By swilson | May 16, 2013
Those who know me well know I’m independent; I dislike leaning on others or owing anyone. I prefer to be the payer, the one making the introductions and the one creating opportunities. Whether it’s a job connection, teaching a new communication approach, making a meal for a friend, or counseling a friend on a job situation. These types of situations bring me satisfaction.
When Allyen got sick, I realized quickly I would need to do a lot of leaning. With my husband still in the hospital all these weeks later, I have found myself running two businesses (mine and his), caring for our two children, coordinating his care and managing our household (including coordinating completion of tax returns).
The avalanche of giving and support
My best friend and my sister-in-law both came to us the day Allyen collapsed. They literally dropped everything and traveled many miles. They looked after our children, took care of our dogs and house, and spent countless hours at the hospital listening, asking questions and integrating into the care team. We were the three amigos, the three musketeers, sisters in crisis. I learned a lot about them and about myself in the process. We made a great team.
There were family members and friends who came and remained day after day in the first few weeks. One couple stayed with me in the waiting room for many hours. Another couple took their morning coffee with Allyen in the hospital for many weeks, until hemoved into rehab and could no longer meet with them in the mornings.
Three friends have consistently brought us meals throughout the experience. Amazing help to know I can knock out a meal quickly without thinking — gives me strength. Never dismiss the power of a great meal.
My hair stylist came into the hospital and cut Allyen’s hair, trimmed his beard, cut his nose and ear hair. It was hard for her to see him in the condition he was in at the time, but we were grateful for her giving spirit. She made him feel more alive.
Neighbors shoveled countless feet of snow off our drive and walk. Coming home from long hours at the hospital and seeing an empty drive is a thrill.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things
The box of tissues one friend brought to the hospital the first day was one of the very best things anyone brought me in those first few days. The tissue in the hospital is brutal on the nose.
Sometimes, an offer to shuttle my son or daughter to a practice is the very best thing I could possibly imagine at that moment. One couple in particular continues to step up in such an amazing way, taking our son to almost every sports practice and game. I literally would have had a breakdown if they hadn’t been there for us.
When Allyen was still in dire straights – but able to communicate — friends asked if they could bring him anything. He wanted a Butterfinger Blizzard from Dairy Queen. They not only brought it, but fed it to him because he was unable to feed himself.
What sustains me
“I feel like I’m a flower trying to bloom in snow,” Vienna Teng. Throughout this experience, we’ve had big snow after big snow. Trying to keep my own spirits up when faced with daunting challenges has been difficult. Everyone keeps telling me, “take care of yourself.” Some have asked how I am doing it. Here’s how:
Early on I created my own circuit around the hospital grounds. I ran the stairs to the staff parking lot. I did dips and pushups on rocks and stairs around the facility. I credit my time in the Red Rocks Fitness Challenge for teaching me that the world is my gym. I can workout anywhere.
Breaking away with my daughter for her first ever pedicure at Tall Grass was a very special experience. Sitting at my son’s ballgames has been wonderful relaxation.
Laughing over champagne at Flights of Wine in Morrison with a friend was great therapy. She knows how hard it is to run a successful consultancy even when everything is going smoothly.
I can’t say enough about my IABC family. It is family to me. They have been there in the background, listening, supporting, waiting patiently for me to return. I started to pay it back this week, speaking at the Tulsa chapter. What a great group of people!
Work and colleagues:
The outreached has been phenomenal. Positive thoughts, prayers, vibes and perspective people send every week. Getting back to work has allowed me to focus my energy and re-engage my intellect on something other than the crisis at hand. I welcome the work and am feeling more creative and focused than ever.
I’ve already written about the music. It continues to give me energy, strength and comfort. The music points the way to our future. Some have asked who I’m listening to, so here’s a list of some favorites (no particular order and keeping in mind we tend to be heavy on upcoming Telluride Bluegrass acts):
He comes home Friday. After three months. A whole new chapter. I know we’ll be sustained through that one to. Thank you to you all.
By swilson | May 9, 2013
The title of this post is a line in a song I heard in the weeks since Allyen got sick. It struck me.
I haven’t actually had a conversation with the God I don’t believe in. I also have not prayed to that God. I always stop myself. I find myself talking to Allyen directly in my head, or aloud when I’m alone. There is no God that can translate or relay my messages to Allyen. I feel I must carry that message to him myself. When he was unconscious and now when he’s conscious.
