Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Importance of Crayons and Paper

I've spent many a days looking at the world from a hospital bed. Some of those times I was so sick I didn't know what planet I was on and others days that was painfully clear. For the last 20 times, meaning those that were due to orthopedic surgeries, I gave little thought to the person in the next room or on the floor above me. I was there to have a surgery that would help me walk better, or repair a disc that I blew out in my sleep, and looking past my own issues was not something I was aware of. Little did I know my perception of hospital stays would change quite dramatically. In January I was in the hospital for 11 days and by chance landed two doors down from the ICU. Most of my stay was pretty uneventful, that is outside my door, until the night I heard a blood curdling scream. I knew what had happened, someone had died, and my heart broke for them. The screams flew down the hallway, there was a loud commotion, but I kept to myself because I knew that family needed their family moment. I asked the nurse was it someone who was young or old. She said that it was a mother of two, a 14 and 12 year old, and it wasn't expected. That is all that I would know, but the experience stayed with me. I wonder if God was important to them. I wonder how those kids would handle losing their mom at such an early age. At the time that is all I would do, wonder about it. I had no idea that my next view from a hospital bed would be different. This past week my heart monitor had it's third wacky report. I had trusted that my doctor was correct in his assumption that for the most part I was ok, but I needed to rest and try to keep my heart rate slow. He never said I needed to go to the hospital to have things checked out. Wednesday night was different. I knew that my heart was beating way too fast for normal and that I didn't feel right. A different doctor called and said the report showed multi-focal tachycardia and that I needed to go to the ER and let them do an EKG. At first Bill and I talked and I wasn't going to go. He and I are medically overwhelmed and wanted nothing to do with another ER or hospital. But, he asked me how I felt and I said not right. So, I decided to err on the side of caution and went, with the expectation that I would be coming straight home. To make this part of the story short, I ended up having my heart stopped in the ER, restarted, and landed myself back in the hospital. It was a bit surreal, but I was grateful I sucked it up and went, and so was Bill. I only stayed two days, they were able to see the rhythym they needed to see when they stopped my heart and were able to find a medication that corrected my heart rate to normal. It was a close call, but once again God had his hand in it. During the stay I now understood that my medical issues wasn't the point really. God wanted to show me that despite what was going on medically I could share my faith in him with the staff there, or who ever I felt led to. I shared it with two dear ladies and the experience was a life changing one. I don't know the outcome of our conversations, but I do know that they left with an understanding that God can use any trial for his own purpose, as long as we are willing. It seemed to give them hope I think. As I walked the halls on the cardiac floor I looked into rooms that had older patients lying there, alone, no family, no one to talk with. It made me very sad and aware that many people leave this world alone, quietly from a hospital room. Who is it that will go listen to their stories? Who will take a few minutes out of their lives to reach out to an ill person they don't know? God showed me a need, a very important one. Old people are often times forgotten and alone, it is them who need a friend or someone to simply care at a time in their lives when they see the end becoming very real and near to them. As I walked back into my own room I felt a desire to color them a picture, to leave them with something to brighten their day, but I had no crayons or paper. It made me realize how important crayons would have been, to carry with me, along with paper, no matter where I'm at. It seems like a little thing, but I bet to those patients a crayon colored picture of their very own might have been a big deal. Disabled artists spend a lot of time in and out of hospitals. It's part of our reality and daily struggle sometimes. I know at least for me, I'll have crayons and paper with me in some form if I am ever back in the hospital. God may choose to draw someone a picture and if he does, I hope I am ready for him to guide my hand. (The painting above started with crayons)

In my bible I have a copy of a song which is the prayer of St. Francis, the refrain goes like this:
Oh Master, grant that I may never seek So much to be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love, with all my soul.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Embracing Failure May Be My Pathway to God

