Quite the roller coaster it has been here. I am going home on Tuesday, and so far have experienced only very minor recovery. My left foot is still completely numb up to the knee. My right foot is less numb and it’s just to the ankle. The left lateral side of my left leg is severely weakened as well, as well as the left quadriceps. All of this weakness and numbness obviously makes walking exceptionally difficult.
When I entered the hospital, I could barely walk with a walker. I have learned a lot and am now able to do that fairly well. I can still almost not walk at all without my walker, except very slowly and for short distances. Both balance and endurance on the left leg are quite bad. I have come a very long way in rehab, learning to live my life, avoid falling, and how to be as productive as possible given my substantial disabilities at this time.
None of this, of course, says anything about what is to come. I may yet recover fully. Or almost fully. Or slightly. Or not at all. There is no telling. Some recovery is perhaps more likely than none. Roller coaster.
The last few days have been hard.
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It is hard to achieve work/family balance
Around 1996 I was flying out the door, in a hurry to get to work, as usual. Work was my great passion, perhaps my greatest passion. I had been a record store clerk for years before I became a pastor, and a groundskeeper before that. It felt so good to be in the ministry, to have a “real job,” at least what felt like a real job to me. So I was hurrying out the door. I remember thinking I was very late for something, although of course now I don’t remember what it was. Suddenly it hit me — the awareness that I had to pee. I was already out the door with my briefcase — but I really had to pee. Wherever I had to be was going to have to wait because peeing could not.
In I rushed, through the door, down the hall, into the bathroom. I did my business and ran back out the door to my car, started it up, and flew off down the road. As always, I loved the quiet of the car — a break from my beautiful but very busy three year-old, one-year old, and infant daughters. This moment, however, did not bring the peace I had come to expect. Instead a crushing, horrifying, awful truth dawned on me. My wife was right.
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Photo courtesy of Christolakis, via Flickr, under Creative Commons license
This post is for people young or old who feel like they are still waiting for the life they want to arrive. While no one can unlock all doors and instantly give you that life, I have a few things to share, based on my experience, that might help you get closer.
1. Get clear about the life you don’t want
Early in my life I came to understand three things about myself very clearly. 1) I didn’t like math. 2) I didn’t like physical labor. 3) I didn’t like a lot of supervision. I knew I would never be happy in a career that required a great deal of any of these things. Most people spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to do, but it is critical to consider carefully what you don’t want. Otherwise you could easily find yourself just drifting into a life that could make you exceedingly unhappy.
2. Get clear about the life your strengths seem to point to
As I got into Jr. high and high school, I realized I was very good at some things that many others were not. I excelled at things involving language and ideas. My answers to questions in class seemed to be deeper and more creative than those of others. I somehow had an instinct for connections between people, and ended up spending a lot of time talking to my friends about problems they were having with relationships. I had an innate spirituality and was constantly reading books about different religions and asking questions it seemed most religious people around me were too afraid to ask (which means in some ways I have been provocative since I was in my early teens). I was deeply curious about why I, and people around me, did the things we did. I loved writing and literature. Those were my passions and strengths. If you listen to your life, your strengths will point themselves out to you. Your passions and things you are good at are the key to the kind of life you want. You want to spend your life doing what you love to do, feel that others appreciate your strengths and gifts, and find yourself financially rewarded for them if at all possible.
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Today I was thinking about all the different perspectives people bring to the world. Some people are happy and optimistic. Some are always negative. Some believe if they work hard they will eventually succeed. Others believe in fate — that life is already laid out for them and there’s nothing they can do to change it. I could go on and on, but I realized that ultimately there are really only two ways of being in the world. You are either open, or you are closed.
Open people, first and foremost, have shunned fear. Open people have decided not to allow fear to be a factor in the way they live. When an open person is angry at someone, she has already decided to stop blaming other people for her emotions and for her life, and instead starts working on letting go of anger. When an open person experiences loss, she does not just immediately suck it up and move on. She allows it to be what it is. She is open to what it can teach her. (Of course she does not just descend into chronic self-pity either — this is actually a way of closing up to experience and getting stuck.) When an open person experiences joy, he does not allow himself to sink into depression because it cannot last forever, but remains in the moment and appreciates what is there. And perhaps most important, open people do not look to other people to norm their behavior for them. They do not say, “I think most people would be angry in my situation,” or “You’d have done the same thing if you were me” (notice how both of those statements focus on others instead of one’s own responsibility). Open people have decided who and how they want to be, and set out to become that person, whatever the challenges. As they continue on this journey, they learn there is really nothing to fear, no one to blame, and no reason to despair.
Closed people, of course, are the opposite. Closed people allow the majority to determine what is acceptable and what is not. If they are offended, they will say that since most people would be offended in their situation, it therefore does not need to be examined. They accept that their negativity and brokenness are “the norm” and fully expect to just continue being negative and broken.
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