“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.