Sunday, August 14, 2011

#86 - Learning to Edit Your Life

I am 43 years old, but ten years ago I learned to edit my life. I chopped out the nonsense and the frivolous and removed as much heartache stimulants as possible.

After falling severely ill for months and then coding while hospitalized at 33 years of age, I had plenty of time to lay in bed, week after week, and this forced me to do some serious thinking. It's amazing what you will think about when you have nothing else to do.

Of course, my body was so ill and my organs, including my heart, were starting to fail, so I had vastly different thoughts than I once had with a healthy body. I learned to be grateful to simply stumble my own way to the bathroom so that I could enjoy a very private moment IN PRIVACY!

Things in my life began to shift. I had been a high-earner in the family because I owned and operated a business that provided litigation support to top law firms in Houston. I worked for the Big, Big Dogs. And, this meant a big, big invoice. I worked hard and earned large. For nearly ten years I went strong in this business. But, as my body began to fail mind switched gears and the fast-paced life was suddenly not as thrilling. After all, what is the point of making a high-dollar living when you can't even live healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

I would lie in bed and face the fact that I was living a life that had been imbalanced. I felt as if God were taking me by the shoulders, shaking me hard and telling me to head another direction.

Truthfully, the business had taken a toll on me. I would sometimes work on one case for two years and the details would be so incredibly gruesome that I'd end up on the floor in my office in a puddle of tears. I think the time-frame required for each case made it more wasn't a blip on my life radar, these cases became ingrained into my mind and heart. After ten years of witnessing horrible tragedy, loss and heartache, mostly due to very freak accidents, I think a toll was placed upon me. Now, there are people like my husband, Deputy Dave, who sees horrendous things day in and day out in his job at the Sheriff's department. He's been on the job for over 22 years and he's seen things that would turn your mind and your stomach inside out. But, I learned that my stamina for such gore is not as stoic.

I sent letters of regret to all of my clients before my as my health took the serious decline that would force me to shut off most communications with the outside world. These letters went out during the time-frame when I knew that my body was not cooperating and that something was seriously wrong. I'd realized that my slow shift to work on files in bed had become a full-time ordeal. I had been slowly adapting to my weakness until it became harshly distinct. Soon, I was too weak to feed myself. I could feel my body dying; it took what seemed like forever to get my Addison's diagnosis. For about a solid year, I was in a constant state of significant and consistent decline before a beautiful doctor ran the magical test that would allow me to continue living for an extended period of time.

Those resignation letters were a necessary part of my healing. Accepting my situation had not been easy. But, I could not run a business if I couldn't even feed myself. Looking back, perhaps I should have sold the business or given it to a friend. But, the training would have taken long months that I didn't have to offer. Any energy that I had available was precious and would be certainly directed toward my husband and children. Since there was very little energy, this usually meant a brief daily conversation with each. Lying there, unable to do my normal "mommy" things caused me to mourn my position in life as a mother.

My oldest daughter - back from Germany.
My sister took these shots for her high-school photography class.
More than anything, I missed the little moments when I could fulfill my role as a mom and a wife.

Me holding Stefie.

Some mornings, I would give myself this brutal "pep" talk and would head to the kitchen as I was fighting sudden moments of blacking out. I wanted to make my daughters their school lunches! My vision would come and go. My hearing would disappear. Spots would appear before my eyes and I'd gasp for air. But, I would sometimes get those lunches made and in the brown bag with my little cartoon drawing on the side for them to enjoy. Making those lunches made me feel as if I'd won an Olympic Medal. I cannot even express the emotion I would feel at knowing I did something so simple for my daughters...a valued mommy moment.

My oldest daughter and I at a football game together...we're
hot, sweaty and stinky. A good old Texas football fan moment!

I didn't miss the business; I didn't miss working with high-powered personalities; I didn't miss the gifts sent to my door for a job well down and I didn't miss the income. I only missed being able to walk along the beach holding my husband's hand and being an active mommy. That's it.

Me and my hubby --- not too long after my cervical spine
reconstruction, so I am no able to move my head much.

So, I quickly cut out anything that would interfere in my home-relationships. This meant that the large circle of friends that I had enjoyed was severely cut back to about two friends who really tried to understand my situation. The others were quid pro quo friends who expected something for something and I had nothing left to give. These were the days when you discovered who really loved you for YOU, not for what you did or could do for them. I finally learned to accept my husband's love for me being me and not for the hoops I'd constantly jump through as a wife.

The three most important people in my life.
In my time of severe illness, the house-keeping went down the drain. I'd once been a perfectionist. A newspaper could not even lay on the coffee table for a full morning before I'd chunk it in the trash. I often sat on my rear on the floor to hand-clean my tile and wood flooring...scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush. My hands would have chemical burns from the deep cleaning I did every week. Ask me how my house is cleaned these days? These days, if I try to hand-scrub the floors, I probably won't be able to get back up! Today, I keep things manageable, but definitely not to my former standards. If we have a planned gathering at our house, we usually must have a sprint or a hurricane cleaning session to whip it into shape.

