A few health issues last week reminded me of my days in the hospital in 1996. Encephalitis and epilepsy were new words to be. My life hasn’t been the same since then. But the hope that helped me on that night, is the same hope with me on days like today. I invite you to come back with me to that season many years ago and many miles away:
– From Changing My Mind: A Journey of Disability and Joy. Available on Amazon
I can remember a night alone, when a nurse turned out the lights in my room. Awake in darkness, questions crammed my anxious mind.
That night owned me. Sleep wanted nothing to do with my illness or my life. My inside feelings, I thought, found possibilities. I could stay and do nothing. Or I could walk and think, working to figure out my new life. Like life: stay and do nothing, or walk and work to figure things out. Staying in the room kept me quiet. Staying in the room pushed more answerless questions in a mental circle of uncertainty. The machines had been disconnected; they no longer held me back, so I climbed out of bed and walked toward a window in the hall.
I sat on a chair by that window, that opening from my cave to a free world, the view reminding me of a life I could barely remember. I enjoyed my new place.
Parked cars. Traffic, toward Orlando or from, still rolling that late on that night. For a moment they came into my sight, and then they journeyed past me with no effort to notice a patient staring from a window. I couldn’t call them or control them. They were busy. I was blocked. I sat and watched. Sat and watched.
I had expected to go home that day, but my body temperature didn’t drop enough. It stayed at 103.3. They waited. Could only the 98.6 code unlock me, release me, send me home?
I questioned a lot of things while living in that hospital room. Looking back now, I compare my complaints to those of victims locked in war or poverty or hospitals for long times. My scuffle with sickness could have been so much worse. Then though, I thought 10 days equaled a very long time.
I wrote. Sleep. Or not sleep. Leave a bed in the night’s middle moment to look outside. I can pretend to be driving and laughing. I can pretend to know people and their names. I tried to work through my feelings of being owned by my questions. I cried as I wondered. Looking outside as I thought of my inside self, my old self, my new self. As I thought of life and death, of past and future, I could pretend. And ask. And think. And blink, facing reality and me. This me. This me I worked to meet and know and love. Awake. Or not awake. A moment of looking into the middle of my mind and ask myself questions. A moment of listening for the Maker of my life and ask Him honest questions. Looking outside, looking inside, I thought.
Feelings and fears twisted me, turned me. But did they own me? No. I laughed as I returned to my room. “No day owns me,” I announced to myself, fervent to believe it. “No night owns me.”
Pain pushed but I could push back. The way to do that, I realized, was to pray. The nurse smiled as I crawled into my bed, hoping for sleep.
Instead I prayed. Praying left me hoping, even while I dreamed.