by the blackness, only irritated by the limitations it put on my life. I tripped, drove like a drunk,  and needed extra light to read while I searched for a way for the annoyance to clear up.
When I was finally able to accept that I would find myself in a world of complete darkness it was too much for me to dwell on. I let it cross my mind occasionally, when I lay in the dark falling asleep. When I looked at one of my kids faces, or stared into my husband's eyes.
I let my thoughts and imagination fill in what my eyes couldn't for a long time, as a barrier against the fingers of blackness crawling into my world.
I finally embraced the darkness one day, or I started on this day, when a friend asked me to tell her what being blind feels like. Once I'd let my fear of being trapped without sight wash over my mind, I cried. I imagined never looking at another sunset. Never seeing the colors of spring, or the icy blue of my husband's gorgeous gaze. I closed my eyes to let the loss overwhelm me.
When the tears stopped and the quiet of the afternoon settled around me, I felt hollow somehow. I let my mind reach out for the heat of the sun on my feet as I shivered. I smelled the grass being mowed next door and I heard my boys laughing as they ran through the sprinklers with their cousins. A smile crept onto my face then. Sitting in the light, with my eyes closed and engulfed by darkness my world was filled with the things that were real, though unseen.
I realized, the actual experience of being blind is not what we fear. It is the prospect of what being blind will take away
Is that so bad? I don't have to worry about being distracted by appearances. I don't make judgements of people because of what they look like. There is no ugliness in the world. There is only the emotion I pick up on. Like anyone who collects coins, or stamps, or jewels I collect what I choose to pick up. I can collect the anger, doubt, fear, and frustration that comes along with a world cowering in darkness, or I can tune in to sunshine, laughter, love and joy as I fill it back up.
It is not the absence of sight that is frightening, it is the prospect of what you will fall over, run into, or encounter in the darkness. We all live in that world. When you walk out the door you feel safe because your eyes will warn you of the dangers to you and those you love. The things that will take our hearts and souls and crush them can't be seen. What can be seen will distract you from tuning in to the sinister, destructive, damaging darkness that hides in plain sight. Losing your sight means focusing on what is important and casting aside the prospect of our limited sight keeping us safe.
You will not "see" grief, depression, loneliness, or betrayal coming, no matter how good your sight is. You will "see" faith, light, love and the hand of God holding you up in the face of darkness if you close your eyes.
Feel His hands in your hair as you cry. Sink into His arms when your afraid. His embrace surrounds you if you aren't looking for flesh. Bask in the warmth of His love, or the cool breath of His relief as you stand in the sunlight or dance in the wind. Its all him, don't let your sight convince you Your Father isn't there, because you can't see Him.
The prospect of losing one of your senses is always going to be terrifying. I'd like to be the sort of person who has enough faith to just step out onto the surface of the water and walk as if the depths of the sea don't wait below my feet.I don't know how to do that though. I'm working on stepping out,  so I can let my vision of The Savior beckoning to me take my mind off the water. Someday, He will be all I see. Today I still find my self looking down every once in a while. I think that's Okay too, as long as I remember to lift my eyes back to Him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When The Blind Drive

As a rule, the blind avoid driving. However, There is a special computerized system that allowed Dr. Mark Maurer, The president of The NFB, to drive the pace car in Nascar.
The truth is...I have driven. More than once, and in dire circumstances. However, I don't even think about it anymore though, and as a Father's Day tribute, I'll tell the story of the last time I drove, for those of you who don't know.
On Father's Day of 1998, my Father-in-law made one request of me. Bring him my chocolate chip cookies. Erik and I had been married for 6 months and for the first time in nearly a decade, I had a father to make something for on Father's Day. I baked the cookies, bought a special cookie jar, and was ready to deliver them on that fateful day.
For those of you who know Erik, you might know that he works super hard, and he sleeps just as hard. This particular Sunday I needed to get the cookies to Ivins and Erik and I lived in St. George. So here I was with my cookie jar and a mission for Father's Day and Erik was taking a nap. I tried to wake him, but every time I'd say something he'd mumble and go back to sleep. This could have gone on all night long and I was running out of evening light to get to my Father-in-law.In my own defense I'd only lost the beginnings of my sight at that point. My right eye was totally gone, but my left still saw some light, color and movement. I was still in the mind set that I would see again as well.
I still believe I'll see someday, up until this day though I thought it was just one great miraculous treatment away.
As the light drifted through the apartment windows I thought to myself. "I could drive to Ivins. I know the main roads to get there, I know his parents live across from one of the two churches Ivins had then, and there was just enough light."
Crazy when you hear it out loud right? Well in my thoughts it made perfect sense.
