I have pretended this past year was one long joke, an April Fools’ Day event that would reveal itself as false. But two weeks ago, it caught up with me as my husband and I sat in the hospital waiting room, once again, to see if he would need a third emergency surgery. (Spoiler alert: he did not—yay!)

Since January of 2013, when our family found out the first of what I wanted to be a falsehood, I have held my head high (no pouting) and acted as if everything was okay. I rewrote the heart doctor telling Dad that he was at end, and made it a cheerful: “Dad has wanted to pass on for a long time. Soon he’ll be at peace.” No dealing with the selfish pain I felt of letting him go.

Then Tim’s first emergency: a result of being beaten up at age 12, brought up anger at the person who hurt him and made Tim need to have immediate surgery, both then and now.

Sing in the face of danger

Sing in the face of danger

Enter my inner-Disney-princess: Allow only gratitude in for Tim being alive, for the talented surgeon, and our having health insurance for the 8 day hospital stay—no time for sadness or worry. Snow White’s singing birds could circle; Cinderella’s happy mice could cheer me up. But no villains (bad thoughts) could enter my kingdom.

As Tim began to recover from the intestinal surgery that removed the portion of scar tissue that had wrapped around and cut off his intestines, he developed a blood clot (at four feet long, I think it should be named something more accurate like: The Beast).

We are safe.

We are safe.

This resulted in another emergency surgery with a year long expected recovery. However, we were told the remainder of the clot may not ever dissolve, leaving pain and pressure in his leg. Not what someone who spends their vacations hiking wants to hear, but I pounded in the message of YOU CAN DO THIS and visualized Tim climbing mountaintops with a singing Julie Andrews and the von Trapp family by our side.

But then, Dad passed away 10 days later on his 80th birthday. A blessing for him. I told myself it was the same for us—his suffering gone. Once again, cue the forest creatures, fairy godmothers, and singing princesses. Only happiness for his passing allowed. Villainous grief or other bad emotions would be slain by my Prince of Peaceful Thoughts.

In the midst of all of this, my sweet furry companion of 13 years (our dog Obi) developed too much pain to use to his back legs and had to be put down. I had been telling myself he went outside for a few minutes, all day long, because he still loved the outdoors (not because his medication made him have to pee so much). Again with my Disneyesque dialog, after he died: “He had been sick since he was four. How lucky to have had those extra years with him.” (The fairy princesses were on a roll. Grief didn’t stand a chance.)

We went on about our lives, Tim taking his blood thinner and finishing physical therapy (all while going to school online to be re-certified as a personal trainer…the Universe has a warped sense of humor). We spent lots of time with Mom and told stories about Dad’s shenanigans. We showered our other dog with lots of affection to try and heal her from her own past of abuse.

But the world still felt off balance, like we had only reached the part of Act 2 where the main characters think everything will be fine, before they get hit with one last dose of doom.

The climax hit a few weeks ago when Tim’s leg pain and swelling came back to the point it hurt to walk. We (and his doctor) thought The Beast Clot had reared its ugly head and grown or formed a new one. The tech doing the ultrasound said to stay at the hospital in case they had to admit Tim…again. But after the radiologist reviewed Tim’s first post-surgery ultrasound, he said it had not grown. No new clot. An appointment with the surgeon the next day revealed that Tim had simply over done it, walking more than his leg had been ready to do (more than 15 minutes). Even though it was good news that we wouldn’t be facing another surgery, the realization that Tim’s activity would continue to be limited hit hard almost 6 months from surgery.

Enter the villains

Enter the villains

With that last scare, my mountain of defenses began to crumble. Over the last 14 months, I had pretended Dad’s preparations to pass and his dying were heaven sent; and Tim’s surgeries and scares taught him something earth-shatteringly important and forced him to deal with pain from his past abusers. My hoax of “everything is fine” came unglued.

These events became real. Tim’s recovery grew into a mystery with no solid answers except “time will tell.” Dad would not make us laugh during all of this. Our big bundle of love dog would not be digging in the dirt when Spring spread across our yard. Instead, the ashes of both Dad and dog sat in wooden urns. Tim limped if he walked too long or too much.

That’s when “happily-ever-after” left me—my neck and back began to ache to the point where all I want to do is rest on a heating pad. I have had acupuncture, massage, along with exercises I learned previously in physical therapy, epsom salt baths, moist heat, and of course, listened to motivational “it is all going to be all right” CDs every day. But this goes deeper than that. It goes to my very core and has taken root in places those practices cannot reach. I’m still wondering what will.

I wanted so much to be perfect for my family all this time that I ended up becoming more of a mess than a pinnacle of perfection. I have nagged Tim to take care of himself (drink fluids, do his stretches, don’t stand too long) so much that I am sick of my own voice.

For more than a year, I tried to ignore the sadness and worry, except for a two hour time frame, once a month, with my Reiki therapist to talk about these issues—to admit to the negative emotions, the lack of positive thinking that I preached to Tim, Dad, and myself, and the guilt of not noticing how badly our elderly dog had been doing for months before we put him down.

Now I can’t run from it any longer because it has made an angry nest in the middle of my back, and spread out from my neck and shoulders, down to my waist. I need these emotions to hatch and fly away, leaving me alone and empty of them.

But that isn’t going to happen until something shifts; I’m still working on that part. Maybe it will be Spring, the warm weather can burn these burdens away from my soul. (I yearn for one of those sweat tents and wonder if that would help, but somehow think I’d come away with only dehydration.)

I feel a timeline ticking on the need to get-it-together before this becomes more than “a phase.” Apparently the Universe agrees with me since the very symbol I use in my manuscript—a full lunar eclipse —will be coming in a few weeks. In my middle grade manuscript, this event marks the deadline (I hate that word) for the main character, Josh, to fix the dying forest situation, or the damage becomes permanent.

Mother Nature is sending me a message: “Stop with the sadness or you’ll be stuck in it.” (She’d say it with more wisdom, but I get it).

Now I have two weeks before the red moon, the eclipse, and to figure out how to make this darkness go away, just like my main character has to do. Perhaps I need to take a few lessons from fictional Josh and when one thing doesn’t work, try something else. He wouldn’t sit around on a heating pad, waiting for the source of sorrow to just up and leave his forest alone. He’d climb a mountain if he had to (which he does) to face his fears head on, and without a map.

We can fix it.

We can fix it.

Maybe that is what I am doing here: admitting the world has knocked me off my feet but acknowledging I have the strength to get back up, even though it has flung us back to the ground over and over this last year as it preaches, “that which does not kill you, makes you stronger.” (Dad would laugh at that and remind me that he did, in fact, die during all of this.)

Maybe sharing these feelings and admitting I can’t fix everything will start the healing process. I’ve been so concerned with staying positive and appreciating Tim is here, and Dad died how he wanted, that I forgot to allow my sadness enough time to express itself. I can’t do that anymore. Perhaps we have to give in to grief sometimes to feel grateful again.

I go back to story (after all, our lives are simply a series of them) and imagine a mystical container full of an elixir that can fill my half-empty glass of grief. Where will I find it? Will it be walks along the lake; a road trip to one of my sacred spots; or simply deciding to step off of my alter of pain? If these processes don’t work, well, I’ll try something else. I have a full moon to catch.

Written on April 1st, 2014 , Uncategorized Tags: , , ,
Debbie Emory

Making Magic Out of Everyday Moments