Being comfortable with no God
I reconciled the absence of a God a very long time ago. Why am I an atheist?
- 10 years of work in child welfare and indigent healthcare
- I believe that if religion did not exist fewer peoples of the world would be at war
- I believe that religion is a way for human-kind to explain the as-of-now unexplainable
So, in a health crisis such as Allyen’s, what is an atheist to do? I feel an energy and spirituality that propels itself through me to him. Early on, I felt as if I could touch him and push my energy into him. If I parted with part of me, that might help him.
The real question is who do you talk to in your head during such a crisis when you are alone? In those moments when I’m alone driving in the car, after putting the children to bed, staring at myself in the mirror in the bathroom, to whom do I speak to with all the emotions and worries I carry around with me all the day long?
It’s a little lonely even though I’ve spent many days and evenings with other people. I know I’m not really alone. My friends and family are there for me. So, I don’t feel a need for a God I don’t know or believe in to satisfy my security requirements.
About decision making
Not believing in a God makes my inner monologue a different conversation than what someone might have with their God. But, beyond the monologue, it’s also a question of decision-making.
Early on, I found myself faced with many decisions. Some were pretty easy, others very difficult. At every decision, I caught myself thinking: “Allyen & I need to talk about that.” I couldn’t have the decision conversation with him or the God I don’t believe in, so I would have to make the decision myself.
Over the weeks I’ve become more comfortable making decisions and moving things forward. But, once Allyen was able to participate in conversation and decisions, I went right back to the collaborative decision-making.
On one thing we collaboratively agree: God is not responsible for the events of the past 77 days. There is some luck involved to be sure:
- I found him on the kitchen floor within 2 minutes of his collapse
- A new level 1 trauma center opened just 5 minutes from our home 2 years ago
- The clot hit him at 6:15 am, not an hour later when he would have been driving us to the mountains to ski
Then there was the skill of the medical team. They figured it out very quickly and used some amazing new advances in treatment that we believe saved his memory and cognitive ability.
Finally, there was his will to return to me and our children, and our will to bring him back to us. I don’t know that our children can articulate this, but I know they have felt it.
Now that he is in rehab, it’s up to him to do the hard work. Every bit of effort turns to good, visible improvements. We can encourage, support and give strength, but it’s in his hands to realize his future.
Back to the God thing
Once he was awake and able to communicate, I began letting Allyen answer the many questions from caregivers. They always inquire about religious preferences. His answer has consistently been unaffiliated. He’s never thought of himself as an atheist. I think he’d say he’s undecided.
I think I’ll continue talking to Allyen in my inner monologue rather than a God I don’t believe in. It’s proving to be far more satisfying.
By swilson | May 7, 2013
I’ve been thrown into a major family health crisis. That’s where my focus is and has been for many weeks now. It is the center of my attention.
This doesn’t mean that others experience the crisis in the same consuming fashion as I do. It’s been an interesting lesson for me.
I understood pretty early on that I couldn’t expect others to know where we were in the lifespan of our crisis. I have to be patient. Sometimes, I have to bring people along from the start so they can catch up with the rest of us. Other times, I have to help people calm down when they misperceive some small bit of information that makes them frantic.
Then there are the times I have to help others to be practical and realistic. This is especially hard to do because:
- I tend to be a lot more pragmatic than most and others can find that offensive
- I know a lot more detail than everyone else about the situation
- Being realistic requires us to set aside the emotional parts of the experience, and this is a very emotional experience
Early on, I over-communicated to our circle of family and friends. I think I was subconsciously trying to make my experience their center of attention. I needed others to share this ride with me.
Now, I find it interesting to sit in my home at night, after the kids are in bed, and consider that our friends and even extended family aren’t thinking about Allyen right at that moment. They have other things in their centers of attention.
Now that I am aware of this dynamic, I’ve begun to notice how others expect me to give my energy to their center of attention; to be aware and knowledgeable about their most important experience. For them, it is consuming. I understand that with great depth now.
But for me, their concern is a distraction. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t have the emotional, time, or brain capacity to add it into my center of attention.
I don’t expect others to fully grasp what we are going through, or to recall what, when, how, etc. The outreach and support is sustaining, that is sure. And I’m happy to explain when questions come to me. But I know it’s my focus, not that of others.
What’s big for me is not big for you. And vise versa.
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