Recently I wrote a note on facebook called A Case for Optimism.
The case is still building quite a lot of evidence these days.
So much has changed. So much is in the process of changing. I can't quite get my bearings and not being able to get my bearings is about all that is sure at the beginning and end of each day.
Once upon a time in a land not too far away, we the plums had a plan. That plan seemed well thought out, and sure. We thought surely we have learned some vital lessons and now we can be smart. We will get out of debt. We will have retirement one day. We will have security and a paycheck every 2 weeks. Life will finally feel more predictable and we have matured. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the ride. I got used to hearing stories from Hans' skunk-dog routine. I got used to his buzzing in and out of the front door, wrestling with the boys in between job #1 and job #2 and an occasional job #3. Because that's what police officers do.
I got used to seeing him get all dressed in his crisp uniform with bullet proof vest situated underneath to provide some peace of mind for his 9pm trek to work in the city. I got used to cutting his hair really short every 2 or 3 weeks and without realizing it, got really used to his 9pm pace. He would kiss and hug the boys good night; they would know sleep time was imminent when they'd hear the door quietly close behind him. They would hear dad and mom give a routine hug and 'i love you' before he'd grab his paleo kit and blue insulated lunch box for middle of the night eats. I got used to this pattern, and my place in it. I got used to a finally familiar family way of going about our days and weeks and became proud of our pace, as difficult the 6th, 7th, and 8th day would be anxiously waiting alongside the boys for Hans to have his 6 days off. I got used to those 6 days feeling like vacations, having a little family secret that no one knew- the sheer joy of finally being all together. We'd let the boys stay up a little later those 6 nights, and we'd have vacation room and watch movies- even on a school night. Our norm was slightly abnormal in nature, but one we adapted to and were proud of the important service Hans was a part of.
I didn't realize how used to 'the plan' I had gotten until April 19, 2009. Fear began to replace the sunday night routine when Hans spent it with a fever climbing rapidly, kidney stone pain wreaking havoc, and right shoulder stiffening into one position. He slept that night, and I next to him thinking something didn't feel right. Something wasn't right. The ER doctor had sent him home with morphine and dilaudid for the pain, considering his ailments due only to the kidney stones. Monday morning came with the drop off boys to school routine, but the pit in my stomach persisted. I came home to find Hans' condition worsening and I felt paralyzed with confusion. Should I take him back to the ER?
After his mom saw him, she confirmed my feeling and decision to take him to Mercy Hospital. This particular day marked the beginning of a new norm for our family. Hans' strength had to come from somewhere deep inside beyond muscles and training. He just had to keep breathing. I didn't have the peace of mind that came every time that bullet proof vest was securely fastened in place under uniform. I just had to trust and believe that miracles happen and we needed one. Hans' condition worsened so quickly it was surreal. His shoulder locked in place, the right side of his face swelled and emitted heat and crimson red. His lips were bluish and the medical team who treated him the next six days would leave his bedside baffled and perplexed.
Those six days were an up and down battle with oxygen levels and mobility, pounding heavy antibiotics into his body to try to arrest the infection that had made its way into his blood.
Those six days seemed like a different universe, like a strange tilt the earth had accidentally made. I felt a quiet rage towards this blood invader, each time i held Hans' hand, I saw our lives brought together "then" for "now" and the tilt of the earth taught me something new about love.
From April of last year until now, doctor's visits have become routine. We have a new routine that consists of nothing particularly being consistent from day to day except soccer. Everything else feels like we are in an ocean, in a little dingy boat, saved from the sinking ship but struggling each moment not to panic from the sheer scope of the powerful force of sea and waves around us. Powerless but together, saved in the dingy, life vests around us and the boys snuggled in between us, Hans and I are holding on to the edges watching the swooshing waves around us, waiting expectant hopeful that a little piece of ground will appear soon.
There's far more to be grateful for than losses to be grieved. Lessons learned throughout the year have brought a new sense of peace- even when news might still be bleak or finances bare or former roles and career being grieved.
There seems to be some land ahead, can't really make out how distant or close. But i think its there. The unknowns are always there, now i know that. When we thought we had our cozy little plan, all along, the unknowns were still the ocean surrounding us. Perhaps our boat was bigger, but it was still man-made. The ocean, the waves, the tides, the life inside it-- we cannot control. We must simply be saved, dwell calmly in the lifeboat, snuggle each other for dear life, and wait to see if there's land and footing ahead.
Until then, the days are filled with gratitude and emotion. Grateful Hans is alive and well, that his lungs were the literal lifeboat that sustained him through perilous days in the hospital a year ago. Grateful that despite my nay-saying, he started a business with a dear buddy (who was by his side during the perilous days) and that business has turned into a little of that land ahead... pieces of a puzzle we didn't even know was forming. Grateful that optimism has become our creed through all this change and loss of certain things we'd grown accustomed to - like bullet proof vests, and late night treks to work when all of us would sleep soundly, and plans of retirement and security...
I think of how hard we all work to convince ourselves daily of our secure place we are building in our world. I think of our anxieties over so many future mysteries, so many that occupy our now moments. I think of how much time we invest in investments and forget to invest ourselves in the present moment. I think of how much I've learned about grace- that it's something real, tangible, peaceful, encompassing of entire self- when i stop trying to wiggle my way out of the painful or confusing or uncomfortable feelings- but really feel- there is where i keep finding the grace to let go of the panic and fear of the sea around me.
There are so many things on the horizon. So many ways that Hans has changed- in so many ways into a braver person than the skunk-dog who kept us safer by serving in the night. His optimism and valiant fight for health has become contagious and is catching each day in ways that keep surprising me and the boys. I've been surprised too with my strength- a new feeling, one that I didn't ever want to be familiar with-as long as there was someone there to be stronger than me to fight in my place. I've joined the fight with Hans to stay optimistic and look at the opportunities ahead, not the losses. I've seen him infuse his sons with a resilience and fortitude without realizing it. I've seen him and them grow up so much in the last year.