If you follow me on social media sites, you may have noticed I’ve been quiet lately. Some of you may know why. When I was twelve years old, my knee cap first slipped out of place. I had my first knee surgery at 14 to remove a piece of bone sliced off when my knee cap went out of place. Over the years, due to hyper-mobility (I’m super-flexible basically) other joints have partially or fully dislocated…my jaw, ribs, hips, and my shoulders. My elbows, hands, and feet all have issues due to hyper-mobility. (For those familiar with the condition, yes, Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome is on the doctors’ radar.)
I’ve been in frequent pain since my twenties but about two years ago, it became constant and I started tripping blood tests and my use of OTC pain meds started reaching a certain toxicity. The constant pain was numbing so I couldn’t even tell when I had ribs out anymore. We started the process of testing and diagnosis and then RX pain meds actually increased my hyper-mobility in my hips. In December of 2015, my shoulder dislocated twice (once in my sleep) and I went into a sort of crisis mode.
There’s a definite clarity in being in crisis mode…when you know that you can only sit in front of your computer for two hours a day and your son needs you to help him with his homework…when you know that driving your kids around will put you in so much pain you’ll need to lie on a heating pad for hours. It took three weeks to recover from a road trip. Doctors appointments had a cost. Walking took energy. And the pain…the ever present pain…that made thinking difficult and my sense of humor and patience limited.
The ability to prioritize time is something I’ve always lacked, but when faced with excruciating pain where it felt like someone had shoved a spear into my hip joints, you develop skills in accomplishing the really important things quickly and you recognize what really matters.
I never recognized what really mattered, not like I do now. Three weeks ago, the orthopedic surgeon looked at x-rays of my hips and started talking about hip replacement surgery. I was horrified. I’m thirty-nine. And I kept thinking, “I can’t…I can’t have hip replacement surgery.” Not because of the pain. Not because of the money even. Not because of the recovery. I kept thinking, “I can’t do that to my kids and my husband. It’ll take time away from them. They need me. I can’t be out of commission for that long.” After the doctor left, I realized that I hadn’t asked him what I could do so I could sit for longer in order to do more writing… And then I realized it didn’t matter. My family came first. What energy and abilities I have belong to them first.
I’m in physical therapy now and things are getting better in most ways. I’ve adapted. My husband got me a chair that allows me to sit longer. I’m starting to be active again on Twitter and Facebook. I’m actually writing this blog post. I’m finding the time and energy for things lower on my priority list. Writing is valuable to my well-being. And the joy I find in sharing my writing is worth a great deal to me so I’m excited that I can allocate more time to something that defines me.
In some ways, this crisis has been a blessing. That epiphany of what really matters might save my sanity. I’d been killing my soul, mind, and body trying to keep up with the Joneses in the publishing world. I looked around and saw how much others put into their careers and thought, “I should do that. I need to do that.” And I ignored the cost. There is a cost. There is always a cost when you choose one thing over the other. Emergency living strips away things that are nice and make you happy and leaves you with what really matters. This is life boiled down. This is what is vital.
Karl Marx said something…and, yes, I can’t believe I’m quoting Karl Marx…from the Communist Manifesto no less. He said, “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” Dragging that out of context, it speaks to me on what really matters. (That probably means I’m secretly a communist. Kidding. Maybe.) Our relationships with others and our quality of life matter. People matter to me. Friendships matter. My kids and husband matter more than can ever be quantified. If you’re reading this, you’re important to me.
The other thing I’ve learned from this crisis is that I matter. The number of people who have helped me or who have been patient with me…I can’t even begin to tell you. People have stepped up and been wonderful and amazing. There are bright and shining examples of humanity in my life. I am so blessed to know so many caring and compassionate people. It’s very difficult for me to ask for help, but I haven’t needed to. Thank you for understanding. I never expected to need like this…to be the person that can’t function without help. I am a stubborn, obstinate soul and this has cut me off at the knees. Thank you. From the very depths of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, patience, and time. Your time…and the effort you’ve spent on my behalf matter…so much.
