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18 Hours: Taking a Break from the Battle

 

Yesterday I explained in this post how I found myself face down in the Land of Burnout and how that admission led to the chance to get way from home for a night and think and breathe and, most importantly, sleep.

 

I woke up on Saturday morning nearly bursting with excitement about my upcoming adventure , but –  as with any big attempt at escape – there were some serious obstacles between me and my front door.

 

Obstacle #1: it’s a lot of work to leave.  I made lists and lists for my family who would be caring for Steve.  When and how to give meds.  When and how to move him from bed to wheelchair to bathroom, etc.  How to get through the night. So many lists.  Having made the lists, I did a some cleaning and sheet-changing.  It’s just a lot of work to leave the house and Steve, when someone else is going to be stepping in to my spot (but I’m not complainin’ – it was every bit worth it.)

 

Obstacle #2:  This is the big one. The bad one. The one where I thought for sure my survival getaway was teetering on the brink of disaster.  My sewer flooded.  Not even kidding.  This has happened about a half dozen times in the past 13 years – so it’s not a regular occurrence, but it is a wretched one. Think:  raw sewage flooding the floor of my laundry room.  My heart sank when I realized what had happened. I can ask people to do a lot of things for me, but I cannot ask them to clean up raw sewage. I don’t feel I can even ask my kids to do that.  It’s just…beyond.  Beyond the boundaries of favor-asking. I’m not proud of the text I sent Whit, but I’m going to share it with you so you understand my mental state at the time:

My sewer just backed up again. No breaks. No breaks whatsoever in this dumb life. 

 

Do you sense a little drama there?  I assure you, I felt every inch of that despair.  At the same moment of the sewer explosion, Steve had an urgent need and so I went to help him and I could not stop the tears.  It was just the worst moment. And I know he felt every bit as bad as I did, but he had no words.  He just shook his head sadly.  I often forget how hard it would be to feel like you cannot help the people you love – especially for someone like Steve, who has always lived to help the people he loves.  Truthfully, I don’t actually forget; I just try to block those ideas from my mind because I can’t even bear to think about all my husband is losing in this process.  I went upstairs to change from get-out-of-town clothes into muck-out-the-laundry-room clothes,  but Tori followed and sat me down and said this life-changing thing to me: “You need to leave.  Right now. You need to grab your suitcase and get in your car and go.  This is not your problem, it’s OUR problem and we can solve it without you.”   I protested weakly and she put on her firmest voice and said, “Please don’t take this wrong, but we are already losing one parent, we can’t lose two.  You need to leave and let us deal with this.”

 

And I felt a flood of gratitude and relief so great I cannot describe it with words.  So I did it.  I left.  I left my disabled husband and children sitting in a house with fundamentally yucky problems and I got the heck out of Dodge.  This would not have happened four years ago, or four months ago or even four weeks ago.  Until I reached this level of desperation, I would have let the obstacles win.   I would have said, “Not gonna work this weekend.”  I would have felt noble and strong.  And I also would have secretly resented all the weight that fell on me and no one else.  And that resentment would have led to…oh, okay – I guess we’re caught up now.

 

I drove to Sunriver in a literal and emotional fog. First I turned on some music, then I turned it off and then on again. When I got there, the skies were pouring rain and it felt just like my heart.  I checked into my room, turned on the fireplace and sat staring out at the meadow and mountains for I-dont-even-know-how long.

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View with a room.

 

I fell asleep on the bed at 4 in the afternoon.  I woke up and left long enough to grab some dinner at a wonderful brewery and bring it back to my cozy room.  (Interesting: I told Steve as I was leaving that the one thing I didn’t feel ready to do on my own was eat dinner at a restaurant.  I can do breakfast or lunch.  And I can stay in a hotel room alone.  But eating by myself at dinner, with all the couples on dates and families on vacation?  Nope.  Not yet.)  I know that pictures of food are boring.  And I know my steelhead sandwich means nothing to you.  But still…I have to memorialize the beauty that was THIS SANDWICH.

