I’m going to be a little transparent here and say that 2013 is going to go down in my personal history books as a really tough year. It kicked off with three weeks of a debilitating ‘flu that took me a long time to fully recover from, and a hard allergy season that triggered my fibromyalgia and made it hard for me to focus and function well. Add to the mix our decision to get our house ready to put on the market and by the end of May we were running on fumes.
We’d planned and saved up for a week in the Dominican Republic at the beginning of June to visit my dear brother and his sweet little son, whom I have yet to meet. Our departure date was the finish line – I focused on it with fervor and a little desperation, certain that if we could just drag one another across we’d be rewarded with a week’s worth of sun-filled days on beautiful Caribbean beaches, the embraces and sticky kisses of a loving two-year-old, and long nights talking about movies and storytelling with my screenwriter brother. Gifts purchased, house cleaned, house-sitter engaged, and bags packed, we headed off to the airport. First leg: San Antonio to Atlanta, with a long (overnight) layover. (As a measure of my exhaustion, I had no sooner seated myself on the plane than I started crying over a completely minor thing with Nick – I tried to cry quietly and not draw attention to myself but after a few minutes the woman across the aisle from us leaned over and asked if she could go get me some damp paper towels for my face. “Embarrassing” doesn’t quite cover it.) A short nap later and I was feeling much calmer and less overwhelmed. The view from the window helped.
The Atlanta hotel was nice, but we got there late and didn’t sleep well. We were relieved to be up and moving again the next morning, though definitely feeling the lack of sleep. Second leg: Atlanta to Santo Domingo. We were on the plane early and I was mortified to discover that my fat behind literally would not fit in the seats we’d been given – they had great leg room for Nick (who, at 6′ 6″, really needs it) but immovable armrests which left no wiggle room for my wide-hipped self. I was dreading the next three hours, but determined to suck it up and stick it out – my weight is my problem and I wasn’t about to draw more attention to myself over it.
Just as the plane was pulling back from the gate, Nick looked over at me and said, “I don’t feel well.”
My husband is the master of understatement, so for him “I don’t feel well” is the equivalent of “Holy crap, stop the presses, this is serious.” After waiting to see if it would pass, we rang the bell for the flight attendant and let them know we had a problem. Did we feel he needed to be taken off the plane? they asked. After a moment, he turned to me and said, “I don’t think I can do the next three hours like this.” Back to the gate we went, accompanied by announcements that a passenger on the plane was experiencing a medical issue, please be patient, etc. etc. etc. Did we want paramedics? they asked. Nick said yes, another sign that this was potentially serious.
At least they were really nice about it.
His blood pressure was through the roof. We called our doctor in San Antonio and he said Nick needed to be evaluated by a doctor before we continued the trip. So off to the ER we went. (Let me pause here to say that Delta Airlines was incredible. I don’t know that I have ever experienced that level of customer service from any organization, ever. Hats off to them for their professional staff and extraordinary commitment to their customers.) The paramedics were a dream – funny, gentlemanly, thorough, and thoughtful. The staff at the ER was as good as it gets – we were particularly grateful for the doctor’s bedside manner, which was relaxed, attentive, and personal. She was really special. (Thanks, Dr. Joy Slade!) And after 10 hours of multiple tests and a CT scan to rule out blood clots, Nick was cleared to travel. Back to the hotel we went, courtesy of Delta Airlines.
But the next morning, Nick still wasn’t feeling well and he became increasingly anxious about managing the flight and spending the next few days in a foreign country away from his doctors. We made the agonizing decision to cancel the trip and Delta personnel once again proved their professionalism by getting us on a near-immediate flight home to San Antonio. They even gave us credits for more than half the original cost of our tickets in case we were able to reschedule our trip later. My brother and I expressed our disappointment to one another over the phone, but we all knew we’d made the right call. Concern for Nick outweighed everything else, and I was deeply grateful when we walked back through our own front door having weathered the flight home without a major incident (even though it was a little frustrating to realize we’d spent three full days of our vacation just getting to Atlanta and back). I was even more grateful when his doctor got him right in the very next morning for some diagnostic procedures and testing, all of which has so far come back completely clear. But since this was a nearly identical replay to what happened with him in March, it’s evident something is going on and we have to get to the bottom of it.
We’ve taken the last three days to pretend we’re on vacation – sleeping late, ignoring the phone, and watching “Fringe” on Netflix – but it’s not the same as Caribbean beaches or the kisses of a two-year-old. Instead of dwelling on my disappointment, I reminded myself that there will be other opportunities, God willing, and in the meantime, we’re doing the right thing by focusing on Nick’s health. This may delay the house selling project but we need to be OK with revising our expectations in that area as well – as much as I’d like to be on the other side of that whole experience, in a new (smaller) house with less to maintain and a new studio, rushing such things rarely turns out well and our priorities have to be elsewhere for the next few weeks. We have to give ourselves permission to let up a little – because honestly, I can’t finish up the last half of this year the way the first half has gone. It’s too exhausting.
Which brings me to the whole “intentional” thing. A friend of mine said recently that she feels like she’s got a big fat F in the subject of her one word for this year, and I have to say I am right there with her. In my experience, making a conscious decision to pursue spiritual growth in one area almost always means we come under greater spiritual attack – and that has certainly been true for my pursuit of an intentional life in 2013. What’s the opposite of intentional? Chaos. Reaction instead of action. Stress instead of purpose. Frustration instead of peace. I have it all in spades and I am thoroughly sick of it. So if anything, last week was a reminder of how much I need to press in, how badly I need God. I don’t need more lists, more unrealistic expectations – they just lead to more reasons to think of myself as too big a failure, too imperfect, too messy, too much, not worth pursuing or being valued. I need more of God, more time in his presence, more of his power, his grace and mercy, his plans for me. I’m reading an advance copy of Stasi Eldredge’s new book, “Becoming Myself” and Marian Parsons’ “Inspired You: Letting God Breathe New Life Into Your Heart and Home.” So far, they have been balms to my spirit, which – if I’m being honest – is a little sore and bruised these days.
There’s a reason God wants me to focus on being intentional this year, and I need to be obedient to that. I’ve done a poor job of it so far, and it’s taking its toll. For starters, I’m taking a break from the whole house thing, at least from a deadline/goal-oriented perspective. Yes, we want to sell it and yes, there are things we need to do to get it ready to go on the market. But I am incapable of taking on one more deadline, and any deadline we set for the house would be entirely self-imposed anyway. I don’t need that kind of pressure. I would much rather take smaller bites and enjoy the process than wind up like I was last week: at the end of my strength and weeping with exhaustion. How much better would it be to break each project down into smaller components, and tackle each of those with pleasure and focus, reveling in the details? And when they’re done, the house will be ready. Or we’ll be ready. Or both. In the meantime, the higher priority is time with Nick and a focus on getting to the bottom of his health issues. Continued prayers are appreciated – we still don’t have answers and not knowing is hard. But we are reminded that there is value in the journey and that God knows all there is to know. That’s enough, because we know him. The rest is in his hands.