“We are all ready,” my 12-year-old daughter messaged me with a picture of two smiling early morning faces. Days before, she’d assured me that she and her sister didn’t need anyone to care for them when their dad and I left at 5am to go to the hospital. She assured me she could get them up at 6:30, fed, and ready at 7 o’clock. I had faith in them; I said okay. And like any good Type A list-maker would, I left a checklist, being sure to mention the importance of waking her little sister up gently.
So there I was donned in my surgical gown and ghastly cap—teeth chattering, no less. But instead of worrying about my impending surgery, I thought about how things were going at home. Would they get themselves off to school okay?
With one message and photo, my question was answered. One big fat tear ran down my cheek. They could do it. They could do it. What a beautiful answer I’d just received.
Shortly after I received the text, I was wheeled into the operating room. I was greeted with cold air and lively music. I was usually good at ‘name that tune’, but I couldn’t remember the title of that familiar song. I knew I liked it though. It was a good dance song.
“I forgot you played music in the operating room!” I said to the nurse as if we were walking into a club. Music is my thing. It often serves as my warm blanket in trying times. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten about this little operating room “perk”.
“Some patients don’t like it,” the nurse said. “But many do.”
“Well, I love it,” I said enthusiastically hoping she’d turn it up. Instead she instructed me to transfer myself from the bed to the operating table. I knew exactly how to do it. I felt like a pro.
Within minutes, the anesthesiologist was giving me information and a cool rush was felt in my IV.
“It’s too tight on my arm,” I said in a shaky voice that felt like it might crack.
“It's because I gave you some medicine. Don’t worry. We’ll take care good of you,” said a voice of calm.
I immediately thought about the confusion regarding my surgical order that happened upon my arrival that morning. One order said right cystoscopy the other said something about a procedure on the left. Several people had gathered around the papers trying to decipher them. The nurses ended up putting bands on both my arms scribbled with instructions in black Sharpie. They assured me they knew what they were doing on what side, but I felt unsure.
And that’s when my favorite Train song came on. I heard Pat Monahan sing, “’Cause when I look to the sky, something tells me you're here with me. And you make everything alright.”
All at once, I felt certain I’d be okay. The doctor would do what was needed on the appropriate side of my body, and I would wake up with more time to LOVE and BE LOVED. What a beautiful answer I’d just received.
When I got home from the hospital, I got out my special “good luck” surgery box made by my daughter Natalie. It contained new pajamas, fuzzy socks, and two little notebooks for jotting down my thoughts. I covered myself in the electric blanket sent to me from Beth and held on to my inspirational quote booklet made by Kaitlin. But it wasn’t until I clicked on the bedside lamp that I fully realized the momentousness of this occasion. I was home. I made it home. I was alive. Did the medical team uncover the reason for my on-going pain or hydronephrosis? No, they did not. Was there a plan in place? No, there was not. Did I have any idea what I would do next? No, I did not. But I was not without answers. My grateful heart nearly overflowed with answers of the most precious kind.
I took out one of the little notebooks Natalie had put in my surgery package and wrote this:
Sometimes you don’t get the answers you’re hoping for;
Instead you get different ones.
And they’re better than you could ever imagine.
I sent a message to my dearest friends to let them know I was okay and that we didn’t get the answers we were seeking. I wrote, “Going to just sit with that for a bit and figure our next step in time. My body and mind have been through a lot, and I just need some time to collect myself.”
My dear friend Kerry responded with this, “I like how you worded your reaction to no news. My gut reaction is to send you words of comfort to try and ‘fix’ it for you. But I won't. I too, will sit with the words from your doctor.”
That’s when I remembered something I’d written almost a year ago. I opened my laptop and searched my word document file with the phrase, “sit with it awhile.” As I tearfully read the piece that pulled up, I felt like I was reading a “note to self”. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t just for me. This is a note to multiple selves, our precious selves—those of us who face questions without answers today.
Note to Self …
Maybe the best thing you could do right now is just sit with it awhile.
Maybe the bravest thing you could do right now is just decide this will not defeat you.
Maybe the most productive thing you could do right now is just fold your hands in solitude.
Maybe the most sensible thing you could do right now is just laugh … laugh in the face of it all.
Maybe the most powerful thing you could do right now is just close your eyes and envision a positive outcome.
