Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Drowning Gymnast

I can’t help but feel like I am drowning at times. It’s like the laundry, the dishes, my overflowing email inbox, the therapy and doctor appointments, and the uncertainty about the future are all going to suffocate me at once. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed and feel like I can’t handle it all.

I’m like an Olympic gymnast, balancing on the beam between crazy optimism and trying to be realistic. Most of the time, I’m able to keep my balance. But, sometimes all of those things suffocating me cause me to fall to the ground.

If I land on the side of optimism, life seems good – often better than it really is. I seclude myself in Elijahland, thinking that everything’s going to be all right. Elijah will be just like his peers when he grows up, I tell myself. No one will even know what happened to him during his birth. I pretend that nothing is wrong; ignoring those emotions I’d rather not touch. I’m secluded, in my own world with my boys.

Then I find that I’ve fallen off my beam again and those emotions I tried to avoid have smacked me in the face. This time I’m on the side of reality and I ponder what my son’s life may entail. I wonder if he still won’t be talking or feeding himself when he’s 5, 10 or 15. What if…what if…what if…? It’s not a pretty place to be. I wonder how I’ll handle him when he’s older. What if he can’t understand me or communicate with us? How will we handle it all?

I know that we all feel overwhelmed at times, whether or not we have a “special needs” child. I’ve had this overwhelmed feeling before and it always subsides eventually. As I write this, I no longer have that drowning feeling. I’ve reminded myself to take it one day at a time, to not worry about my house (it’ll be here to clean tomorrow), people will forgive me for unanswered emails or phone calls (the ones that love me anyway), and to give the future up to God. I can ponder all I want, but only God knows what the future holds. There’s that scripture that says don’t worry about tomorrow. I know that God will take care of us and when I remember that, I realize that there is no reason to feel like I am drowning.

So, here I am, trying to stay on my balance beam. I’m apt to fall again, but hopefully I can be quick to get back on the beam. Being realistic about Elijah’s future (realizing that he’s going to have ongoing difficulties in his life) while remaining optimistic for him (not setting any limits as to what and who he can be) is exactly where I want to be. I’m not drowning, I’m swimming. I just wish it felt less like treading water sometimes.

***As a side note, it’s really hard for me to open myself up like this. I share because I do realize that we all have these feelings at times. For some reason, it’s difficult to share the negative feelings. I share because I want to be honest and real. Dealing with Elijah’s diagnoses is an ongoing process. Sometimes I’m completely okay with it. I remember how far he has come and I’m so thankful. And then other days I have to admit that I’m frustrated. My son’s life isn’t how I expected it to be or dreamed that it might be. Grief is an ongoing process, but sometimes it’s hard to share the journey. ***


Anonymous said...

Lisa, you create a great analogy of the balance beams of life. Remember that these gymnasts relentlessly practice and never give up so that more often than not they can land on the side of optimism!


Lisa said...

Thanks Dan, I really appreciate the comment. I'll keep on practicing. ;)

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. I have a cousin that has cerebral palsy & his parents were told that he wouldn't be able to sit or walk or talk. They suggested he be put into an institution. Fortunately, they ignored those remarks & worked with him and he went on to accomplish so many things. He got a college degree (I think he has a Masters but not sure), works full time and even got married a few years ago. He is a sweetheart of a man. I know there are many levels but you can't give up hope. Elijah is very lucky to have been born to a loving couple that care so much for him. I wish you much love & happiness in this new year.

Suzie (NJ cousin of Wendy Lausted)

Anonymous said...

Did you know that tears cried for say, cutting onions, and tears cried for grief & for joy all have different chemical properties? It's ok to just cry when you feel overwhelmed. God made our tears. Jesus cried. Let them flow the next time you think you are holding them in. They don't mean you are weak; just human. You will probably feel & think a little different afterwards!
I just found a link to this blog on another UCG'ers blog & immediately "favorited" it. Best hopes to you/family & I'm already looking foward to reading it & getting to know Eli. Take care.

Jim Buckmaster said...

Hi there Elijah,

You sure seem to have some busy and interesting times. How was my week? I'm so glad you asked.

Wednesday started normally enough with the requisite coffee and an hour or so of “spool-up” time followed by breakfast and taking Alexander to school. As I was leaving the school, my wife Shirley called me and said, “I need your help right now!” My thoughts immediately flashed to the eye surgery she’d had done 48 hours prior and that some type of catastrophic complication had occurred in the 10 minutes since I’d left the house.

Shirley then told me that our 2-year-old, 90 lb. female Chocolate Labrador, Chipper, had eaten a dozen or so freshly baked Oatmeal Raisin cookies off of the counter while Shirley was waving good-bye to us as we headed for school. We were told when we acquired Chipper as a 6-week-old puppy that she was a purebred. Her behaviors though, have led us to suspect that there was also some Bedouin Thief, Gnawing Rat, Glutton, and Psychotic Perpetrator in her bloodline as well.

About a year ago we had read an article about the toxicity of raisins to Labs. That Lab had died because too much time had passed before it received any help. We didn’t want that to happen to Chipper. Shirley had called our veterinarian and was told that there was a simple solution to the problem. “Give your dog about 4 ounces of hydrogen peroxide to drink and then walk her for 5-10 minutes until she throws up.”

Because of the surgery, Shirley was restricted from lifting, pulling, pushing or otherwise straining so that left this simple task up to me. I had mistakenly assumed that simple also meant easy. Nowhere in my previous life-experience had I ever been exposed to information indicating that Chocolate Lab’s VIOLENTLY DETEST the taste of hydrogen peroxide!

Chipper weighs at least 90 pounds and I weigh 200. On the surface that looks like I have a tremendous advantage. However, by design dogs are pound for pound approximately 7 times stronger than humans. A quick calculation determines that in RELATIVE STRENGTH ratio Chipper tips the calculator at 630 (7 X 90) and I come in at a severely disadvantaged 200 (1 X 200). Just how great a difference this is, was about to become very apparent.

I put Chipper on her leash and she calmly followed me outside into the zero degree weather. I told her to “lie down” and she did. I then approached her with the open bottle of hydrogen peroxide, sat down beside her, leaned on her back and held the peroxide by her mouth so she could drink some. That’s when I simultaneously discovered how much Lab’s detest peroxide AND how much stronger dogs are than humans on a per weight basis!

A wrestling match ensued during which I was finally able to pin her by using superior technique even though overmatched strength-wise. I gently pried the side of Chipper’s jaw open with my fingers and sloshed a couple of ounces into her mouth. It was then that Chipper sneezed and my face, head and neck were assaulted by the recently inserted peroxide and assorted doggie fluids and odors that accompanied this unpleasant rejection of my canine medical expertise.

As soon as I regained my vision by removing my glasses and scraping off the layers of iced peroxide and removed the larger chunks of ice from my beard I was ready for a second attempt. This time I decided to stand on Chipper’s leash to prevent her from squirming away. This allowed her to sit upright so that any peroxide in her mouth would run down her throat and into her stomach.

This was progress! Mind of man once again triumphing over mere animal! I was able to get a couple more ounces into her mouth and then held her head up to assist gravity in the passage of the peroxide to its intended destination. A swallow, then two, and then, without so much as a warning rumble, a massive eruption that would shame Mount Vesuvius!

The peroxide never made it to her stomach. Somewhere just south of her tonsils was as far as it got before Chipper ejected the peroxide in a pretty fair imitation of projectile vomiting. However, only the peroxide came up and not the stomach contents I was after. I am quite certain of this fact because the contents of Chipper’s latest efforts were spewed all over the front of my jacket where they could be examined in great detail. Not a raisin in sight! Just clear liquid. Although I was well beyond “sneeze range” this time, I had failed to factor in the additional distance necessary to escape a volcanic eruption of this magnitude. Chipper was adamantly gastronomically disinclined to accept or retain any of her “medicine”.

Hoping against hope that enough peroxide had made it as far as Chipper’s stomach to give the desired medical relief, I began to walk her up and down the frozen and snow-covered driveway. Back and forth, up and down, lap after lap, mile after tiring mile, until nearly 20 minutes had passed with no apparent effects from my second attempt to purge the evil toxins.

I then hooked Chipper to her chain in the back yard and threw snow balls for her to chase for another 15 minutes and still nothing. I was getting desperate. I needed to get the peroxide into Chipper where it would do some good. I approached her and stood on the chain and straddled my dog. Chipper jumped and bucked and spilled peroxide all over my bare hands. I grabbed the chain with my left hand in an attempt to restrict her movement.

It was at this point that I was reminded of why it is ill-advised to touch freezing cold metal with a wet hand, as my hand instantly bonded to the zero degree chain. I released Chipper and she thought it was a great game to lead me about the yard as I tried to pour enough peroxide from the bottle onto my frozen hand to gain its release. Once I was free again, I put a glove on my left hand to hold the chain while I straddled Chipper and got the bottle of peroxide into the side of her mouth with her head held up so the peroxide went down. This time all the way!

After another tense 15 minutes or so, Chipper began to eject the stomach contents that I had been so diligently pursuing. It soon became apparent that an issue that the veterinarian’s office did not deem important enough to fully disclose was the potential for the peroxide to increase internal pressure to the level of such cataclysmic proportions that any available body orifice was an acceptable avenue by which to relieve that pressure.

I was astounded at the quantity of cumulative production caused by the 3 or 4 ounces of peroxide that she ingested. In the next 30 minutes or so, our 90 lb. canine had expelled, by my conservative estimate, no less than 25 lbs. worth of those hard earned calories. When Chipper had at last completed her assigned responsibilities, I brought her back into the house to rest as I headed to the shower for the second time that morning.

After a thorough scrubbing, rinsing, and disinfecting, I emerged from the bathroom to discover that I had optimistically allowed Chipper back in the house prematurely! She glared malevolently at me as I cleaned up three new messes. I’m sure that was “payback” for her sense of violation. At any rate, Chipper’s Cookie Caper took about two hours out of my day and created a memory on a par with some of the tales recounted in John Grogan’s book, Marley and Me. If memory serves, Marley was also Labrador Retriever. Why am I not surprised?

I may have to change my favorite cookie from Oatmeal Raisin to something less time consuming.

Don't let this scare you away from having your own dog some day Elijah. Most days go much more smoothly that the one I just described Take care until we speak again.

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