When I was 27 weeks pregnant with my youngest son Logan, I slipped on the ice and tore the ACL in my right knee. I was never graceful to begin with, so crutches took some extra effort. Add to the mix, winter, a gravity offsetting pregnant belly, and my two other small children, Alex 3 and Spencer 15 months, plus my husband who was in the middle of a crazy work schedule in another city and mostly MIA.
The elements for recovery were really just a #recipefordisaster
During this time of (cough cough) “healing” I found myself propped up in a lazy-boy recliner, my right leg strapped in a knee immobilizer, a bag of ice propped on top. It was bedtime, and I was feeding Spencer a bottle of milk. Ounce by ounce the will to stay awake drained as fast as his bottle, until finally, he relaxed, settled against my shoulder like a limp bag of flour, and fell asleep. I distinctly remember smelling his still damp hair, and smiling over the intoxicating scent of baby shampoo. Then Spencer arched his back, threw his head back and projectile vomited ALL OVER ME.
I pulled off Spencer’s pajamas, and used his blanket to hastily wipe off my face and shirt and dab at the MV (milk vomit) splattered all over my non washable, metal rod inserted, knee brace. I shifted Spencer to my other side, handed him his binky, and within minutes he had INEXPLICABLY gone back to sleep. I watched him melt into a heavy state of deep relaxation, while regurgitated milk steadily made its way into the creases of my neck. I called for help as loudly as I dared, hoping not to wake Spencer, but there was no response. Meanwhile, Russ, the normally MIA father was actually home that night and putting Alex to bed. I guess he thought he’d knock out two birds with one stone and put himself to bed as well. He’s smart like that. At first my continued cries for backup were like soft kitten mewing sounds, because I didn’t want to wake up Spencer. But as time progressed, and the melted ice began to leak down the inside of my leg immobilizer and the dead weight of Spencer started to cut off my blood flow, plus there were those small details of being covered in vomit, imobile and pregnant. And to make things worse. No, but really. The need to pee had become the sole thought thumping like a heartbeat in my brain. It was then that my muffled pleas became full on shrieks.
Somehow, this still did NOT manage to rouse Russ, but it did manage to rouse Alex, who in no time flat was standing in front of me, half asleep, confused and crying. I could hear the long deep bear like snores of hibernation rising like a warning from down the hall as Alex used my knee immobilizer to anchor himself, so he could climb up my straight-jacketed leg to my lap. But even after he reached the safety of my arms, he could not be consoled. In fact, he cried even harder because I smelled yucky. Misery loves company, so Spencer decided to wake up and join in, #trio
But at least he only cried for a few minutes this time. Luckily, he stopped as soon as he started throwing up again.
Alex could not be convinced to go get Russ, but he did bring me a towel to help clean up round two. “Such a good helper!” I praised him as he climbed back onto my towel covered lap. I flipped through the channels until I found some late night kids program and settle back to watch them with my boys.
Somehow we all dozed off, and in the chaos of shifting bodies, I dropped the remote, and the tv was stuck on a Magic Bullet infomercial when Spencer woke up, ready for strike three. He cried for a few minutes, but then the magic bullet testimonials caught Spencer’s attention and he quieted down. And if I’m completely honest, it capture mine as well, and I found myself telling Spencer, “Man, it would be nice to be able to whip up some heavy cream for when company unexpectedly stops by and I need to make an impromptu pie.”
Eventually, my impatience at my predicament and the very real possibility that I was going to pee all over the lazy boy turned to raw panic, and I may have cried manically into the dark abyss, “LASSIE GO FOR HELP!” Which, ironically, didn’t wake Russ, but did wake the people upstairs, who luckily DID bring help back from the well.
In those last few moments before they arrived, I remember thinking I knew I’d be okay, we’d be okay. This was not life threatening. We were not on The Titanic, or in a fox hole in France. If I peed on the chair it was made of leather and wipeable 🙂 This was just a rough patch that would some day make a great story. But. In those heavy, wet, immobilizing moments waiting for the sunrise, my rational thoughts dissipated; and all I could think was “How do I get through now?”