What a difference four hours makes. The enormity of the shift in my mental state from my last post to this one is difficult for me to grasp my hands around, but I am trying. On a day, a vitally important day in my understanding of my connection with God, my faith was at first shattered and then slowly rebuilt by my choice to embrace failures in my own life and those I love dearly. I went from knowing a profound peace to being flat on my knees with fear, anger, and hoplessness for one who is most precious in my life. It was as if the wind was sucked right out of me, without warning, leaving me broken, deafeted, and alone. What I know, despite the voices that make me feel otherwise, is that I was never alone, and that admitting defeat may be my best defense against those who wish to quiet my spirit and walk with my God.
Physically, I understand that the harder I try to rebuild that connection the sicker I get, which tells me one thing. I must be some threat, a very great threat, to be as sick as I have been, with no medical sense to any of this. Chronic pain is one thing, I get that and live with it, but for about 20 years the times I have been closest to God something or someone or myself puts a roadblock up. It was not until now, for a reason I can't explain, that I was desperate to ask God for some help and he eagerly told me it was about time. That doesn't mean I understand this all, it doesn't mean any of this feels good or makes sense, if anything it's excruciatingly painful but I made a choice to ask and I choose to not give in. How this relates to my artistic self is simple. I can't paint right now, that core part of who I am is out of my reach, but I have to trust that this journey will lead to a place where that is possible and the outcome will honor God, despite my inability to see where I am headed. I have failed miserably at a lot of things and done well in many others. I just am recognizing that it is in my failures that I am truly closest to the God who loves me, if only I am willing to give myself a break and let him help pick me back up. It's been an infuriatingly roller-coaster of a week, but one that I will mark as a turning point in my life. For my group members who prayed for me and with me I say a humble thank you. For our new member who woke me up to the appropriate emotions I needed to feel, I thank you. For my doctor who chooses to share his faith with me I am grateful beyond words. In your practice you honor God and are capable of mighty things. I look forward to the path God has for me where I can do the same, despite my failures along the way. May this blog reach those intended for it, and those who stumble upon it thanks to devine intervention. I'm done today, it's the best I can do for now to say that I am safe, tired, but safe today. Thanks to my God who has missed me. Peace, Ardith

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's Great When We Hear God's Voice, It's Even Better When We Listen

For a little over 41 years God has allowed me to walk this Earth, sometimes roll, but be present, and I am more than thankful to say the least. There were times I felt very alone during that walk, but I always knew one thing, he was with me even when I wasn't with him. That one thing has kept me alive, made me the person I am today, and led me to this very point in my life, despite many protests I may have put up. When I was a child I believed in the God I learned about at church, one to fear, one to never make mistakes around. The guilt was ridiculous. When I was a young adult, I questioned that belief, but found no answers. Many people were placed in my life to help me understand who the God was that I needed to find, that I could connect with, but I managed to either be unwilling or unable due to my life circumstances to listen to him despite the fact that I heard a lot of him, about him, and from him. I am greatful he kept talking.
In January, when I got pneumonia and it landed me literally on my butt, again, I didn't handle it well. I had just been through my 20th surgery, my most difficult one, and was finally feeling better. To get knocked down when I was getting back up was an understatement. It still can't be explained medically, so for that I trust God was there, making sense of it all for me. I've been angry the past few months, overwhelmed, exhausted, but regardless of how I have felt, feelings change and once again God placed someone in my life to throw me a lifeline and for once I shut up, listened, and grabbed it. So, for today, for the first time in 41 years, I was able to connect with a loving God whom I know loves me and wants the best for me. One that is sad for my sadness and one who will provide for me during the darkest moments of my life. It's almost as if there had been a blanket of gray in my life that was lifted and today I see the colors he meant for me to see. It's quite strange I guess, but the illness that almost killed me has in one sense actually saved my life.
Being clumsy, having accidents, having others cause accidents, have all been part of who I am for the last 20 years. I regret no part of it, but understand it differently today. Some of why I have been sick has been my body's way of manifesting stress, that's quite apparent. Other issues have been totally out of my control and I had to make the best of them, which I did and is why many of you know me as a pollyanna, optimistic person. I understand too, that my life experiences have helped many of you gain strength, hope, and resiliency so for that I am humbled by God's work through me, even when I couldn't see it. Today, I don't have the body I would like, but I do have one. I choose not to believe that God would give me specific gifts without the ability to use them, so I must be open-minded about how that might be, which should be interesting. Artwork and the love of color, has been what has kept me sane up until now. I understand today that it was God's use of those things in my life rather than them separately which helped me along the way and I am most hopeful that he will use them further if I am willing.
I'm hoping for a unique outcome today that will affect someone who might read this and I will leave that in God's hands. I couldn't have predicted how many illnesses or surgeries it would have taken me to land me in a spot where I was completely willing and able to listen to God and connect with him, but he gave it to me. It hasn't been a happy spot, in fact it has been the most difficult and painful one I have been in for a long time, but never the less, he put me in it and showed me how much he has missed me. If it took me 41 years and a broken down body to finally listen, I pray he puts whatever circumstance you need, good or bad, in your way to wake you up as well. I'd rather be awake in a weakened body living an authentic life than live another day on autopilot in a perfect body. What will tomorrow hold? You got me. But what I know is that despite my circumstances, if I choose to listen, not hear, but listen, he will carry me on the days I need carrying, walk beside me on others, and hold me close through the dark ones, that is if I let go. How many of you are trying to control your world? Is it working? Is it really working? I hope it doesn't take staring death in the face like it did me, but if so, he's still there and loves us just the same, some of us are just plain stubborn I guess. To my fellow artists, make yourelf work through the pain today and draw something, paint something, create something. Email me and let me know what it is. Peace, Ardith

