In the last four weeks, I've almost died four times.
The latest was this morning while driving to church on i30 when all the ice from the top of my car slid down to completely cover my windshield.
But I barely even bat an eyelash at that one.
It's weird to think that my life has almost come to a close so many times in such a short period, and that to be honest, I was okay with it.
I love being alive and having such great experiences, but pain can easily make that switch flip within our hearts.
Most people that know me would not be able to guess this about me, but on an average day, my stomach will bother me about 80% of the time. I've had seven surgeries on my stomach in the last seven years, two of them being major. It's evolved into a pretty mild pain, and I've learned to adjust everything in my life around that.
But four weeks ago, while at the Ben Rector show with a beloved friend, I felt a weight fall on my chest. I tried to solve the problem myself by adjusting my diet again and resting, but I ended up in three different ER's, multiple doctor and surgeons offices before being finally being admitted for four days.
Something tripped up my digestive system, and it began to shut down. My liver was on its last leg. By trying to rehydrate my system intravenously, my potassium levels depleted and almost caused a cardiac arrest.
At so many times, I can remember being in so much pain that I couldn’t breathe — my eyes began to darken with tears and I knew in those moments that I was dying. There was peace and comfort in knowing that in an instant that pain could go away.
Experiencing that level of pain does something to you.
It’s bizarre but, I’m choosing to look at this current trial as a gift. Even if I’m constantly hurting, it’s enabling me to examine my life from a different perspective.
I have achieved and gained more than I ever thought possible, but am I who I'm supposed to be. What does it mean to be normal, and why can I never seem to achieve it.
The most horrible part of any illness is the isolation.
I want to maintain my independence. I want to be able to go to dress myself for work and drive my car without the fear of having to rely on someone else to help me. I don’t want anyone to think something is wrong with me, and I sure do not want to see the look on someone’s face when they see me in pain.
The irony is that I manage a community of artists, most of whom work for non-profits to help those that are less fortunate. They have overwhelmingly offered to bend over backwards, and yet, I hold my ground.
I do not want to have to ask anyone for help, or God forbid, ask someone to just sit and listen to me.
To be an artist is to be a bit melancholy, and in this dead of winter, I too can feel the weight of the ice bearing down on my branches.
It’s been too difficult for me to have the same conversation about what I’m going through, so I thought I would count this as my press release.
My dear friends, even those whom I have fooled the last month, I do need you. I need you to remind me that life is too fragile to not have that cup of coffee with your neighbor in the morning. That you shouldn’t be wasting your time and talent fighting for businesses you don’t believe in simply because they give you a paycheck.
I need you all to tell me about the good happening in your life; about the love that is blooming, the music that sparks something inside you, or even the new way you’re re-arranging your living room.
Simply put, it’s difficult to answer text messages and brief encounters asking how I’m doing. I need you to remind me to continue to trust the Lord during this time by just praying for me.
I’ve thought a lot about Paul these past few weeks. He talked a lot about a “thorn in the flesh”, which most scholars believe was an illness. This is probably why he had his doctor BFF, Timothy, travel around with him (don’t quote me on this, I studied painting….)
Even though this “thorn” was always there, he never let it take his eyes off his mission. He was simply a soldier, a person, a friend, a teacher — and he never let his humanity get in the way.
I’m getting over myself enough to realize that this will probably follow me the rest of my life. I can’t control it, I just have to accept it and move forward. The latest update is that no one still has any idea what is going on. I’m taking enough medications to keep my digestive system on life support while going in for tests as much as I can handle it.
Joy is found when my eyes are taken off of myself. In this beautiful season, when all life is frozen under a weight of uncertainty, there is a light that warms me — a great peace given by a deepened salvation.
…and also by the heating pad Liz’s mom, Jane got for me.