I found Erik's keys, my cookie jar, but couldn't locate my shoes. This was red flag number 1 that I was out of my mind. Thinking I could drive a car when I couldn't find my shoes in my apartment.
No matter though. Undaunted I backed out of the driveway and made it to the first corner where I'd join mainstream traffic. It was divine providence that guided me from this point on. I pulled onto 700 south, in St. George and didn't crash or kill anyone. Miracle #1. I got behind a white car heading toward Bluff Street. The light bounced off the white car like a spotlight and I stayed behind it until the car stopped at Bluff. Miracle #2- The car turned and headed toward Sunset Boulevard, I followed. When the white car slowed or stopped so did I. When the white car turned, so did I. Miracle # 3 When the white car turned onto Sunset Boulevard and headed toward Ivins...You guessed it, I followed. With what was left of my sight drilling holes through the white car's bumper, it turned off to head into Santa Clara. This is the point where I should've panicked and pulled over, but when the white car pulled off-Miracle #4 a white pick-up truck turned in front of me, heading up graveyard hill toward Ivins. "Graveyard Hill" should've been another red flag that this was not the wisest of plans. I was feeling so confident in my white guardians though, I kept driving.
As we came closer to Ivins, I lost the white truck, but wasn't concerned. In the dusky light of the day I could see the Steeple of the first chapel I knew marked the road into Ivins. I turned into town.
This is where my brilliant plan falls apart. The road leading into ivins was paved from curb to curb and I figured all I had to do was stay on my half of the road. Well, back then only the first block or so was paved and had curbs, a large portion of town had no curbs or gutters and only gravel shoulders. As my tires dropped off the asphalt onto the gravel shoulder, I'd correct and get myself back on the road, genius right? Wrong!
Some vigilant citizen saw me swerving on and off the road and called the police.
I had no idea, and still drove happily along looking for my second steeple to tell me where to turn to get to Erik's parents house.
Disaster struck again. The steeple wasn't jutting into the sky to show me the way. Evidently along this road a number of tall, steeple like trees lined the road. Lost and somewhat confused, I began circling blocks, very slowly, so as not to hit anything along the way. My circling made me hard to find. By the time I reached My in-laws driveway, a police officer had finally caught up to me.
Unbeknownst to me, my in-laws were watching from the front windows, unable to figure out where Erik was and why I was talking to the police from the drivers side door.
The first thing the officer asked me for was my shoes. "Did you know its illegal to drive without shoes Miss?"
I didn't, but I reassured him it wasn't a problem because I couldn't legally drive anyway. When he frowned, asking me for my driver's license I explained that I didn't have one. Even more confused he asked me to get out of the car.
Well, I lost it. I started to cry, explaining the cookies, my father-in-law, and my sleeping husband.
As i sobbed out my story he walked me to the front door and handed me over to my Father-in-law. When the officer explained about the cookies, my father-in-law cried a little with me, gave the officer a cookie, and then promised he wouldn't let me drive myself home.
When all of the family heard the whole story, the first thing they did was call my husband. "Do you know where your wife is?"
"She's in the living room," he told them.
"She's not. Do you know where your car is?"
"Its in the driveway," he insisted.
"Its not. You better call Ian and get a ride out here."
While Erik was en route with his brother Ian, I'd  finally calmed down over the cop business. Now, though I was terrified what Erik was going to do to me. If all he needed was a good excuse to have had it with my craziness, I'd pretty much given him a 'get out of jail free' card with this one.
After 16 years of marriage, I know this was a ridiculous fear to have, but after only six months I was sure I'd blown it. He was eerily silent when he came to the house. Asking in his low, even tone for the whole story. He didn't say much in response, just took me by the hand, put me back in the car, and drove away.
The whole drive was dead silent. Me, wondering if I was going to die, him saying nothing.
We pulled up in front of Denny's and he took me inside. After ordering a milkshake for the two of us, he took my hands and asked.
"Are you Okay?"
I nodded, but didn't say anything
"You scared me to death. You could have been hurt, or killed. I'm just glad you're Okay."
Now you may think this is a story about my Father-in-law and what a great man he is, and he is. He is the only father I had for two decades after I lost my dad.  The truth is...This story is about the great man I married. He was my best friend before I fell in love with him. He has always been the best man I've known since my father. I never expected to have a husband, children, or any of the blessings my Heavenly Father has granted me, but Erik is the greatest one of all. He was never afraid of how broken I am. He saw more eternally than I did. He continues to love me, even though I'm more trouble than I'm worth some days.
As I've recovered from transplant surgery he's been nurse, replacement mom, wage earner, picture of patience, and my very best friend all along. He never feels like a great Dad after Father's Day, he only see's what he should do different. He is a great man, not a perfect man, thank goodness for his flawed wife, but a great husband, father, and friend.
