>What have I done?


One of my favorite things to do these days is turn off the lights, television, laptop and BlackBerry to sit in silence and look at my Christmas tree. Something is calming about the white lights illuminating the garland beads and glittery ornaments. It feels like home to me, which is unfamiliar territory, because I haven’t felt a sense of “home” in years. I haven’t really felt a sense of calm in years, for that matter. Life sort of sneaked up on me and even though I’m only 28, I feel at least 40, sometimes asking myself if this is all there is to my life and if I’ve really accomplished anything at all. People say I have but I don’t feel it. There is always a weight pressing on me that I haven’t used my gifts well enough, I haven’t reached enough people, and I haven’t served the world as well as I was intended to do. Since before I could even read, I was telling my mother that I’m going to do great things in my life and make the world a better place. That might sound a little cliche but it’s always been an understood fact in my family. I’m the one to rescue everyone from being ruined. But what have I really done? I feel like I’ve had 28 years and I haven’t done much.

The issue of time has been pressing on me today because the issue of finding a surgeon to correct my clubfeet has been left up to me. My primary doctor is wonderful but sometimes the severity of my disability goes over his head. The reality of going through major foot surgery frightens me, especially when it comes to how much time I have to devote to recovery. Clubfeet in small children is easier to treat because their bones and tissues are not fully formed yet, but in adults, it’s a longer, more difficult recovery period and the results might not be as good. I’ve talked about this before but I can’t keep putting it off because I’m only making myself suffer. I can’t wear shoes for more than an hour without experiencing pain. I can’t put any pressure on my feet without experiencing pain. I can barely wash my feet without experiencing pain. Something has to change.

I’m not a little girl anymore though and the thought of giving up time to doctors, hospital stays, recovery and therapy for a year or more has me awfully nervous and reflective on my age. I’ve read things from adult clubfeet patients who have endured multiple surgeries to try and correct their deformities. One woman in particular is 31 and has had 15 surgeries on her feet alone. I’m 28 and pushing 20 surgeries in my lifetime. I’m tired. Thinking about going through it again makes me even more tired. The surgeries involve cutting ligaments and tendons and breaking and resetting bones. Surgeons basically rebuild the structure of the feet but there isn’t any function in them after it’s done. Some of my ligaments and tendons have already been cut in a previous surgery and I can no longer pull my toes up. The corrective surgeries are to eliminate as much pain as possible and to make life as easy as possible but there will be no more function and the road to the best result is extremely trying and painful.

Needless to say, I quit researching not long after I started today. I couldn’t stomach it. I asked my uncle to find a surgeon for me.

Time has a funny way of haunting you as you get older. When you’re young, you always think there will be more time and you can do this or that later. The idea of giving up a year of my life to surgery never bothered me before but it certainly does now. I never feel like there’s enough time. I want to go to Paris for my 30th birthday. Depending on the timing of things, I might be in recovery. That means no traveling, no going out to the mall for hours with friends, no museums, no movie theaters, none of it. I don’t tolerate pain as well as I used to and I know my limits. My feet keep me from doing a lot now, so I can’t imagine what I will feel like for the first several post-op months.

It’s not just my surgery that has me thinking about how time affects us as we get older. Several people in my life have had loved ones die in the last few months. A few friends have children with terminal illnesses. Some are facing legal issues. My stepfather was diagnosed with cancer and died that same year. Life can turn you upside down in the blink of an eye. The things that challenge us can either break us or make us stronger but the universal truth is challenges of this nature always put things into perspective. Sometimes I see people complaining about things that really don’t need so much energy and I wonder if they even know how blessed they are in their lives. We all only get so much energy and I see so much misdirection of it that I want to grab people by the shoulders and shake some sense into them.

It takes a a real life challenge to show some that the little everyday tragedies aren’t so tragic after all.