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm Putting Myself Back In My God Jar!

What a day! or should I say past few months, that would be more appropriate. I just got home after seeing my internest, had to take a few minutes to soak it all in, and decided to put myself back in my God jar. My best friend Holly uses one, so I love the idea. Basically, you choose a jar, one that speaks to your artistic voice, or any other voice you choose. You then get small slips of paper and write the names of those in your life you are putting in God's hands and place it inside the jar. I choose to put anything I can't control in my God jar, those whom I love and wish protection for, and yes, those health issues I just can't understand. The physical act of placing them in the jar helps me understand to let go, which is oh so hard at times. I would encourage anyone to try it if they find themselves in situations they can't control and are desperately trying to. I pulled myself out a few days ago and once again, my body reminded me where it should be, so I put me back in. Since I had pneumonia in Jan. my blood pressure has been up and my heart has had irregular rythms. We, including the doctors thought things would settle down once I got back on solid food. It didn't happen that way. He heard the rhytyms today so I have more testing. I can't do a stress test due to my leg and asthma, so I will be wearing a 30 day holter monitor. If you are the praying type I am asking for your help here. Please pray that this test turns out normal. I usually handle all this health stuff pretty well, I stay optimistic, I know what I must do and what I have to let go of. Since Jan. it has been just overwhelming. I did great during my first 19 surgeries. Sure, I had pain issues and stuff, but I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. This time has been different. I'm not sure if it was because surgeries are one thing, but life threatening pneumonia is another. Whatever the case I am mentally pretty shot and would appreciate it if you said a prayer for me to rise above this once again. I know I am where God wants me to be, though I may not understand it. I know patience is needed here, it's just hard to find. I have lived 20 some odd years dealing with health issues, and I always knew who carried me through them. I know God is doing the same here, I just wish I understood the why's of it all. Many of you, especially those artist who email me that live with disabilities understand this. I'm greatful to all of you who keep encouraging me along the way. I'm making a goal today that despite what my body chooses to do this week I will paint something by Friday. I will post it here so I hold myself accountable. This blog was meant for those who, like me, struggle with chronic pain and heatlh issues that are life changing. Through it, it continues to change my life because when I reach out you guys reach back, thank you. God is good, Ardith (I wish I knew who painted this, a friend sent it to me, it fits perfectly.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thins are finally looking up!

Things are finally looking up, knock on wood. I passed my second immunology test which means I only need to pass the 3rd one on March 10th to be out of the woods and that looks like it will happen. My strength is slowyly returning and I am hopeful tha I can begin outpatient PT this next week so I can finally get out of the house some. I lost so much muscle mass in my right leg from the pneumonia, that Dr. Pearsal put me in a locking leg brace for 6 months or unitl my quads are the same size as my left leg. I wasn't thrilled to do that but I had to protect my partial knee replacement from blowing out so it simply motivated me to work harder to get out of that thing. As anyone knows who has had orthopedic surgeries, it much easier to lose muscle mass than it is to gain it. I'll keep plugging away at it though. I did have to pull out of the gallery from downtown, and I miss all of the members a lot. I just couldn't do it right now with being sick but I do hope to join eventually. My sister, Nancy Condon, along with her husband Elliott, opened ESC Seafood in Semmes right behind CVS at McRary and Hwy 98. My paintings are hanging in her shope and look great. They have the best seafood prices in town, and I'm not just being biased, I actually shopped around. If you are in Semmes, stop by and tell her I sent you. Well, I've sat too long, I'll keep all of you updated and thanks to all who have commented or emailed me personally, it means a lot and lifts my spirits to hear from you. I'll post some pics of her shop when I learn how to get them off my blackberry. Peace, Ardith (I'm reading "The Homecoming", by John Bradshaw, for those of you who still have a wounded inner child, like me, it is a must read!)