 

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Because Oregonians love steelhead.

 

 

After dinner I did a lot of nothing. I read a little and watched some really silly TV.  I mean, QVC at 5 in the afternoon?  I have no explanation for this except it was something that required no brain activity on my part.  Upside: if you’re in the market for a VitaMix and need to know the five colors available, I’m your girl!  I fell asleep a lot of times for little bits of time and come 9 pm, I decided it was time to do some processing (and this is the paragraph you’ll want to skip if you do not share my faith.  Or you can read it.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

 

I prayed and read and thought and, slowly but surely, I felt some layers falling off.  Layers of grief and anxiety and confusion…just sort of falling there onto the floor of that pretty little room. I believe so strongly that our Good Father showed up to help shine a light into the murky, hurting places of my heart and reveal some ways I’m not seeing straight.  I thought about sharing with you what those revelations were, but in the end decided it was enough to say: He came.  He spoke.  I heard.  And it changed me.  Really…it changed me.  I woke up the next morning feeling differently about my role in this battle.   And I just need you to know that getting away – in and of itself – would not have been that effective for me long-term because my responsibilities are still here when I get back.  But getting away and experiencing this intersection between my pain and His purpose was really, really important. And it will impact the days and years to come. That’s how powerful it is to place our hurting hearts in front of the One who can actually heal them.

 

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This is how crazy things got

 

I went to sleep and it would not be an understatement to say: I love sleep.  Really, really love it. But I kept wondering how Steve was sleeping at home and wishing I could know for sure he was okay. That doesn’t make me feel sad or sorry; it just makes me feel married.

 

In the morning, I woke up early and read my Bible by the fire looking out on SNOW! So pretty. Such a fun gift.  I took a long time getting ready, had a beautiful breakfast in the lodge and then went to church and worshipped with the people dearest to me.

 

All in all, my short getaway was beyond what I could have asked or imagined.  It both emptied and filled me.  It freed me and firmed my stance.  It was a game changer.  A million thank you’s to my kids, my sisters and brothers-in-law and all the friends who have made our lives possible for four long years.  We are humbled by your care and determined to some day pay it forward.

 

If you are a caregiver can I implore you: take some time away to refuel?  It’s the best thing you could do for the one you love.  And if you know a caregiver, this is a good time to think about ways you could help make a little escape possible for him or her. As the holidays near (yikes!) I’ll be sharing lots of practical ways you can bless the people around you who are facing a difficult battle.

 

Finally, let me say:  your outpouring of love and support yesterday was a marvel to me. And the emails I received from other caregivers – well, they’re tender and priceless and I cherish them.  Thank you is the smallest and biggest thing I can say. I love you.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

October 28, 2014 - 11:33 am

Michaela Evanow - Would it be weird to say I cried reading through this? I did. I am so happy this happened. And I myself am taking some deep breaths with you. I can practically taste the steelhead. And feel the snow laced air. This might be the kick in the pants I need.
Proud of you.

October 28, 2014 - 12:11 pm

Richard - Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow, both obvious & oblivious! And, thank God for friends, family, and you! I am profoundly moved, and eternally grateful, for your witness of the love of God, and the love of family. Thank you for the candid sharing & open vulnerability. Praying for complete healing for Steve, and God’s will for your family. Richard George @ HCC

October 28, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Teresa - Thank you for being vulnerable & bringing joy to others.

October 28, 2014 - 12:21 pm

Teresa B. - That is one awesome looking sandwich. This sounded like the perfect getaway. And bless Tori for shoo-ing you out the door. I smiled reading this, knowing you were peaceful there in that little hotel room with your sandwich, QVC, and M&M’s.

Recharging our batteries is something we ALL need to do, especially on the wake of burnout. I have to tell myself the same thing although I don’t have nearly the load that you do.

Praying continually!
Teresa B.

October 28, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Susie - Praying that this is only the beginning of YOUR respite care!