Maybe the most loving thing you could do right now is just give yourself room to breathe.
Maybe the best thing to do right now looks like nothing at all.
But it’s not.
Because when you’re gathering hope,
When you’re gathering strength,
When you’re gathering resilience,
In the face of challenge and uncertainty,
Sometimes the best thing you can do right now
is just hold on.
© Rachel Macy Stafford 2014
My friends, I have learned so much from this on-going medical trial. I have learned we must not ignore our pains. I have learned we must not go through our trials alone—we must let someone in. I have learned we are worthy of self-care, just as we give care to our loved ones. I have learned we need to get to the bottom of things. If we don't, who will? I have learned that quiet prayers and small acts of kindness hold great power.
Those were the obvious things I’ve learned.
The not-so-obvious thing is I learned is this: just because you stop fighting, searching, plotting, planning, and thinking about it today doesn’t mean you’ve given up forever.
Today might be a day to sit with it.
Today might be a day to collect yourself.
Today might be a day to cuddle with a blanket and soak up the love being given to you.
Today might be a day not to think about tomorrow.
Today might be a day to BE and that is enough.
Note to our precious selves: We don’t have to have all the answers today. Let’s just sit with it awhile. Let’s just breathe. Let’s just BE. Today we are quietly gathering hope. Today we are triumphantly holding on. And that is enough.
Thank you, dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, for the abundance of loving thoughts, comments, and prayers. I cherish every single one. I know I should be resting. But when words flow onto the paper so quickly I can barely contain them, I know I am not supposed to hold on to them. This I have learned. Maybe today's words are for you or someone you know. Please feel free to distribute this message as you see fit. Together, there is more hope than there is when we are alone.
Jodi Miller says
What a beautiful post. Sending prayers your way.
What a beautiful perspective. Thank you for another thoughtful post. You teach & inspire me so much in what you write!
Every single time I read your words I cry. You so eloquently describe our feelings, emotions, struggles, and joys. Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping us to better understand our own. I wish you health and peace. Happy Holidays to you and your family!
Nance C says
I couldn’t have written this response any better. So ditto! Plus, I don’t know you other than your wonderful posts and your beautiful book, Hands Free Life, but I’m sending you immense love, gratitude and enormous cyber hugs laced with healing energy, prayers and good juju. Thank you for what you’re doing.
Melissa Snyder says
Thank you for this, for pouring out your soul on us. I needed this today and I have a strong feeling that some friends close to me need to it, too. Thank you, Rachel. I pray for you a big, strong soul basket as you sit and gather hope and strength and resilience and trust in God to do the rest. He can do mighty things with a little faith, I know you know this, and I am so glad that He has done and is continuing to do such amazing things with your faith.
Hope, peace, joy, love, healing, and a happy Christmas to you!
I needed to read this today. My 14 year old daughter had a CT scan two days ago for severe headaches with vomiting she’s been having. They found a 1cm lesion and she is having an MRI tomorrow to look at it more closely. I am trying to stay positive, but my mind and this heart of a mother I have are quite unsettled. I have a million things running through my head. What will we do if it’s not good news? So, as I sit here, trying to get her some of my wits so I can be minutely productive today, I read this. I think today is a day for me to just BE. Because right now, I think that’s all I’ve got. Thank you. Praying for the best for you, and that you have answers and relief soon.
Wishing you the best, Mandy, and that everything will be ok with your daughter. Sending you warmest wishes and much strength and praying for only good news for your family.
And a speedy and easy recovery for you, Rachel, and may the right answers come to you in good time.
Mary Erlain says
Thank you for this!! Sending you positive, healing energy as you take the time to heal, breathe and
Prayers for healing and comfort while you “sit with it awhile”. You have a wonderful way of choosing to look for the good, to settle in and look for peace and joy in difficulty or the unknown. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
I’m in day seven, post-op after the removal of my second ovary (first was removed 16 months ago). Thank you for this. I hope your recovery is positive.
Thank you for this. I suffer from chronic illness and was feeling isolated today. This is a soothing reminder that there are others out there who understand. And what a relief not to have to have all the answers all the time. Thank you.
May you be safe, be happy, be healthy and live with ease.
Rivke (Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Sending love and light to you as you sit with this today. Thank you for your inspiring words– I needed them this morning and I know I’m not the only one. You are a gift.