I’m finding my way though. I’m finding my sense of humor again. It’ll get easier and better. In the meantime, I’m learning to appreciate that these moments and everything from the pain to the clarity is valuable. This is what matters.
(The picture at the top is of my daughter and I when she was little. I love my kids so much…and I think you can tell in that picture. Thank you, Karen Echols, for taking that picture.)
Wendy, I don’t have words.
I didn’t know of your hyperflexibilty, nor of the problems it causes you. On top of EVERYTHING else. The fact that you able to write this post is a testament to the amazing woman–wife, mother, author–you are.
In the future, if anything happens to me, I’ll look to you for inspiration. You rock.
Thank you, Suzanne. I’m really thankful for all the long-term online friends I’ve made over the years. I know you guys got my back. *hugs* You’re fantastic. Seriously.
Wendy, you are a blessing to so many. Not only with your novels, but with the honesty, integrity, and deep emotional connection you share so freely online. And the humor too. When you have given out so much to the world, every now and then you must accept the world giving back. Is there anything I can do to help? Beyond prayers and healing thoughts, which are already coming your way.
Thank you so much, Susan. As far as helping me goes, I’ve got a great support network in my life both online and in real life. I’m seriously blessed in that way. The things I’d appreciate of my online friends you already do: review my books, retweet and repost my links about my writing and my OCD support…two of the things I’m passionate about. I’m so glad you do that because it saves me time online and is often equal to several times my effort doing it myself. Over the years, you’ve saved me countless hours with your support in that way. You’ve been an amazing friend. Thank you.
Your one strong woman. I can tell that your a loving Mother and wife. I’ve had Rheumatoid Arthritis now for 30 years going through a lot of surgeries when my children were young I missed a lot of having fun with them. Since March of this year I’ve had 2 knee replacement. Now I’m missing out on having fun with my 5 grandchildren. But when I’m healthy again I can start having fun with them. Stay strong keep moving forward you can do it!!!
It’s so tough to cut out family time due to your health, isn’t it? I’m trying really hard not to, but last night I overdid how long I was sitting up so I can play a game with my family and watch a movie with them. I was in so much pain that moving made me hiss and wince. Those are the limitations I hate. But I’m learning to prioritize more and I’ll do better about knowing my boundaries in the future. I hope. The doctors told me when I was fourteen that if I continued the way I was going that I’d have knee replacement surgery in my twenties. I’ve at least postponed that. I’m hoping to push it off for another decade or two yet, but we’ll see. *hugs* Thank you for commenting and your support.
Indeed, family and relationships with people are what really matters. It’s easy to forget that when we feel great, like we can conquer the world.
I do hope your pain will subside because I love your writing. Your stories always make me smile – and usually laugh aloud. It is indeed a gift to all of us.
Thank you. I think it’s also easy to forget we’re spiritual beings as well as physical ones. Sometimes it takes bringing me to my knees to bring me to my knees…to acknowledge that I’m blessed beyond the tangible and physical and to grasp what is of real, lasting value.
I’m again reminded that you are SUCH a good writer! Even your blog posts tattle on your talents. When you’re not publishing, you will still write and write as you take care of yourself and your family. Even if most of your writing comes out of your mouth for now. (Don’t argue, it makes sense to ME). 🙂 You are a mother and wife and friend, but inextricably, also a writer. And we are pleased for all of your roles, in whatever season each has dominance. Thank you for the gift of You.
So now…fix You. It’s what we really want. 🙂 We’ll still be here when you get back.
Yeah, I don’t think I can help being a storyteller. It’s too deep in me. Break all my fingers and I’d just switch to telling stories rather than writing them down. (But, actually, don’t break all my fingers. I’ve got enough going on.) Thank you.
I looked at the picture at the top and wondered where you had found such a perfect picture. Then I read that it was you and B. I didn’t recognize the shirt you were wearing LOL. I wish there were more we could do too. We just live too far away but I am glad everyone there is so wonderful! We love you!
It was actually a dress and I don’t know what happened to it…probably buried in my closet. Love you guys too. *hugs*