We welcomed a childhood friend back to our church recently and he inquired with another friend, How is Ning?
Stronger than ever, was the response. [Great answer – thank you!]
He pressed for more information since he hadn’t seen me since childhood: Well, how strong was she?
Strong enough to survive the bleed.
Strong enough to learn to walk when I was 31.
Strong enough to keep on “running” today even though my left leg was dragging on the belt pathetically.
And strong enough to admit that the life I lost wasn’t the life I really wanted, anyway.
The consensus is that I will never be the same. I generally avoid the language of medical certainty (I like to leave room for Divine Intervention and medical opinions likely don’t take this into account), but I agree that I won’t be the same…and that’s okay. I’m ready to acknowledge that I don’t want to be the same. I don’t know what my end state is going to be but I’m sure it will be some sort of “good.” Come along for the ride and we’ll find out together.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve finally started to settle down after Oregon. I’ve been test-driving the ideas you’ve been reading about with my focus group (viz. my friends) and they helped me think stuff through. They didn’t just “yes” me to death, they made me elaborate on my statements and explain things fully.
When I met with my elders at W (my OR church) to tell them about my desire to visit Burundi one of the things they said was that it was good that I wasn’t running ahead of everyone, assuming they’d catch up. I had spent 6 months in silence regarding my Africa Dream. I didn’t even tell my parents bc I was like, I might be insane. I’ll pray about it and we’ll see if this is just a passing fancy.
It wasn’t. 6 months later (the happiest of my life) I told my parents and it was another several months before Daddy said I could talk to my elders and ask J&J to host me in Burundi.
So I took my time. I only talked to God about this crazy plan and then I started enlisting the help of spiritual heavy-hitters in my life to help me.
I took my time with transitioning to RecoveryLand, too. It’s been over 3 years. It took me over a year to do anything online. It’s taken me over a year and a half of writing to get comfortable with making definitive statements.
I used to poll on the miraculousness of my survival and ask questions like, I think this situation is kind of “extreme.” Would you agree? I was appalled at what had happened but was unsure if I was sizing the problem correctly. This was only compounded by the fact that once you leave the acute stage of illness and transition to Recovery you have to earn your spot in the public’s consciousness. Your world stopped, but everyone else’s keeps on turning. It took me a while to understand that this was a completely natural order of events and to choose to try to re-integrate myself into the stream of life.
When people stop and think about it, though, they tell me that yes, this was a big deal. Not always in words, but their eyes fill with tears at the thought of the initial phone call they received. I mix in circles small enough for many people to know my name and have prayed for me (thank you!) even though I don’t know them. If we happen to meet, they will often cry, too. And perfect strangers (more so in the South) will approach me while I’m minding my beeswax in public and tell me about their struggles bc they deem me as “safe” to talk to.
The first time KRK saw me (this was before he knew I wanted to go to Africa, or anything – he just knew I had gotten sick) he said, Ning, now when you walk into a room you have instant credibility. [Side note: Ann vs. Ning FAQ]
He spoke from experience and compassion. I am humbled that that was the first thing he wanted to share with me.
When my friends thought about what happened their reactions ranged from “deep deep sorrow” to all-out “anger.” No one shared that they had been “angry” with me until a couple of weeks ago. And it came from a friend I have never seen angry before although we’ve been friends for over 20 years. It took guts/vulnerability to admit that, and it was tremendously validating for me because I was angry when I realized this was for real, and it was such a comfort to know that someone else had been angry on my behalf. (The word on the street is that this opinion was not a unique occurrence.)
But this same friend told me that the anger faded when I started to blog and everyone could read what I’ve been thinking about. To have it verbalized in such a way was wonderful. That was the effect I was going for although I couldn’t have articulated it when I first started.
I don’t do this bc I survived a cataclysmic health event and want to join the already saturated “inspirational” and “self-help” market. I write because God gave me hope when I was ready to throw in the towel and He did so via ordinary means and publicly-available information. I’m not asking anyone to take my word on what I saw in The Valley of the Shadow. Since God preserved me cognitively I’m asking you to use your noggin, like I did.
I’ve written before that although God made it very clear that I’ll not be getting what I wanted I’m sure I‘ll be getting exactly what I was made for. But this is the first time I’m making this statement: I was made for this.