Kerrie Johnson says
Sweet friend, I’ve been praying for you to come through this and to have relief. I know how hard it can be to sit with no answers for a time or to not have a plan. (It drives this type A girl crazy to not have a plan!) What gets me through, is knowing that God does have a plan and his promises to me assure me that he will protect me and I just need only to be still and know he is God. Rest today, ask questions tomorrow, but be confident in the knowledge that Jeremiah 29:11 will hold true – even in uncertainty. I will continue to pray for you, your family and your doctors. I am so glad that the surgery went well!
I completely understand you about the music. Over a year ago I was at a doctor’s office hoping and praying we’d be able to have another child. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by IZ came on over their speakers, and I felt an instant sense of peace. A few weeks later, at the same doctor’s office, I heard Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl,” and I again felt at peace. My little girl turned six months old this week.
So glad your music found you at the right moment.
Wishing you peace as you recover! You are blessed with such wonderful friends and family, although you surely know that. 🙂
Thank you for this inspirational post. My breast cancer surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning. My unexpected journey continues … Your note to self reminds me that the house doesn’t have to be spotless when I leave here tomorrow. It reminds me to enjoy the friends and family that care and are waiting for me to get better.
“Maybe the bravest thing you could do right now is just decide this will not defeat you.”
This comment really spoke to my heart and hope it will speak to you. Yes, I am in tears trying to write this. The surgery is just a hurdle right now but it will not defeat you….unless you let it…
You have a God who created you and decided you would have to go through this for a special reason…maybe it will be someone you witness to during or after the surgery, maybe you will find out later, or maybe you will not find out until you reach Heaven …but there is a special plan for you. May you not view it as a curse, deserting by God, or punishment…May you grow closer to God through this..just felt called to write this – ignore it if it does not speak to your heart – it is meant in love.
Rachel how beautiful and wise. I was waiting to hear news. I’m thinking of you and so in awe of your ever-present grace and wisdom. Yes, it’s OK to just be, even in the uncertainty. That is, after all, the reality of life…sending love and best wishes from me.
Kristy Martin says
Rachael, I can’t tell you how much this particular post was meant for me. I myself am recovering from emergency surgery. Emotionally I have been having a rough time as well as physically. I also have 2 children still at home who depend on me one only in kindergarten. So thank you for your words of wisdom. They couldn’t have come at a better time. I wish you nothing more than good wishes, much love, and the best of luck.
Thanks so much, Kristy Martin
Rachel – I usually don’t comment on your posts, though they are all lovely and serve as inspiration and reminders relevant to the RIGHTNOW every time I read them. I wanted to let you know I am thinking of you during this time – I went through some scary medical things earlier this year (four-five months post-partum, no less) and these words are so so true when you just don’t know. And even though now I know, I don’t know what it will look like next year, in five years, etc. so that is something that I need to be reminded to sit with sometimes. Hope you are resting and recovering well from your surgery.
Linda Goodlett says
Our prayers are with you Rachel. May that answer come quickly and may it be just what we are praying for.
Your beautiful card warmed our hearts and made us smile.
Merry Christmas and please feel better soon!
Sending prayers for strength and thanks to you for sharing your insights and reminders with us all.
Exactly what I needed to hear today!
Thank you .You are such a blessing.
“… Be still, and know that I am God…”
I trust He is with you every step of the way. Much love to you.
Thank you so much for this…you really touched my heart today. In two ways…first your mention of that song by Train. It always makes me think of my mom who left this world way too early 12 years ago…boy do I need her now. And second by affirming that it is OK to take moments and just breathe and have hope and regain energy for the battle. My daughter is having lots of medical issues lately. Ones we have known about that are flaring and inhibiting us to help some areas as we battle others. And ones that we’re still discovering. Prayers for you and your family as you follow your own journey of discovery.
Sitting with you. Love.
You are such a beautiful soul & I am always so very grateful for everything you share.
While you sit with it for a while, know that you have so many behind you & beside you who care.
Tracie Brown says
Your strength during times of struggle inspires me. Stay strong! Answers will come in God’s time. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Thank you for sharing your “Note to Self..” I recently had a a miscarriage and I’m feeling antsy about my next steps and if/when I will get pregnant again. I needed the reminder to take care of myself through it all and that it’s okay to stop and catch my breath. Prayers to you as you figure things out.
