Monday, June 1, 2009

"Finding the Happy"

2008 was, by far, one of the most challenging years of my life (on top of being the year I turned 40. Ouch!). My husband was suddenly and very unexpectedly laid off right after Christmas, 2007. (And no, Ms. Suzie Orman, we did not have 6 months worth of bills in our savings account -- Are you kidding me? Is any normal paycheck-to-paycheck family really able to do that?). Then, when he did manage to find work (for which we are eternally grateful), his schedule became -- and remains -- a complete nightmare for our little family. We never know which shift he's working until around 6:30pm the night before. Even then, his schedule can be altered multiple times throughout the day. So, basically, it's as if I'm a single, working Mom, only with a husband who is kind of a transient presence in our lives. A welcomed, loved, cherished presence, but not around nearly enough. SIGH. But, the story continues.... In May, I went in to my doctor for my check-up and to deal with some "female issues", and I found out that I was in the midst of severe perimenopause. Oh joy! (For more thoughts on that, see my earlier blog: "Why isn't menopause called womenopause?") Then in June, I went in to the doctor to have a sore ankle examined, and we found out that, on top of torn ligaments, missing cartilege, and various other mechanical injuries, I had a rare degenerative bone condition called Avascular Necrosis (A.V.N. for those of us in the know). So, I was completely non-weight-bearing on crutches and in a wheelchair from July 7th until mid-December, with major surgery in September, followed by partial weight-bearing with a knee scooter, one crutch, and a cane until February. Now, it is one thing to go to work in a wheelchair and on crutches. It is something entirely different to take care of two incredibly active little boys (aged 2 and 3 at the time) who need almost constant exercise in order to burn off enough energy to keep Mommy sane. (Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, our water heater literally exploded, flooding the kitchen, while I was at home with the boys, on crutches, and my husband was unreachable at work. Fun times!) So, why bring all of this up now? Because, during this last year, I have learned that it's crucial, when times are tough, to "Find the happy." (This is my parents' philosophy, by the way. Two wonderful people who do a pretty good job of it, even when times are tough. Wise people, my folks.) How did I find the happy during this last year? By laughing a lot, when I really felt like crying. Not that I didn't do a lot of crying as well. Case in point, the day it took me almost 40 minutes to get the groceries in from the car on my crutches, and I had a 20-minute, ugly, sobbing, pity-party for myself, while sitting on the floor of my kitchen, sweating buckets, literally surrounded by bags of groceries, with two hungry, crying little boys hanging on me... By doing my best to adapt to the situation, like buying industrial-strength kneepads at Lowes, so that I could crawl around the house to do laundry and chase my boys around (Oh yes, the jokes were flying: "John, you bought your wife kneepads? heh, heh, heh..." Men!), and dressing up as a doctor for Halloween (I liked the irony), hanging glow sticks on my wheelchair, and taking my boys trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. And, by trying really hard to find the funny aspects in my situation, like my husband building me a wheelchair ramp (thanks, sweetie) that had such a steep slope, I could hit about 30 mph cruising down it to my driveway and had to wear gloves, so that I could grab on to the wheels and come screeching to a halt before crashing into our mini-van. Not to mention that it took super-human strength and about 10 minutes of going, stopping, resting, going a little bit more, stopping, resting, etc., to get back up the thing. It was like climbing a mountain! But, I had defined shoulder and arm muscles for the first time in my life. Or, the time I got so frustrated with trying to do the kids' laundry on crutches that I threw both of them (the crutches, not the kids) down the hallway and then realized that I would have to crawl up the hallway to get them back, which struck me as completely funny and resulted in a huge laugh-fest on the floor with the kids, which then morphed into an even bigger tickle-fight, and which ended with each boy dragging a crutch back to me with a big, silly grin. So, I survived last year (and continue to survive) by finding the happy in my life, instead of the opposite. I don't always succeed, but I do try. I try to see the warmth and love in my house, instead of the stained carpet, the scratched-up doors, and the linoleum that so desperately needs replacing. I try to appreciate every minute with my husband, instead of focusing on how much he is gone. I try to focus on the sparkle in my eyes instead of the wrinkles that surround them. And, this weekend, knowing that we can't afford a vacation or other big luxuries, I used a gift card from my birthday, and I bought a porch swing for the front deck. It's something I've always wanted, and it's become my happy little oasis. It's a place I can go to have a quiet glass of wine and some alone time, or greet the morning with a cup of coffee, or chat with my lovely neighbor across the street. It's a special spot where I can snuggle with my little guys before they go to bed, or read a good book, or hold hands with my husband and talk about our future...It's somewhere I can go to find the happy, so that I can continue to go on... Here's hoping you find the happy, too. Cheers!


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