This week and last, I have shared posts that tell the story of my journey with autoimmunity. I have said in my posts that I am thankful for this journey. This post gets at the heart of why. Written in August of 2017, it conveys a critical part in my healing — the time I have spent sitting and considering the previous chapter of my life. Everyone doesn’t benefit from illness, but my physical illness has made way for a much deeper healing.
I literally have to sit here with it.
I would rather run, but I don’t have that option any more. I have to sit with it.
In my soldiering years, I was continually in motion. Dawn ’til dark. I was picking up, dropping off, buying, cooking, cleaning, planning, teaching, grading, and when I could squeeze it in, I was literally running. Though I was acutely aware that I had four other humans living in the house with me (who else was I picking up, dropping off, buying, cooking, and cleaning for?), I rarely sat still very long to actually look at them, listen to them, watch them, hear them.
I have to sit with that now. I’d much rather be running.
When one got migraines, went off to school, and then developed an eating disorder, I didn’t stop what I was doing. No. I drove to emergency rooms, packed boxes, drove miles, dropped off, made appointments, picked up, and kept moving.
When another joined the military and started jumping out of planes, I didn’t sit down and think about what that meant. No. I bought supplies, cooked farewell dinners, drove to a bus, dropped off, and kept moving. I can’t even remember if I wrote letters.
When another was brutally assaulted, I was so busy moving I didn’t even realize it had happened. For almost two years. And when I finally found out, still, I didn’t stop what I was doing, sit down, and grieve. No. I grabbed broken pieces, dropped them in the passenger seat of the car, and drove them to someone who I thought could put them back together again. And I kept on moving.
I have to sit with that now.
I didn’t choose this.
No. Even when disease started crawling into my joints, I tried to keep moving. I trudged through long days trying to manage responsibilities and ended up collapsing at home at the end of each day. All my good hours were spent in hot pursuit while my hours at home, with the ones who needed me most, were spent in a daze of pain and fatigue.
It’s been over three years since I admitted the need for change. In those three years I have tried again and again to return to my former ways, but I can not. This disease is literally slowing me, sitting me down, and forcing me to face the things that I have not wanted to face. It’s forcing me to learn new ways. And, still, I resist.
I try, futilely, to keep busy. I have crocheted a hundred scarves, hats, afghans. I have put together a million puzzle pieces. I have read thousands of pages of print.
But, without fail, fatigue comes, and I must stop the busy-ness and turn to stillness. And even when I am exhausted, as I am right now, it’s as though I fight against rest.
The past several nights I have limped to my room lugging heated packs that I drape on my neck, hips, back after I’ve awkwardly lowered myself into bed. Then begins the battle of shifting and moaning and repositioning that sometimes lasts several minutes but tonight lasted much longer, and I couldn’t turn off the images that kept playing out over and over on the HD screen that is my imagination. Finally I groaned myself out of bed.
Come on, Kristin. Sit with it. Admit that you missed so much. Acknowledge that the ones you love have hurts that you haven’t wanted to see. Grieve that. Cry.
Acknowledge that you couldn’t do it all. You couldn’t soothe all the hurts. You sometimes didn’t even try.
And the hurts keep coming. The car needs servicing. The dog is aging and ill. A laptop isn’t working. Can’t a girl get relief from some of this pain?
And then comes the realization that the physical pain is a symbol. A tool.
Man, I hate to admit that it’s a gift, but without it, I would still be running. I would still be accumulating regret.
The illness hasn’t solved my problems, but it has allowed me to see them.
And as I see them, I am finally taking the time to sit with them and cry. The tears keep coming as though they just have been waiting for the opportunity.
I’m trying, really trying, to sit with that. I believe the healing will come in the grieving. So, I’m going to take some time to grieve. Soldiering me wants to schedule the grieving for Mondays at 10am for the next three weeks and be done with it.
Sitting still me isn’t in a rush.
I’m learning to sit with that, too.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.