Colleen Kearney says
Hi Rachel. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Your posts are lovely. You may already have done this, but have you had an ultrasound? My son was treated for a year with medications for what turned out to be hydronephrosis, although they didn’t know it at the time. Then they did an ultrasound. Then, an exploratory laparotomy revealed an extra artery wrapped around his ureter. This surgery ended up missing another obstruction entirely. He had his kidney removed when he was 12. Turns out this is genetic-my uncle suffered for years from abdominal pain and later they discovered his kidney was completely dead. I watched my son suffer for years with abdominal pain and vomiting until they figured it out. I hope this is not your situation, yet maybe my comment will help you in some way. Blessings.
Note to our precious selves: We don’t have to have all the answers today. Let’s just sit with it awhile. Let’s just breathe. Let’s just BE. Today we are quietly gathering hope. Today we are triumphantly holding on. And that is enough.
So true. Earlier, I was teary, ready to cancel Christmas and ready to storm out of work.
I stayed at work and worked. Much calmer now. Keeping Christmas.
13 yo twin girls are hard but doable
Rachel, healing, peaceful thoughts for you…What a great reminder….my daughter who is in recovery has a tattoo on her that says `Let go…and it will be.’ I have 2 sayings that I love that relate to just being quiet……quite the task for us multi-tasking superwomen!!! The best cure for the body is a quiet mind..Napoleon Bonaparte God’s voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamor…Charles Stanley May you get the answers to your questions in due time….remember that this is just the messy middle……this too shall pass. xo
I so admire and cherish your grace, presence, and tender and courageous heart. Your words are like a beacon, pointing us to the source of pure love. I honour your choice to be with the not knowing. If at some point it feels true to you, I sense that a doctor of Chinese medicine might be a good addition to your healing team. At the same time, I support you in listening to your own wisdom and “gut” feelings. You are brave and beautiful!
Your words bring me strength on a daily basis. I am so glad you are who you are because that is what will see you through this. I’m not sure if it’s in the Bible, but in the Quran it says God will never send anyone a burden they aren’t strong enough to bear. I’m sure that is true for you. Thanks for you!
Lin Nicholson says
I really appreciate your posts Rachel – your clarity and wisdom are precious reminders of what really matters. The times in our lives that test us and call on us to draw deep on reserves of strength and patience also remind us of how precious life is. I have been through this time of waiting and I remember the lessons learnt. Love is what matters and your breath is a constant in times of turbulence. Love and Blessings to you and your family from Lin
I took a big step today to get what I need from a relationship I’m in. It’s a big step because I asked for what I need & he might not be able to handle it at this moment & we might not stay together. The end of this article about sitting with it was exactly what I needed to read at this exact moment as I’m waiting .
I’ve been reading your blog for probably a little over a year now and got your new book for two friends for Christmas. I agree you should be resting as you said but I’m so glad to hear that the surgery part went well and you found peace with the song that played. Moments like that are amazing. I’ve been praying for you and will continue to do so. My newborn son has more medical challenges than I can get into but I keep hearing time will tell and holding on to hope that he will do even better than expected. I’ve learned that you can quickly determine if a doctor/nurse/whoever is the right fit for you and it’s not than you ask for someone else. And I’ve learned that you can never get too many medical opinions. But you don’t have to get them all at once. It sounds like you are handling this challenge so incredibly well and bravely sharing your journey with others. I pray that you continue to find peace even without an answer and that your pain lessens even if there is no explanation. Thanks for writing and sharing as you do – it makes a difference!
I accidentally opened my feedly account tonight and this piece opened on my screen, there are still tears running down my face, I needed this message so much, every word of it. I thank you so much. I thank you so much…
Many, many blessings to you
Praying for your continued strength and answers to help you on your journey to recovery and return to perfect health. You continue to bless so many people along the way. The tests, the appointments, the insurance paperwork, and even the questioning inquiries of loved ones and concerned acquaintances alike while often supportive can also add to your stress overload. To maintain your strength, curtail your stress and even heal your soul….. remember it is essential that Some days or even just for a few precious salvaged moments….take time to breathe and just be. Yes some things are urgent and pressing. But rarely does anything need to happen right now. You need those breaks…to be just Rachel. Not a patient. Not the comforter to your supporters. Not the sleuth searching for the answers. Just time to live and be today. Sometimes…..playing hooky, neglecting our “duties” and just soaking up the joy of now is the best medicine. Keep the faith.