My daughters both told me that they thought my illness was the solution to my over-controlling need to have the perfect home. But, I'm not so sure they were right. Of all things that have changed, I do miss having a perfectly kept home that is constantly ready for any guest who might stop by. I can't fib...those days were nice. Nowadays, I cannot keep up. In our large home that we now live in, I basically cordon off rooms and no one lives in them, so they stay clean! That's the trick everyone...don't let people LIVE in the room you wish to keep clean.

Another area of life editing was our money habits. Since I had been earning such a good living, we had ample cash at our fingertips whenever we wanted to do anything or buy anything. Becoming so sick and seeing the savings and liquid funds drain away like dirty dishwater caused us to put a halt on the spending. Then, we applied the emergency brakes and didn't spend any extra money. But, I was happy. Broke and happy. Well, we weren't entirely broke, but it felt like it after what we had long enjoyed. Being on a tight budget was fine with me. Besides, I was too sick to do anything anyway, so this part was probably more painful for my husband and children. If you are only able to lay in bed, your needs are reduced to below the basic necessities.

Before I became ill, I had a TV in my office and would sometimes indulge in watching a soap opera as I filed or completed a mound of data-entry. I had loved watching "All My Children" because it had been a family tradition. I could even play the theme song on the piano. After I battled for my life, I could not stomach another soap opera. This was amazing because I'd grown up with a great-grandmother who would threaten my little existence if I interrupted her soap opera break. But, the illness made me dislike soap operas because the TV personality lying in the hospital bed dying for the tenth time was a drama on TV, but for me, it had become reality. I didn't need to watch such drama; I was living it. I decided then and there, during this time in my life, that I did NOT need to add any more drama to my life because MY LIFE HAD BECOME A SOAP OPERA.

I also learned these things:  to listen more closely to my mother, to savor the sound of my children laughing, to enjoy moments of not gasping for breath as my heart beat out of control, to be in the comforting arms of my husband, and to appreciate a beautiful friend who would come over simply to dust my house.

I also learned that no matter what happens, everything will be okay. This was a powerful message I received the night I coded and it set me free. Really free.

Life editing meant that I had to let go of many old ideas, actions and beliefs so that I could face a new direction in life. My "recovery" did not amount to what I had actually meant that I would learn to live with a hugely changed body that would never regain its previous strength and that continued to face massive battles for survival. My idea of "recovery" also was edited; I'd previously thought it meant that you recovered to find your old self back again. But, I was very saddened to have a critical-care doctor plainly tell me that the old me was gone forever and to not have false hope that I'd recover back to my old self because it wasn't possible. It was explained that some people can make a "full" recovery, but my body had suffered such trauma for a long period of time that the toll would be permanent. I will admit, I was devastated by his comments. I was angry at him and even thought that he was wrong because he didn't KNOW me. He also said it would take at least one year for my body to even stabilize. I could not believe my ears. But, he was right. Doctors are not always right, but he knew what he was talking about and I was in for some hard lessons. Sometimes a recovery is not what you expect, but you can learn to be stronger in some areas even though you are weaker in others. So, I am not fully recovered in one aspect and probably will never be fully "recovered" in a medical standpoint, yet I am stronger than ever in other aspects.

Living life to its fullest, without fear.
Mostly, I learned that any one of us can be on top of our mountain and suddenly find the earth crumbling beneath us. As we tumble and tumble downward, our body battered and broken, we might have flashes of what we have lived through and what we still yearn to do, but we are helpless and without the promise of a second chance. The harsh truth is...LIFE HAS NO PROMISES. We feel entitled for a tomorrow and for a healthy future, but there is no guarantee that you'll get it. For some reason, I have been given many second chances. And, I'm glad to say that even though it's taken me years, my days of facing the future without solid plans and without long-term goals are gone because I have recovered enough to feel safe again...enough to think about a year or two down the road. However, I know very well that all my "plans" could be yanked out from under me. It's happened a time or two before due to circumstances beyond my control and it would happen again. We can't always control life.

If your earth has crumbled beneath you, then I understand your journey to re-discover your path in life. Maybe you're just trying to survive and that is good enough. I've been there. My advice is to take it minute by minute. Add up the good moments and focus on those instead of what you have lost.

For a long, long time I would fall asleep with very poor vitals, knowing that I had a good chance of not making it through the night. I'd close my eyes with sadness, not knowing if my body would be able to sustain itself through the dip in my vitals that were already precarious. But, you must sleep, so I'd give in and close my eyes, saying a prayer and hoping to see my family again in the morning. Then, as the morning light streamed into the room and my eyes would blink open, I'd often be amazed and stunned to find myself breathing and living, alive for another day. Day by day...that's all we're given. If you've struggled to survive for a prolonged period of time, then you learn the importance of each new day.

So, I am thankful for today. God willing I'll be given many more days and I'll continue to learn lessons from my painful experiences.

