Back to Routine
I like routine. And the Hucke holiday, with all of its wonderful-ness and awful-ness and everything in between, was anything but routine!
With Becca settled in Madrid, Spain for the semester, Doug back to work and Ian registered for another 6 credits that begin soon, I’m relishing a return to some routine. Christmas is put away, the returns are returned and the gym is calling. Today, at least as far as I can see, feels routine. And that feels good.
Just before Christmas I had an especially outrageous and vivid dream. Ian was in the passenger seat of a car that his new service dog was driving. The pair were driving through the Trader Joes parking lot very slowly for maximum shock value. Mesmerized onlookers began to assemble. Ian’s grin was enormous and directed at me as he rode past. Shocked but calm, I waved. And then in slo-mo, the dog drove right towards the plate glass window. After a spectacular crash, the car stopped in the entry taking down the garland display. I walked close enough to see that both Ian and the dog were not hurt. They weren’t. In fact, Ian was laughing and they were both adorned with greenery.
As preposterous as the dream was it’s ending seems especially curious. The moment I realized that Ian was not hurt, I bolted. Quickly left. As in escaped.
The dream seems understandable given Ian’s relentless push for independence. But my speedy departure from the scene of the crime has me scratching my head.
This ongoing recovery, this new normal, this uncertainty of Ian’s future requires daily endurance. And I’m tired. It isn’t the routine stuff that is so wearing. Cooking, cleaning, making arrangements, answering questions, driving to appointments… that’s just fine. It’s the unpredictable drama. It’s the driving with a dog into a storefront kind of thing that has me dreaming of escape. It’s the stuff you can’t anticipate. It’s the stuff that happens at the worst times. It’s the stuff that disrupts everything and everyone including Christmas Day.
I remember when I was pregnant with Ian I was determined to figure out motherhood. I was an older mom (34) and had mastered the work place. Felt competent even. Motherhood though seemed daunting and anything but natural. I devoured the entire book “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” with little increase in confidence. Is it just me or were there a few chapters missing? I would stress about getting everything just right. Ian used sterilized pacifiers, ate homemade baby food and was on a strict sleep schedule.
By the time Becca was born a year and a half later, I would pick her pacifier up from the dirty floor and wipe it on my pant leg. What changed. I did. On the job training.
In hindsight, I wonder if the book really helped? The point is, my quest to get it right had little to do with the instruction manual. It had everything to do with being prayerful, flexible, intuitive and walking with God through it.
Mastering Traumatic Brain Injury
There is no book on what to expect with a Traumatic Brain Injury. I know this because on one of my sleepless nights, I googled it. Go ahead, I dare you. It was completely useless! It only served to feed my frenzied, unsettled feeling.
If I took the time to call every phone number, explore every resource, look into every bit of assistance, consider every specialist I hear about, I would spend 3 hours on it daily. As it stands now, Ian could be in some sort of therapy or assistance from day break til evening for years to come. Seriously. I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for all of the possibilities, but trying to prioritize what to pursue next can be paralyzing. Then, while sinking in quicksand the mail delivers another incorrect bill or a change in Ian’s insurance. Calgon… take me away…
Not surprisingly, the day came… I cracked under the weight of it all. Without thoughtful intention, I simply quit. I ignored everything. The incorrect bills collected in a stack, the phone calls didn’t get made, the research didn’t get done and life went on. Honestly I don’t think anyone noticed. Except me. I felt awful. With more time on his hands compounded by a long break from UNM, Ian’s mood was volatile, making it easy for me to ignore him completely.
Looking back I’ve learned that my ‘cracked-state’ may have been caregiver burnout, or compassion fatigue. According to Web MD, they are real syndromes and you don’t want them. Thankfully my listless, apathetic behavior got my attention quickly and I turned to fervent prayer.
God nudged me to ask for help. I resisted. I mean… I have the time, I understand what is needed. I just don’t want to do it. Losing interest didn’t seem like a reasonable excuse to request help. Besides God… who, what and how do I proceed?
The thought of help hung over me for days but I didn’t really know what to do with it. Then a person came to mind, Betsy. She’s a retired nurse and had reached out before. I prayed about approaching her not quite sure what to ask for, but sensing I should try.
I Did It
And then I did it. I called her and asked for help. It was so easy. I spoke about my struggles and how incapacitated I felt. I didn’t know how she could help, but I welcomed it. Hanging up I felt a sense of relief but with little expectation that much would change. At least I was obedient I reasoned.
God got my attention and I listened. I’m not expected to do it all. In fact, not only will I crack under the burden, it is not His design. Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I’m sure Betsy would minimize her efforts as no big deal. In fact to me it seemed as if… wait for it…. she enjoyed it! Betsy was obedient, I was obedient and the result was a WIN WIN.
The day we spoke she sent me an email with a simple to do list. It was as if she saw my enormous elephant and spoon fed me in bite sized chunks. Thank you Betsy.
Betsy called on her connected friends for direction and Ian was moved to the front of the line. Yesterday after a lengthy interview and lots of paperwork, the letter came that Ian has been approved for 15 caregiving hours weekly. HUGE! And a month ago I had no idea this was even a possibility.
My self-sufficient daughter
While preparing for 5 months abroad, I watched my independent daughter struggle with the same thing I struggle with. Self sufficiency. I am so proud of her. And she will soar in Spain. But both Doug and I were eager to help her to prepare. And she resisted, refused even. How is it that we see our own frailties most prominently when they are displayed in someone else?
The SIN of self-sufficiency
I’m convicted. While road-tripping to Denver with Becca, I had lots of time to reflect on the subject. My prayer is to let God be God and get rid of self-sufficiency.
He is showing me that in my efforts to be excellent at life, I try to tame God. Without intention I try to manage God, to reduce Him, to confine Him, to bring Him down to my level. Instead He wants me to acknowledge Him in all His glory, majesty, and power.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
When we say we have everything we need, but Jesus isn’t our first priority, He is deeply offended. Self-sufficiency distracts us from realizing what we need most, that only He can provide.
From my observation of people, the most self sufficient ones are often the farthest from Christ. After all, they have no need….. YET! That is why tough circumstances are such an effective faith building tool. Circumstances cause self sufficiency to crack.
Have you ever stopped to consider how much we do according to our own plans and in our own strength? Far too often, we act first, and expect God to bless our efforts.
God did not create us to be self-sufficient. He created us to need each other.
The Disease of Self-Sufficiency
If you’ve got the disease of self-sufficiency, you’ve probably had it a long time. And you’ve probably been complimented for it. Perhaps you’ve spun it in positive terms like responsible, independent, and reliable. Indeed, self-sufficiency has lots of advantages. For starters, you get to avoid appearing needy and weak . And in time, you start to believe your own press.
Symptoms of the SS Disease
- If you’re going through something and you choose to handle it and not tell anyone.
- If you prefer to isolate yourself and put on your ‘I’m OK’ mask in public.
- If your effort is exceeding reasonable and your joy is being sapped
If you answered yes to one or more of the symptoms, may I suggest some medicine? A large dose of consistent prayer, asking God to shine His light on your self sufficiency. Next, confess to a close friend or family member. Don’t carry it alone.
When I cracked, that was the medicine God prescribed to me. Making that phone call to Betsy may seem insignificant, but it wasn’t. I confessed. I admitted my desperate neediness. Confession is telling the truth, and the truth is, we need others.
If you feel burdened by this truth, and need more direction, please reach out. I always appreciate your public comments. But if you’d rather ask for prayer or direction privately, I welcome that too.
Allow God to melt the cold, hard ice of your self-sufficiency. Life is sweeter when you do.