Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Hallmark Movie: What Matters Most

What do you do when you are stuck in bed for the better part of 15 months?  Watch an awful lot of lot of Hallmark movies, of course. While they are certainly predictable and perhaps a little too saccharine at times, they are low intensity, don’t require much thought, and upbeat—all things that work well for me right now. Having seen dozens of these movies the last year, I’ve discovered they all follow the same pattern. 
It goes like this:
  • Life is going well
  • A sudden change turns everything upside down
  • Main character slowly starts to adjust and find happiness again
  • Another dramatic plot twist occurs that generally requires the main character to make a tough decision, reflecting on the deep, heartfelt lessons she has learned over the course of the show and what really matters most in life, and oftentimes choose between her old life and new
  • A decision is made and the best possible outcome emerges.  Everyone lives happily ever after.
One common subplot of the Hallmark movie is the dream sequence.  The main character wakes up to find that her life has totally changed—for better or worse.  At the end of the movie, she awakens, once again, to realize the “new life” was somehow just a dream and she is able to go back to her old life with a new found perspective to enrich and improve her life.
About a month ago I attended my son’s Eagle Court of Honor.  He has been working diligently on getting his Eagle Scout award for the last 5 years, including earning numerous merit badges and culminating in a 40+ hour service project that involved his family, neighbors, and community.  I was so proud of his accomplishment and so eager to attend his Court of Honor.  Yet, I showed up and was immediately overwhelmed by the light, noise, and chaos around me.  I started to crash and ended up passed out on the couch in the foyer.  (Fortunately, I was able to make it back in just long enough to see him be given his award, before my husband promptly wheeled me out and back home.)
I came home upset and discouraged, once again, at my limitations.  The thought occurred to me, “Why can’t my life be like a Hallmark movie?  Why can’t I just wake up and have my old life back!? (And, of course, still remember all those great heartfelt lessons I’ve learned from the past year.)”
Totally plausible, right?
Fast forward a couple weeks.  I had a good day!  I was able to go sit in the temple for a few minutes.  (For anyone not familiar, the LDS temple is a house of worship where sacred ordinances are performed and instruction received.  Everything in the temple is light, white, and bright.  People speak and act in reverent tones, and feelings of calm and peace prevail).  I had been unable to go to the temple for over a year, and while I couldn’t participate in any ordinances, I was so pleased to just go bask in the peaceful atmosphere for a few minutes. 
With my POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), my tachycardia and excess adrenaline always make me feel somewhat frantic when I am sitting or standing.  And while those symptoms were still present, there was certainly a layer of calmness there that I have been craving.

As I sat in the celestial room, I reflected on my life circumstances and found myself caught up in silent prayer.  The thought came clearly to my mind that I have everything that matters most.   Yes, I dearly miss our family adventures—traveling, exploring, hiking, and biking.  Yes, I miss being able to go out with friends and throw or attend parties.  Yes, I miss wearing the nice clothes and jewelry hanging in my closet (yoga pants and t-shirts are my staple now).  Yes, I miss shopping the aisles of Target, Kohls, and Hobby Lobby looking for those great deals that give me a temporary high.  Yes, I miss helping at my kids’ school, going to their programs, and even cooking and cleaning for them.  Yes, I miss having the independence to go where I want when I want and not having to leave the house in a wheelchair or live in constant dread of passing out in public.  But, in the eternal scheme of things are those the things that really matter?

My family’s basic needs and wants are met.  I have an incredible, loving, and compassionate husband.  I have four amazingly sweet and healthy children.  I have family, neighbors, and friends that I love and that love me in return.  I have faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel.  I have everything that matters most.

Fast forward one more time to this past week.  On Christmas Eve I wasn’t feeling well (chalked it up to typical POTS stuff, plus straying from my restrictive diet).  However, by Tuesday my symptoms had escalated greatly. I was in more pain than I have ever been (including labor).  A trip to the doctor and, later, the ER proved fruitless as, after blood work and scans, no apparent problems could be identified.  For most of the week I have been curled up in bed with my pain level hovering at a 9/10.  It has been excruciating and unbearable.  I haven’t been able to eat, and even drinking water sparked intense pain that nothing could touch.  I sobbed from the pain, but also the terror that this might be my new reality. 
Miraculously, this weekend, the doctor’s office called to report that the initial screening that showed no infection was a false negative, and I did, in fact, have an infection.  (Hallelujah for an answer!).  After a heavily dosed antibiotic shot, I am extremely grateful to already be feeling some relief.  Although I’m not totally out of the woods, and still have further scans and tests next week, I am so grateful for any relief and pray that the intense level of pain does not return (and appreciate any additional prayers on that front as well!)
In some ways, I guess my life is a little like a Hallmark movie-- a sudden life change last year, working to find happiness again with my new conditions, even a dramatic plot twist this week.... Perhaps this past week is similar to the dream sequence (I hope I’m now fully awake from the nightmare and that it’s not a tell-tale sign of things to come).  It has certainly given me more room for reflection on what I am grateful for.  Although I am not a stranger to chronic pain, it has given me more compassion for others that live with constant levels of such high pain.  My typical POTS symptoms, though awful, seem like a walk in the park after the last week I’ve had.  I have seen proof of the saying, “Things can always be worse,” and regained perspective and gratitude for the seemingly lesser problems I have.  As I move forward facing the sometimes bitterness of reality, I cling to the sweet reminder I was given that I have everything that matters most.

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