A few days after David went into the hospital last month, I got an unexpected email from a woman in our church.
Melissa wrote, “Mark and I have put out a call to the marriage mentor team to let them know of David’s desire to have meals delivered to your porch over this coming week and next, at least.”
“Whoa.” I sat back in my chair. “I’ll have to tell her to cancel that.” After all, I was now the only one home. I didn’t need anyone delivering meals. I didn’t need help.
The email continued, “David was afraid you would decline our request to offer church help, so we went over your head to get it set up. Of course, in his current precarious position, you could easily wring his neck but I suggest you let this blow over and give in.” ( :
Halfway through the first sentence, I started laughing. My husband knows me too well.
In the four years since he broke his neck, we’ve needed a lot of help. David, who’s always been a giver himself, accepts this with impressive grace. I don’t. Only after I’ve turned myself inside out to make things work all by myself (and failed) do I ask for help. By then, I feel pathetic and ungracious and probably sound that way.
Why is this so hard? People want to give. I watch the delight they take in helping us, how they respond to David’s need and to his willingness to ask. After all, I like to help. And it’s a lot more fun when the recipient doesn’t act as if I’m torturing her.
So I sent Melissa an email thanking her, and I ate all the food that showed up in the cooler on my porch. Every bite.
If only every act of self-discipline were that enjoyable!
Question: When does a pair of work jeans with holes in both knees bring you to tears?
Answer: When you know they’ll never be used again.
During David’s three weeks of rehab for the compression fractures, a surprising number of our household possessions made their way to his hospital room. Now he’s home, and I’ve been putting things back in place. In the process, I noticed a big basket on the high shelf in our bedroom. I pulled it down and looked to see what it held.
David’s clothing. Things I’d packed away after he broke his neck four years ago, because I couldn’t bear to toss them. Tee shirts not stretchy enough to get on him easily. Flipflops. Running shorts.
And a pair of old work jeans.
I’m not sure why the jeans did me in. Maybe because work is such a strong ethic for David, and over the years he’s worn out many pairs of jeans working on projects for us and for other people. House, yard, carpentry, painting, car repairs – you name it, he’s done it. And much of it we’ve done together.
So I cried over the loss those jeans represent. Then I wiped my eyes with the ragged hem, went to the basement for a big plastic bag, stuffed the clothes into it, and carried it out to the trash.
David’s work ethic is still firmly in place. It just looks different now, and much of why he’s thriving is because he’s chosen to move on.
I follow his example. But sometimes I have to cry a little first.
Tomorrow I’ll spend the afternoon at the hospital, going through David’s therapy with him. I’ll practice helping him get up from the bed, putting the back brace on and taking it off, putting the leg brace on and taking it off, learning which ADLs (activities of daily living) we need to do differently now.
And if my skills still need a boost, we can practice more on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, David comes home!
Breathe and think.
David and I just learned this principle from one of his nurses. In an emergency, she said, trying to think first leads to panic. You have to breathe. Then think.
I had reason to use this a few days ago. I got an email reminding me that I’d agreed to speak to a writer’s group about grammar. They needed my author’s bio, talk outline, and head shot to post on their website.
Did I breathe? No. Did I panic? Yes.
Why, oh, why, did I ever agree to do this? I can argue about grammar, or write about grammar. But talk about grammar? What will I say? And I’m not a real author – I’m not published yet. I don’t have a head shot to send. I don’t even have a camera anymore!
I fired off a return email full of panicky questions. Should I talk about punctuation, too? And about editing? Would people submit their grammar questions ahead of time? What if I couldn’t do this?
Mary sent back a calm reply that took my panicky jumble and organized it into the outline of a four-part talk. She finished with, “I think you will do fine. But until you stand up there and succeed, you won’t know you can do it.”
I sat up straight and breathed. Then I said aloud, “Yeah, I can do this.”
Next time, I’ll breathe first.