Tuesday, May 5, 2015

No One Told Me

Nobody told me it would be this hard. Life, I mean. Oh sure, I’d always heard the platitude “Into every life some rain must fall” and my mother (God rest her soul) always told me “Honey, life isn't fair,” when I was feeling put upon by some childhood injustice. But, really, my life is hard right now. Very.

How did I get here? It’s been a journey, truly. I had an idyllic childhood, growing up in a small town in Montana during the 60’s. Well, my big brother used to make my life hell, with his teasing, but otherwise it was truly idyllic: walking to school with friends, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood and down to the river for picnics, fishing for crawdads in the pond at the park, ice skating on the same pond in the winter, going to the state fair every summer, going to church camp on Flathead Lake, camping with the family… I could go on and on – my life was full of joyous activities. And I had a stable family with two loving parents who gave me a home where I knew I was always safe and loved. And I had a BEST FRIEND EVER, from 4th grade on – Brenda Osborne.

I was totally into sports in school, and was an avid runner on the cross country and track teams. I have many fond memories of practices, road trips and meets. It was through track that I got a scholarship to Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, MT. More wonderful friends, more laughter (and pain) in practices, more amazing road trips – this time all over the US and Canada, not just in-state. A track meet in Spokane at Whitworth College (it wasn't yet a university) brought me to the attention of the track coach there, and I found myself enrolled there instead of Montana State in Bozeman, as I’d planned. At Whitworth I became a born-again Christian, and started attending the church I would call home for the next 25 years.

My 20’s and 30’s were spent doing various city-league sports – often on church teams – and biking and running. I made many close, close friends in church, and grew in the Lord. I had various jobs, until 1986 when I discovered computers and went back to school to get a degree in computer science. And I LOVED what I was studying! After finishing my undergraduate degree I stayed on at EWU and got my MS in computer science. The bonus from grad school was meeting and marrying the love of my life, Randy.
In my 40’s I got very serious about riding, and began racing bikes. I even hired a racing coach. Randy and I would train together, and we’d take our bikes on vacations and ride all over. And we got to travel all over the world due to my volunteer work with the International Collegiate Programming Contest. Life was good! And, really, pretty easy. I had a great job, a great church, a great husband. I was blissfully happy, and looked forward to a life of love and happy activities as Randy and I grew older together.

And then I got sick. And the church I’d attended for 25 years folded. Floundering physically and spiritually, I kept seeing doctors, hoping for a cure – or at least a diagnosis. 11 ½  years later and I still have neither. Four years ago, BFF Brenda died suddenly – and I felt like half my childhood was ripped away. That same year I also lost my own mother, and we lost Randy’s mother, too, who had lived with us the last few years of her life and whom I came to love dearly. But at least I could still work.

Then my illness progressed, and now my physical state has deteriorated to the point that I am completely disabled (I had to quit work over 2 years ago.) No more biking – I barely have the energy to get dressed in the morning. No more travel – I had to give up my work with the ICPC, as it was too physically taxing. No more walks with the dog. No more gardening. No more anything except sitting in my chair.

So now, each day I wake up and my life is the same: I’m tired and feel like crap – before I even get out of bed! It is a major chore just to get up and get dressed. It is only through God’s strength that I make it through each day. Every day is like this – even the simplest things are major obstacles for me. I never have “good” days. I never feel well. And this wears on my spirit. God has told me to trust Him in this situation, and I do. But I’m only human, so I also wish he’d heal me, or at least tell me why I have to spend the rest of my life suffering physically. I look down the road of my future and all I see is more of the same: limited mobility, feeling sick and tired every single day, and the things that used to bring me joy I can no longer do. It’s not a pretty sight.

Now, I do know that I have been given many, many gifts that I can still enjoy, even now. First and foremost, there is my wonderful husband! As I have become able to do less and less around the house, he has taken on more and more – without complaint. We had to give up our globe-trotting and bike-riding vacations, but Randy has not once said a bitter word about it. Same with my lack of income. Through all of this, he has remained by my side, encouraging me, loving me, and taking care of me. I honestly don’t know how I’d cope without his steadfast courage in the face of all this.

And I can still read my books, and get out to the occasional Saturday morning Met Opera broadcast, or to a movie with a friend. So, for all of these, I am truly grateful. But the day-to-day grind is just that – a grind. A long, slow slog, with no let up in sight. What do you do when the ‘valley’ is never-ending, and you know you’ll never make it out? Well, you do the only thing you can do: you keep going. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yes, yes I can. But it’s still hard. The hardest thing I have ever done. And I have to keep doing this the rest of my life, unless a miracle occurs and I am healed. And, after 11 years, I’m afraid I’ve given up hope on a miracle.

So. On I go. Every day. To survive, I have to find joy in the smallest things, and this I try to do. And, of course, I lean on God’s strength. Without Him I surely wouldn't make it. Even so, it’s hard. It’s not what I expected out of life. I am trying to not tie my physical state to my emotional/spiritual state, but it’s difficult. This is my current battleground – to not let despair and hopelessness overcome my spirit. And it’s hard to fight when you’re tired all the time. But, I do. I must. The alternative is to let the darkness win, and I don’t want that! I know that God has given me the spirit of an overcomer, and that Darkness cannot defeat the Light. So I cling to these promises, and cling to God (who, thankfully, clings to me when I don’t have the strength to hold on to him!) and I go on. Day by day. But, it’s hard. So very hard.