There are people, I’m sure, who interpret my use of humor as too silly or too frivolous or even seeking attention. I’ve felt and seen myself getting misunderstood more times than I can count in my life. I have used humor and supposedly frivolous interests as a way to escape since I was a child simply because if I focused too much on my struggles, I would lose my mind. My job every day is to tell people about their struggles, agonies, tragedies and so forth, and I have a really difficult time not absorbing that pain. Living with my own emotional and physical pain is enough, let alone taking on the world. Yet when I think about giving up that path in life, I feel very lost and like I’m shirking my purpose. I need silliness and fun in my daily life to balance out the bad.

Most of the time, life is not as bad as people think. There are always things to be grateful for and it’s a bad idea to constantly harp on the bad things happening around you. While I’m not looking forward to the possibility of major surgery, or maybe more than one, I am blessed to have great friends, family and a sense of purpose in life. Without those things, everything would be hopeless. With those things, worrying about concerts and he said/she said nonsense seems rather trivial. I love going to concerts and going out with my friends. I’m not going to stop being who I am, nor will I apologize for it. I may be in a bit of a dark moment right now with fear and depression but I always make an effort to look ahead to positive things and continuing to fulfill my purpose. There are lessons to be learned in all things. Maybe this surgery is supposed to get me to slow down and come up with new ideas in my recovery period. I don’t know yet. We’ll just have to see what happens down the road. One step at a time.

What would you say if you were talking yourself out of a slump? What’s really important to you?

4 responses to “>What have I done?”

  1. Sissy says:

    >You are a strong and beautiful woman! I am blessed to be your friend and have gotten to know you! I cannot pretend to imagine what you have gone through, but know that you are not alone and I will be with you every step of the way! Something can be said for the song "Step by Step." You can do this….just take it step by step. You are not alone!

  2. Katie says:

    >Great blog! I am (I think) a couple weeks younger than you (feb 9) and have been having the same empty feelings. What have I done with my life? I am no where I want to be. My 10 year HS reunion is next month and I am dreading it, because I have this horrible habit of comparing myself to others my age, and I see them at levels in their life that I wish I was at. I spent 7 of the last 10 years in school, so I know logically I will one day get to where I want to be, but it is tough.

    As for your surgeries, I really wish you the best of luck. I had corrective knee surgery last December and wrist surgery two months ago, it is no where near as long a road as you are facing. But I know how being cut open numerous times feels (feel like I am always in the OR). Just remember you are a stronger person because of this, and you touch the lives of people every day. You can and will get through this. Good luck!

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Review your Sunday, May 9, 2010 blog. I think you'll find it very helpful in this situation. I am young, own a house, two cars, a wonderful wife and a good job. I was briefly a parent some time ago. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, most that I regret, but it's not important day in and day out. Do not compare yourself to those around you, and look at what you've truley accomplished.

    An author, an artist and you go above and beyond to help those in need.

    Finding a surgeon may be difficult and be a tough choice… Look forward to the good things in this lifetime and never give up.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >I sometimes feel like I haven't accomplished much in my life either. Here I am, 42 y/o "retired Radiologic Tech", married homemaker, with 2 children. I spend my days running kids here and there, going to booster club and PTA meetings. It doesn't sound like it's much of a life, but guess what? It's my life and it's the road I'm on and I'm going to make the best out of it. I know I can't change or save the world, but if I can help just one person in my lifetime, then I've done something good. I can live with that, and really what choice do I have? You have accomplished much and I think we all are our own worst critics.

    I know your impending surgery is scary. I can't imagine the amount of pain you have had to endure in your young life. I can tell you this, it's going to hurt and the recovery will be long. You aren't going to be able to go and do as you would like for quite a while, but as you mentioned above, you can't go and do the way you want now. You can't wear shoes or wash your feet without pain. This pain is only going to progress and continue to keep you from participating in activities you enjoy. To me, the longer you delay the surgery, the longer you delay getting on with your life. Now, I won't pretend to be a know it all. I only know what you have written about the effects of the procedure. I won't have to live with the downsides to the surgery either. So, the final decision is yours, but remember that whatever your decision, it's yours. You have to be okay with the outcome, good or bad. Once you know that no matter what happens, you are going to be okay with it, then that's when you should go for it.

    I'll always be here to talk and I'll always give you my honest opinion. You take care and know you are loved and respected.

    Chris Richardson

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