There is a chasm of space that lies between what you want, and what you have. Everyone has this gap in their lives. No one gets a free pass. And in the emptiness between here and there a canyon of doubt, frustration and pain stretches like the Red Sea in front of you, seemingly impassible.
The bridge you have to build to cross the distance from what you have, to what you want, is built from courage. Yes. Wretched courage.
Believe me, I’ve searched for short cuts to avoid the back breaking work of building, but shortcuts never pan out. Tarzan vines break, and Disney sells lies! I mean despite what you see in Swiss Family Robinson, riding an ostrich is not easy, and I wanted easy. I was tired from trying every other possible route to get where I needed to be to face the tedious work of building something solid, of closing the gap one wooden plank at a time.
Ironically, it was only after I was thoroughly thrashed from making my way through the jungle, only to stare a dead end in the eye, that I finally girded up my loins, grabbed courage by the shirt and told it man to man that this is what we are doing, and this is what we are doing NOW.
It was in fact, a courage showdown.
Sometimes for me, the hardest part of doing, is deciding to act. It’s helpful if you have a reservoir of courage to draw from; or if you’re bone dry, a friend’s reservoir to sciphon. Bridge building is hard work, and never turns out the way you think it should. The kicker is, you have to keep going anyway, even when it’s taking longer than you thought it should. Keep going, even when it doesn’t look like you imagined it would. Keep going even if all you have to build with is atrophied wood, and dried vines.
My bridge is haphazard and treacherous, like something out of an Indiana Jones Movie, snapping crocodiles two hundred feet below. IDK? It may have had something to do with letting my kids help before realizing they had forged the signatures on their knot tying merit badges.
Look, I’m not a freaking architect or a mechanical engineer. I knew NOTHING about bridge building. Still, I had to build a stupid bridge anyway. It takes tedious dedication and sacrifice. And so, it’s hard for me to put SO MUCH EFFORT into something that looks like it was built by a blind, armless kindergartener.
If you are anything like me, you are going to want to apologize that it’s not a Pinterest perfect bridge. And revealing your structure will take scraping the last vestiges of courage from your seemingly empty soul, because not caring what everyone else thinks is rough. Nevermind that I would be the first person to remind anyone else to stop being ashamed and LOOK at what they had done! I would remind them of their inventiveness, tenacity and grit. That they had figured out a way across the chasm and that is a beautiful, hard and noble thing. I would remind them that courage inspires courage.
But I would never say those things to myself. The crappy thing is, if you want to rise, and if you want to inspire those around you to rise, then the thing you have to do will make you want to jump off that rope bridge when I say it, because it’s a hard one
You can only love others as much as you love yourself.
What fresh hell is this?
THEN you have to have faith to take that first shaky step towards change. And THAT takes courage. THEN after you take that first step and don’t die, you have to keep going. For me, I mostly had to keep going because my kids don’t listen and have sprinted ahead, and need me to bring quarters to buy alligator feed. Duh.
Step by step by step is how we get through now.
Breath by breath by breath.
Courage is not born from immaculate conception. Courage is conceived in terrifying moments of raw bravery. Courage keeps pace with fear. In fact, it’s barely one step ahead, and sometimes the race seems so close I wonder who will cross the finish line first. Courage grows from a spark of defiance, starts a slow, low smolder you have to tenderly care for if you want it to catch fire. Courage thrives when we embrace the challenges life presents us as chances to practice taking deliberate action needed to acquire strength.
On the upside, maybe all the pontoon building will leave your body ripped and sculpted, and you can cross your bridge like you’re walking down the catwalk, with everyone calling out, “Dang gurl! You are looking gooood!”
I mean that didn’t happen for me, but you win some, you lose some.
At least I remembered the quarters for the alligator feed.
Side note; The bridge in this post is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge Suz and I are crossing links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede.