I recently shared a social media post about happiness. Happiness can be a fleeting thing that you always have to work on. We all know from this last year, our routines, comfort zones, and happiness can be disrupted in the blink of an eye. While I still have faith, we can get it back again, that doesn’t make it any easier to move forward when we get stuck in the mud. When the shit seems to hit the fan and spray directly in our face, at first we might be able to say, I can handle this. But then it keeps coming, you keep sinking and struggling. You begin to lose hope. This is where we are right now. But as usual, one of us carries the other along. It seems it’s my time to be my own hero as well as Joe’s. I am okay with that. We are dealing with this surgery differently based on the strain we went through the last few times. After reflecting and focusing on my past, I have learned I have to stay focused on the positive possibilities while taking one day at a time. I have personal historical data that brings me comfort to see the light through the darkness. However, carefully navigating each step of the present moment is how you pull yourself out.
A few days ago, after getting a sinus infection leading to canceling my pre-surgical appointment, I was sitting at a campground in Orlando sweltering in the heat. We have no A/C in the van. This has been one of our concerns about van life, heat safety, especially for our cat Juno. We would be traveling north by now, but we are tethered to this area for doctors. We have been feeling financial strains of the upcoming doctor bills on top of barely making ends meet; as well as me not being able to do physical gig work as much as I want to. Joe has been working extra long hours trying to make up for it and keep busy. This waiting is driving both of us crazy. Waiting for the test results, waiting for the doctor appointments which are many weeks apart, waiting for the pain to be over, waiting to be able to get back on track with our goals.
Joe and I are very connected and in tune with each other. So much that we feel each other’s pain and anxiety thus perpetuating our own. We try hard to protect the other by burying our feelings so as not to hurt the other. However, that is not effective because we both just feel worse. We try opening up to each other to express our feelings, but that also feels worse because we understand both sides of the perspective. The grief and frustration we go through are normal when faced with surgery. But we don’t always know how to express it, so it can come out hurtful without meaning to. No matter how much I know that it doesn’t lessen the blow of the words. Living in 72 square feet makes it very difficult to get some space to clear your head and heart. He said some very hurtful things about the situation, not directed towards me. However, I see it as I am currently the cause of the situation so it’s hard not to take it personally. He is tired and frustrated that this is the 3rd time we are going through surgery together. No matter how routine the doctors make it sound, that still does not ease the pain of seeing your most cherished loved one going through it.
Joe burst with frustration the other night. I had just started an unexpected flare-up of intense menstrual pain and bleeding. We were three and a half hours away from family and friends that have offered their homes to help us through this. We parked at Cracker Barrel for the night, and he tried to take a walk to calm down. The next morning, we had arranged to go from St. Augustine (cooler weather) to a timeshare resort room in Orlando my father helped us with. We had set up our emergency toilet that I left available for multiple uses. But the pain of getting in and out of our raised bed was difficult. In a non-traveling situation, I’d be able to sit on the toilet easing myself through the pain with the door closed. However, sitting nearly on top of each other, me on the toilet and Joe in the front seat starting his day, there is no way for me to protect him and hide the pain and tears. There is only so much he can comfort me, he feels useless. I do keep a lot of the pain from him because there really is nothing he can do at that moment. I am comforted by knowing how much he loves me and he’s doing his best to earn money for us. So, after we talked a little, he left to go work and I had to manage moving the van the 2-hour drive south to our resort room. With breaks, it took me about 4 or 5 hours. Not only are we dealing with the emotional stress of surgery, but the added challenges of our full-time traveling lifestyle were not something we were prepared for. There seems to be no good way to do it. You just have to power through and have a good support system of family and friends. We just keep taking each step as it comes.
One thing that keeps me going is my mindset. The emotional intelligence and strength I have built up over the years. Both of us are tired that we are going through ANOTHER surgery AGAIN. To help me cope, I looked back at how these ups and downs have progressed (oh the irony that we have owned a yoyo business!) Since we are both visual, I thought it might help Joe to see what I see in a picture. In the graph I have here, I very roughly plotted out major events in our life. When you are stuck in the mud and in the valley of despair, it is virtually impossible to see the mountain peaks. The mountains that have become very worthwhile climbing, in my opinion. This is life, these peaks and valleys are what a life full of adventure and experience looks like. Sure, we could have played it safe, leveling out the curves. Are those views from the mountain peaks worth giving up on? After what I’ve been through, I know it’s not. I choose to see this current valley we are in as a healing and growth moment from the intense life experiences we’ve been through in the last few years. As in my banner picture, this is the spa treatment where I quiet myself while covered in mud to see what we will do differently climbing this next mountain. Learning from the mineral enriched mud of experience. I know Joe is feeling like the other picture, the vehicle stuck and not able to move forward. Why would he want to move forward if there is just more mud to get through? I hope him reading this will help him to quiet his mind and take a moment to change his perspective.
To get out of quicksand, start by taking a few deep breaths to calm down since panicking will make you sink faster. Then, bend your body backward so you're lying on your back on top of the quicksand, and carefully work your legs out of the quicksand until they're no longer stuck. (www.wikihow.com) Nature teaches us the skills we need to thrive. We just have to take a few deep breaths and change perspective. As you can see from my graph, life always gets better with incredible and happy experiences. I’m just trying to stay calm, knowing this is a temporary situation again. It’s not easy to change perspective but it’s possible if we want to. I want to. I trust that Joe will find that he wants to as well.
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