October 28, 2014 - 1:50 pm

Jalet - Even a cell phone has to be recharged to be effective, otherwise it is simply a paper weight. If a cell phone has some small change but no connection…it is a paper weight.
I am relieved to hear that you took wise council and both recharged and found connection to your high tower. Bo you are loved not only by those connected to you, but by the most high God. Thank you for knowing and finding where your strength comes from. Your children have been mentored once again, by a momma not born of perfection, but struggling to love perfectly.

You mother many of us who find ourselves in a struggle so consuming, we can only hang onto the hope others find first. Thank you for sharing so transparently, your hope.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thess 5:11

October 28, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Helen Campbell - Thank you for sharing your hardest times. You are very courageous to entrust your story, pain and love with so many. May you be blessed beyond measure.

October 28, 2014 - 9:19 pm

Jody Collins - Bo, I had the privilege of sitting next to your unassuming, smiling (yes!0 husband at The Well conference last May and remember meeting you afterwards (friend of Gwen’s–that’s me).
I have followed your journey from afar and been reading in the background about your journey.
I’m so proud of you……..Jesus is so good. Thank you for your vulnerability and your encouragement to others.

October 28, 2014 - 10:23 pm

Jewl - Dear Bo,

I love your blog. Perhaps there’s a link because I too am a INTJ. We’re all made to process things–perhaps us more than most. God spoke to me also on my own getaway this past weekend, and I wasn’t as desperate for that time away as you! I can only imagine how constantly interrupted sleep and more than full days would break a person. Being several states away, I watched my stepmum care for my dad with his Alzheimer’s which also included long days and fitful nights spread over several years, and that care was something to behold. She had help too. I’d been sensing you were coming to this. I’m thankful for your getaway and for a God who can move mountains in one little 18 hour break! I know it won’t be easy, but I pray that God leads you to a plan for some more on-going help.
I signed up to get your blog, but don’t get e-mail prompts, so I just look you up periodically, and it’s usually just after you’ve posted, which shows how God prompts people to pray. May God give you rest in Him even in the battle.

PS I think a lot of your Steve just from your words about him. What a great guy! Thank you for loving him well. You’re STILL the one God intended for him. 🙂

With hope with you …

October 29, 2014 - 5:58 am

Sherree - The place where Jesus lives in you is a spacious habitation. Your suffering has created such a beautiful home for Him. I see the strength you draw from Him. I understand that it’s the only way you can function; it is so rare, so beautiful to have cleared out so much of you and made such a lovely place for Him.The truth of his purpose intersecting with your suffering is really good. Thank you for sharing.

October 29, 2014 - 11:05 am

Kathy Gilbert - Yes. I am saying “ditto” to Michaela Evanow, the first one to comment here. What she said, …me too. I just want to say thank you, Bo. Thank you for writing such precious and powerful words for us to read. I am sending much love and praying that Jesus will surprise you with amazing personally crafted blessings in this next season. Jesus, please intercede for all involved here in these precious words written by Bo; I pray that You would bless each one and that our faith would rise up to meet the challenges of this short and amazing life You’ve called us to live with You in mind. AMEN

November 3, 2014 - 4:19 pm

Jan Newhouse - Reading your article was refreshing and encouraging. I’m a care giver for my husband who suffered a stroke seven months ago. He is still unable to speak and has no use of his right side, although little bits are returning. Just in the last month I was able to hire a care giver for one day a week. This has been a God send and I look forward with great anticipation planning that day each week. Of course there is necessary shopping to be done, but I carve a little time for myself. “Count it all JOY” has carried me through much of the process. God is designing a beautiful tapestry. I can only see the little criss crosses and knots at this point, but I know He is going to show me the beautiful picture on the other side some day. I’m learning to experience joy in the process and trust a loving God that loves me and is committed to me best. Blessings as you continue to blog away, Jan

November 7, 2014 - 8:01 pm

Annette Swor - Bo, well written. Thank you. I respect you so much.
Annette