Rachel Stafford says
I really love and appreciate this message, Zmama. Thank you for blessing me with it.
Kate Trout says
What a stunning, beautiful, personal post. It really hit home with me.
Like many others here, I needed to read this post — the wisdom you share and the eloquence with which you share it ins really inspiring.
Praying for you.
Cathy Laird says
Thank you – I needed this message – right now – very insightful and full of wisdom. A blessing to me. Your medical team will figure it out!
Jaclyn B says
Enjoy the holidays with your precious family. ♡♡♡
My husband is a nephrologist who specializes in interventional nephrology. I have been telling him the little clues you share. Today you gave a tiny bit more information about what’s going on. He has some thoughts. If you are interested and want to email me back I can give you his name and you can look him up on the Internet. He would be happy to talk with you on the phone or email his thoughts to you. He thinks you need to see a nephrologist in addition to your urologist. I’m sure you get all sorts of “advice” from your readers and we won’t be surprised or offended if you don’t respond. I will pray for wisdom and insight! Lexi
Rachel, i am sorry you did not get the answers you were seeking. Love your blog & FB posts. Stumbled upon your writings, thoughts just before my own health issues came up in early November. Prayers for you from Idaho!
Dear Rachel, I have been following your incredible work for a while. I am sorry to read you had to go through all this, and leave home for surgery. I do not understand what your pathology was, but I want to share that I also recently had painful hydronephrosis (discovered at the end of my pregnancy). My CT urography scan was the most terrifying experience ever, having 5-week old baby at home waiting for me to return nad nurse him, and laying there in that cold tunnel wandering what is causing this sudden hydronephrosis (as an MD a was listing all possible causes in my mind as tears were just rolling down my face). I was lucky to found out that I had congenital stenosis of the upper part of the ureter, and I went through surgery to correct it 5 months later. I wore JJ catheter for 6 weeks, hated it, and now, 2 years later I barely remember the fear and sadness I have been through (had to leave 5 month old son for 5 days).
I whish you all the best in your recovery, with love, Ana
C. Bennett says
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your gift of words and hope with others while you yourself are needing gifts of hope. I am so thankful for your presence in our lives. I opened to this in my devotional –
“Wait patiently with Me while I bless you. Don’t rush into My Presence with time-consciousness gnawing at your mind. I dwell in timelessness….Though you are a time-bound creature, seek to meet Me in timelessness. As you focus on My Presence, the demands of time and tasks will diminish.
I will bless you and keep you, making My Face shine upon you graciously, giving you Peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)) Jesus Calling-Sarah Young
Caroline McGraw says
You made me cry. You made all of us cry, in the best possible way.
Sending love and light your way, dear friend. Your beautiful words reminded me of the luminescent poem by Mary Oliver, “First Snow.” It ends like this:
“and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.”
Its so hard to go through a medical situation like that. But you handled it well and so did your loving family. All the best… and a speedy recovery.
Lately, I have been trying to realize not everything is urgent, in all situations be grateful, and be easy on myself. A lot is happening in my life right now. Trying to being there and be everything to me and everyone isn’t possible. Just being in the now, focusing on here, and being OK with it is what I need to do. I am on the right path and moving forward. I must also enjoy the movement.
I am extremely grateful for you. Thank you for your words. I hope you can rest and just be. Rest and…. just be.
Bryony Renouf says
Thank you. I am facing a new onset seizure disorder that along with severe mastitis almost just killed me this week. I lost my father to brain cancer this year and then had a new baby. I have three young children who need their mother. This has been the most trying, scariest year of my life. My anxiety is through the roof most of the time. I am so fearful. I am trying not to be but waking up in the ICU after multiple seizures and not knowing where you are is too much. Fearing leaving your babies is too much. Life feels like too much sometimes, and my doctors like yours have no answers. The advice to just be is perfect. Sometimes there is just nothing to be done.
Just seeing this now, but I hope you had a speedy recovery. Very well said and I wish you luck in the future.
Get better soon, thinking of you.
[…] Here, an obvious caveat: we’re not talking about destructive desires to intentionally cause harm. Rather, we’re talking about desires that arise from that clear-eyed place within where love and truth live. […]