I haven’t had a blog entry since <mumbles>.
December, okay? DECEMBER!
But I have an excuse, and it’s legit and everything.
Not long after I finished my previous blog entry asking for suggestions for books to ask for last Christmas, I went a bit under the weather.
We were just about to get released for our Christmas break at school. I had magnificently laid plans not to think about teaching for two whole weeks. I would write. It would be lovely.
I’m sure you already sense the inevitable disaster looming.
I got appendicitis on December 18th.
I mean, no big deal, minor surgery, in and out in three days, plenty of time to anticipate the scent of turkey filling the house. Except… because this is me we’re talking about, I had a few complications.
My last Facebook post on the 19th, which I don’t remember posting or experiencing, talked about how I wished they’d stop giving me whatever post-surgical pain meds I was on because they were making me vomit, and I longed to keep down my Jello-O.
Alas, as Jimi Hendrix might attest to, vomiting and strong narcotics don’t mix.
On the 20th, I aspirated, filling my lungs and giving myself double pneumonia and respiratory failure. The x-ray of my lungs, which should be clear, was opaque. I would spend the next week on life support in a coma. They took me off the ventilator once, but had to put me back on. There had been much hand wringing, apparently, over my prognosis.
I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
On December 28th, they took me off the ventilator again, and this time it took. I had to wear a torturous breathing apparatus that forced my lungs to breathe while I learned how, but I was awake.
On our 22nd wedding anniversary, December 29th, my husband was allowed to bring our two sons, ages 20 and 17, into the ICU for a visit. It warmed my heart to be with my family, see my boys be silly and bounce off each other. My husband’s eyes filled with tears when he said, “It’s so good to see you smiling!” How bad was this for him, I wondered.
Sometime while I was comatose or coming around, I had the most terrifying hallucinations you could imagine.
I find myself pausing here as I type this. I can’t bring myself to describe them. They felt absolutely real, these experiences that nobody should ever have to go through. That’s all I can say.
I asked my husband leading questions to see if any of the things I experienced were remotely possible. No, if what he said was true, they were not possible. It was all in my head. I’m still not utterly convinced I believe him, but I must. I have no reason not to believe him, except for the vivid terror that went on and on without the respite of waking up.
That terror was replaced by consciousness and lingering paranoia, and I spent another week in ICU recovering. I was learning to breathe, to swallow, to sit up, eventually even stand. I fell at one point and wondered if I’d ever be independent again. I tried to write something down for my husband, but the letters I thought I was forming were nonsensical scribbles. I wondered then if I had lost everything.
Spoiler: I hadn’t. It all came back, slowly, as the powerful drugs they had given me wore off and I regained a more normal neurological function.
I was in the hospital for a month. They said my recovery was remarkable. I was back at my teaching job about three weeks after that. My breathing and balance were spotty (still are, but improving). All in all, a remarkable bounce-back, according to the smorgasbord of doctors on my team.
But I had lost something. I lost my spark.
I had no ambition to write, to teach, to do anything. I wasn’t just tired, I was done. This despite the fact that my near-death experience should have had the opposite effect. It should have lit a fire under me. Life is fragile, gone in a whiff. I needed to finish what I had started, to tell the stories I’ve been learning and longing to write these last few years.
But I had lost it.
I kept trying anyway, and even made some progress over these past few months, even without the passion. I began to accept that this hollowed out existence would be my new normal, that my youth had died when my lungs filled, and I would have to make the best of this sudden onset of old age.
Okay, before you get all sad for me, I want you to know I turned a corner. Spring Break, last week, I finally got my school holiday, and the rest seemed to awaken my sleeping mojo. It wasn’t lost, just dormant.
It may seem obvious that I just needed time to recuperate. That recovery only took three months after the trauma that nearly took my life, and I should have been more patient with the process. I think, though, until you go through something like that, you don’t realize how much you take for granted that your body, your mind, your life will always be business as usual.
Whether it’s a health scare, or a major life change of any sort, the sands will shift and priorities will shift with them. We may feel like we’re in one place, but we are flying through space and time at breakneck speed.
Never pass the chance to embrace a moment, a passion, a loved one. Our solid floor is just a tectonic raft that can upend at any time. And never give up on yourself, even when you are broken and exhausted. Even when the raft throws you off… just get back on. And wait for your equilibrium and balance to come back. It will, hopefully.
While there’s life, there’s hope, right?
All that to say… uh, yeah, I will try to blog more often now. Missed you!