Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The good news is that we survived a bad news year

1/11/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

There’s no doubt about it, 2011 was a rough year. Setting aside the circumstances over which we have absolutely no control—wars, economic downturns, natural and manmade disasters—almost everyone I know struggled through the calendar year 2011.

For some of us it was a frustrating, heartbreaking, what’s-going-to-happen-next, kind of year. It was one of those really horrible, terrible, very bad years. The kind of year that lingers in your mind forever: “Remember, 2011? Wow. I didn’t think it would ever end.”

Now, I know all the clichés about how to cope with hard times. I know that life is composed of the good and the bad. I know that rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. I also know that no matter how bad things are, they will change. Blah, blah, blah.

But let’s face it if you’re going through a tough time, you don’t need clichés, you need help. Hard times aren’t imaginary. Bad things do happen to good people (another cliché) and I noticed a lot of good people suffering this past year—accidents, financial setbacks, deaths and illnesses. Our family was no exception.

January 2011 started out with a bang—literally. Matthew, my 17-year old grandson was broadsided by a driver (who did not have the right-of-way) turning into him. His car was totaled and he spent time in the hospital with broken ribs and a collapsed lung. The car was replaceable but Matt’s chance at a college scholarship for his track prowess was destroyed.

In the fall of 2010 I had arthroscopic knee surgery for meniscus tears. I did fine. Then, early last year, I heard a pop, went down on my knees and have really never gotten back up since. As the months went by, fluid removal and many injections did not help. Another MRI revealed that I no longer have an ACL (pop!) and I’m walking bone-on-bone. So much for the lifetime benefits of exercise and aerobics classes. I can’t believe the doctors are saying “knee replacement.”

During the summer, our youngest son lost his 22-year position as the founding pastor of a church because of the economy. One-third of his congregation was out of work; they could no longer pay the mortgage or the pastor. We are now very familiar with the word “unemployed.”

In October, we lost a precious niece to suicide. We are still shocked at the unfathomable loss of a talented, vivacious and perfectly adorable young woman. It is heartache beyond description. We will always be numb with grief and disbelief.

And then came Nov. 18, 2011. That night, my husband’s sudden abdominal pain began a nightmare that turned into three Emergency Room trips, an ambulance ride, many surgeries and procedures, doctors and stays in Intensive and Cardiac Care. Over the holidays, he was in and out of hospitals for six weeks.

What happened? Well, unfortunately, his infected gallbladder burst during the initial surgery, dumping ‘sludge’ into the abdominal cavity. That resulted in abscess formations and all the complications written in fine print on those papers you sign when you go into the hospital for a procedure. He had his last procedure Jan. 4, 2012. Praise God!

So where am I going with all of this? Well, we’re just one family that was coping with wave after wave of difficulties last year. Multiply us by thousands and you’ll find a heap of hurt in our world. And it helps if we take notice that others are in the same or similar boat—just coping and trying to get through the days.

That is not to say that good things didn’t happen. Last year, like all others, love brought couples together, babies were born, friendships were made, vacations were taken, graduates went out into the world, the sick were healed, sunrises and sunsets were enjoyed. In a way, it was business as usual. Our world operates on a delicate balance between good and bad.

But balancing life during stressful times is not easy. During Chuck’s weeks in the hospital I had to force myself to look up and outside of the hospital walls. I had to remind myself that “This, too shall pass.” Subconsciously, my mantra became, “We’ve done it before, we can do it again.” Giving yourself a pep talk is not an easy task when your loved one is in a life or death situation but it is necessary.

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” is another cliché worth adopting. One must make positive choices during tough times and not become a victim of circumstances. Choosing to look on the bright side of things is easy to say but difficult to do when you’re weighed down with physical, mental or emotional trauma.

So how does one really cope when dealing with the horrific or unknown? I distilled my coping mechanisms down to the basics:
1. Focus on what’s important (the patient, the procedure, etc).
2. Become an advocate (for myself or others).
3. Don’t become frantic or fearful. I meditated or listened to inspirational music in the car as I drove back and forth.
4. Have faith. Keep looking up and believing.

As I write this we’re already well into this month of January. None of us know what this year 2012 will bring but I wish you hope, health and happiness. We’re all in this life together, so bring it on!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail — bchatty@bettykaiser.com

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