That brings me to my final life not waste the important lessons in your life. Don't let the passing of time banish them for your memory or weaken the bold impact that life changing events can prompt in our lives. Don't spend time looking backwards, try to move forward with your new set of circumstances as soon as possible. Acceptance is a critical word for those who need to do some life editing. You can't start life editing unless you accept your situation and do not waste new opportunities while hung up on old mindsets. Build a new life! Is it easy? Heck no! But, you can take your new life, even if it's still in crumbles and you can move forward.

Actually, there's a verse in the Bible that tremendously helped me with this last struggle and it says something like this, "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done."

Don't wait. My "perfect" life is a distant memory, but I will take today and make the most out of it, even if that means I spend the day tucked in bed reading a good book and doing some blogging. My idea of "perfect" is still morphing. Life editing is not easy. Learn when to employ strike-outs, purges or re-arranged your thinking. And you'll be fine. I'm fine. I'm a happy gal on the move. Keep moving farther away from your most painful times and you too will be a new person with a new direction...the adventure awaits.


  1. Lana, Sorry I haven't been reading and commenting on your blog lately. I have sort of "dropped out" of the internet world for awhile. I got a comment on my blog that was just horrible from a relative of mine. Basically accusing me of really not being sick, and I had my blog just to gather sympathy from my readers. It was so upsetting. I sent her an email...she never answered it or called me, and she won't pick up the phone when I call her.
    Anyway, to make a long story short, I closed down my blog (Addison Girl) and started a new one.

    I really haven't done much on the new blog except for copying some of my older post to the new site.

    I have been feeling poorly since mid-June. I kept putting off going to the doctor, because feeling like crap is just kind of "normal" for us Addisonians. I guess I didn't realize how long I had been sick until my hubby insisted that I call the doctor. I went to my GP and he ordered a gazillion blood tests. At the end of it all, he found that I am now hyper-thyroid. I am waiting to hear from my endo, he wants the endo to handle this problem. So I wait.

    I so enjoy reading your blog. Your style of writing is so interesting, and you often say exactly what I am thinking. I hope to get back in the swing of things, and start reading and posting again. That whole nasty incident really affected me, and I have been laying low.

    But wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog, and why I have been absent for so long.

    I hope you are feeling good today.

    P.S. Mo is blogging site is still there, I just haven't done anything with it lately.


  2. Mo, I actually found your new site, but it wouldn't let me make a comment! Maybe I was doing something wrong, I'll keep trying.

    I KNEW something had to be wrong. I am just devastated that you have had to endure such a terrible betrayal. I must say, I pray for people like that because, as a child of God, I know that He feels our pain; I pity them because those miserable people are usually the ones who end up worse off. At that point, they'll be kept busy with their own problems and will no longer have a warped sense of jealousy over your condition.

    Don't let it keep you from sharing. You are brave, honest and raw. If she didn't like what she was hearing, if it made it unbearable for her to believe, then she should have stayed away. Unfortunately, she sounds extremely ignorant. Even physicians who do not know about this rare disease will be problematic. It sounds as if you need to keep your distance from this person, but don't let her demented view of other people's illnesses impact your writing. Does this person wear glasses? If so, tell her you don't believe that she REALLY needs glasses and that she just wears them to get attention...see if she is brilliant enough to grasp the concept. We can't always SEE the disease...we can't see diabetes until it leaves it's mark; we can't see epilepse until the seizure; we can't see the heart-problem flashing a neon sign; cancer is often hidden and quiet, even as a person battles it...MS is another sly fox and on and on and on.

    Until I was diagnosed with Addison's disease, I'd never even heard of it. I didn't know such a disease was possible. Frankly, I was so ill-informed that I didn't even realize that adrenaline/adrenal glands were imperative to life. I didn't know that people got adrenal tumors, pituitary tumors and got into car accidents that destroyed their adrenal glands which would cause them to end up with Addison's disease. I didn't know that people developed an auto-immune disorder that caused their adrenals to be silently destroyed and to cause the person to slowly wither away and nearly die...I didn't know that it's a disease more often found at autopsy than upon live diagnostics.

    I now know so much because I've had this disease for ten years. That family member had better be careful because this world does have a weird sense of justice. Man...I could tell some stories in this area...she better watch out because she might be next in line to discover that she has something even worse.

    Truthfully, it does sound as if she's already suffering from something worse...lack of loyalty and steadfast friendship...through thick and thin. My post on Life-Editing was for people like CAN live without them, you probably already are. She is lost in her own sadness of being jealous and that is sick. Let her go. She's running from you because she is wrong. This is not a game of tag. She is a family member and should be accountable for her words and actions. Hold her accountable; but don't hold her close. One day, her ignorance may disappear, probably after she learns a hard thing or two about life; usually people like that will have their own time of sitting there with nothing to do but think about their actions.

    The really mean part of me wants to tell her to quit being stupid and to go educate herself. At least you can take medicine for Addison's disease, she's probably out of solutions for her stupidity as her own worse enemy. Augh!

    Cheers to YOU MO!!!!!!

  3. As they say...Karma is a bitch.


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