I love you Baby, Forever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fending Off Lizards

A wise man once said "It is impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you pick someone else who has it worse to feel sorry for instead."
I don't know if that is true but it brings up a saying my Dad use to tell me when I was hurting, struggling with my health, or just plain had a bad attitude. He would say "A person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package."
When I have things go wrong in my own life suddenly my problems are huge and fill my entire view. As if a mountain of problems huddle above me ready to crush me at any moment. When I pull my view away from the side of that mountain and I see what other people's problems are...I go running for my own every time.
So my body isn't happy with me right now, I didn't spend all night in the hospital waiting to see if my son would make it through surgery to remove a tumor. A good friend of mine did.
So maybe my scars and surgeries have left my body a broken mess of wounds and missing or extra pieces. I didn't have to bury my youngest daughter. My neighbor from St. George did.
I can't imagine what demons, dragons, or despair fills your life. Maybe its an avalanche of hurt, pain, and fear. Maybe it doesn't matter except that its yours, its real, and it needs attention. Don't compare your mountain to anyone else's, its not, its yours and it looms in your life. No one else's matters.
However, when that mountain feels as if its sitting on your heart and soul let The Savior take the weight from you for a minute while you look around and 'The world's' problems. If today is a day when someone you know is out slaying dragons be grateful you only have to fend off a few lizards. Take your eyes off what's gone wrong in your life and put them in faith and hope on the future. Today will pass, tomorrow will come and go. The only thing The Lord requires is for us to keep goin.
So line up your friends and families problems on the mountainside before you get overwhelmed and then run straight for your own.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How's Your Perspective?

I looked at my last post and cringed at how much time has passed. On April 26 I was called up to Salt Lake City for a pancreas transplant. I've been either recovering, in the hospital, or trying to keep going ever since. My blog sort of took a vacation. Back in September of 2012 I had a similar experience with one major difference; the organ failed after 30 hours. I ended up having the transplant removed, a bleeding ulcer in my stomach cotterized, my appendix removed, and I nearly bled to death before I got to the recovery part.
There are a few days during this experience that I don't remember much about. I was weak, in excruciating pain, and on a lot of drugs. Interestingly enough, I didn't process the fact that the pancreas had failed and I was cut open from ribs to pelvis with no transplant. I had to focus on breathing, staying connected with my surroundings and not slipping into depression.
Being in the hospital for me is a challenge. I can't see the room I'm in, I hear only the machines and distant voices, and I literally feel like I'm floating in a pool of blackness. Much of this time my sister was nearby holding onto me and keeping me grounded but the nights are the worst. Time becomes meaningless as I drift through long hours alone. Nurses coming and going. My body only present in the form of pain or nausea. I can't feel the night pass or the dawn arrive. It seems as if the night will last forever and there are no outside indicators to tell me that I've conquered one more day. It was in those moments nearly two years ago that I learned to  hold onto my Savior, literally and physically. I would reach for light and imagine sitting with him while I prayed. I would cry into His shoulder instead of my pillow. I clutched his hand as I drifted through the night. This experience only lasted two weeks, and at the time I couldn't imagine making it any longer.
My brother said this was as low as he's ever seen me. My sister, who was with me, says I don't talk about it. The truth is its the closest I've ever come to thinking I would be better off if I died. I don't talk about it because its one of the few times the darkness almost won.
This last month has been a different trial for me. One I haven't had much patience with. I have a working pancreas. Thirty three years of Diabetes is now being treated by a transplanted organ instead of my failing body. I'm healing, feeling good, pain free, and...far from home.
I spent a month stuck in Salt Lake City in the hospital or following up with my surgeons. I've got two vicious viruses, an I.V. still in my arm and blood work that has to be drawn twice a week along with weekly visits to The U of U's clinic.
Read that list of complaints in comparison to what I went through back in September. It's nothing. I got so focused on what I was going through NOW, that I forgot my perspective. I lost sight of my great blessings, healed body, and wonderful family and friends.
How often are we so caught up in not getting our way right this second that we forget how much worse it could be?
I'm grateful for the chance to regain my perspective on this. One of the ways I survive hard things is by making lists of what I'm grateful for. You can't possibly feel sorry for yourself if you can list all the blessings in your life. Remember...You only sorrow over the lot you have to lose when you first have a lot.
I have more than I deserve and as long as I keep my perspective I always will.No matter what I've lost, I am missing nothing. I've got three kidneys, two pancreas' and a hand crafted eye. What more could a woman want? I've got good friends, neighbors, family, and a wide open future. The next time you feel as if the darkness is coming for you, clutch something or someone and reach for your Savior. You'll be amazed at your new found perspective.
"The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He."