498. On Sale Today! A New Song – LH Vol 4

It's NonProfit!! go to Amazon

It’s NonProfit!! go to Amazon

It’s time to get your fingers ready to click on the picture above and go to Amazon.com and order Learning How to Sing a New Song – Learning How Volume 4. While you’re at it, go ahead and order my other titles, and once you read remember to leave a review! Descriptions are here, or you can just browse Amazon. As always, it’s all nonprofit, and your order qualifies for Prime and Super Saver shipping. And since it’s so early, you’ll get your books in time for gift-giving purposes!  [3 hours later] I just uploaded Kindle versions of Learning How to Sing and my Memoirs!  They both have an active Table of Contents and are priced at $8 if you like instant gratification.  The print copy is $10.  Although at least Vol 4. Song is in the match book program so if you buy the print copy you get a $2.99 deal on the Kindle version.  And my friends, you do NOT need to own a Kindle to enjoy these digital versions.  Just download the app!!  I love it.  It totally helps my eyes, which are about to fall out right now.  But I was getting impatient with all the Kindle conversion stuff so I just started pressing buttons after dispensing with the pictures for the most part.  The important part is that the books are on Kindle.  I’m only 2 years behind schedule with my Memoirs.  :).   I’d link to the Kindle versions but there’s a 12 hour conversion time before it’s “live” on Amazon so I’m just going to have to trust that it will happen because I need to go to bed STAT. Hey, I’m doing what I can over here.

I was just talking to Mommy a couple days ago about writing, and I said, If I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have never known that I could write. Well, I guess I’ve always been able to write papers in school etc. but didn’t really have anything worth writing about that people other than an English professor might want to read. But one of the funny things about this is that my grammar declined and colloquialism ramped up dramatically once I got sick. And I write like I speak, so there’s a whole lot of “voice” happening.

A week or so after she came home from the hospital, Mommy and I went to go see Mrs. Ridgely. I put a print-out of our book on the table in front of her. You DIDN’T, she gasped. Oh….but I DID, I shot back.

This is one of those times that writing was the only thing that would make me feel better. So I was up early, clutching my travel cup of coffee (a sealed mug is the only way I can carry stuff upstairs), and I went to my people to fix my arm enough so I could keep on typing. (Me to Trainer D: I said RUB it, NOT BREAK IT!!) That Monday during Stretchy Time Coach R asked me about my weekend. I thought for a moment, trying to remember what happened.

Me: I wrote a book!

Coach R: (long pause) …Okay, so first of all…who responds to “how was your weekend” with an answer like that?….

I don’t know why he’s so surprised. I totally did this to him a couple months ago, except you won’t see his book until 2016 since I’m busy celebrating Mrs. Ridgely right now. Sometime in August during Ladder Time I casually mentioned, Oh, yeah – we’re writing a book.

Coach R immediately bought in. That’s why we get along so swimmingly – he lets me have my own way most of the time, except when I might hurt myself, e.g. when he caught me “running” at the maximum incline. When I emailed Trainer D saying we were writing a book however, he immediately messaged me saying, Are you serious?

YES, of COURSE I’m serious, D!!!

Honestly. That’s how I roll. You should know that by now.

Trainer D and I get along swimmingly, too, but the tenor of our interaction is *cough* different *cough*.

I finished Coach R’s book and happily placed a copy in his hands. It doesn’t sink in until you hold it in your hands, I think. It’s a vague idea until you can see it and read it yourself and can tell that it’s a marketable text. I also gave Mrs. Ridgely a pre-publication copy of Coach R’s book because it’s a great example of the co-author process. I wanted her to know I would write the book and she would have as much room to take it in any direction she wanted, but if she didn’t have a lot of energy to spare and liked it as-is, it could be released as a finished work.

Hilariously, Mrs. Ridgely loves Coach R’s book. I am so grateful – apparently it really ministered to her and she learned a lot more about my day to day experience as a result. I emailed Coach R triumphantly to inform him that the CRFC (Coach R Fan Club) just got bigger.

Happily, Mrs. Ridgely loves our book, too. It happened so fast I didn’t realize it, but it’s what I would have said to her if stamina weren’t an issue and we could just sit around for hours and talk. It’s about what happened to her, what happened to me, how it’s been an arduous road, but it makes so much sense and how the path has been strewn with marks of indelible grace. And it’s about how we prepare for life, and prepare for death.

This is the first chapter. Soli Deo gloria.

 

Chapter 1: She Was Right: A New Song

 

“I was a drug addict, an alcoholic, and I was very well known on 14th Street…”

 

Mrs. Ridgely and I had been invited to speak at the IFI Women’s Conference in April 2015. Mrs. D made it easy on us by making it a question and answer format. I was thrilled to be asked and emailed Mrs. Ridgely a few months before when Mrs. D told me she was going to be my partner.

 

Oh, Ning, you’ve done this before, but I haven’t! Mrs. Ridgely told me she was nervous.

 

I laughed inwardly but tried to reassure her as I emailed her back. Seriously, Mrs. Ridgely, I learned that this kind of life was possible because of YOU.

 

Mrs. D didn’t know this when she asked us both to participate at the conference, but Mrs. Ridgely and I go way back. She got a liver transplant when I was a freshman at Georgetown University in 1998. Her hospital room was just a short walk up the hill from my dorm so we started spending a lot of time together. She prayed me through my undergraduate course (COL ‘02), my early working life, and getting an MBA (MSB ‘09).

 

But while I was busy getting my degrees and cutting my teeth in the working world what I was really learning was what it looked like to live victoriously even if you’re sick. I didn’t learn this because Mrs. Ridgely sat me down one day and told me about her experience. It’s because I sat by her bedside as she was in and out of the hospital and watched.

 

Many of my friends who are slightly younger than me were too young to be told about the kind of life Mrs. Ridgely lived on the street before she became a Christian. So when she made her opening statement, especially the part about, …I was very well known on 14th street… I kind of just stared at her and knew that she had just managed to get the full attention of everyone in the room. I was deeply impressed that she had found a way to be frank and keep it real so graciously.

 

After her introductory remarks the rest of the conversation (about being sick and the impact of cataclysmic illness on your beliefs about God) flowed freely. I wanted to just sit back and listen to her, it was so interesting, but I had a mic, too, so I did my share of talking. But I seem to remember saying a lot of, Hey, Mrs. R – Do you remember the time…..

 

And then we’d laugh.

 

And then we’d remember there were a lot of other people there. And that we were supposed to be saying things for their benefit, not just chatting like the old friends we are.

 

We were both so glad to have the opportunity to talk about this in public. Thank you, Mrs. D!!

That was in April. I’m writing this in October. Two weeks ago we got word that Mrs. Ridgely has cancer. It’s bad. She has so much going on, and so many organs are compromised at this point, that the doctors are focusing on making her comfortable.

 

I talked to Mr. Ridgely, aka Charlie, when they first got the “unofficial” news – he told me on the phone and I was just like, So…I’m gonna pretend like I didn’t hear that because I find all of this deeply upsetting so I’m going to be in denial for a while. I’m going to hang up the phone now – call Daddy later, okay? Thanks – bye!

 

Mr. Ridgely played along because he’s nice like that. But we both knew that my denial strategy could not last.

 

It lasted 2 days. Then they got the official biopsy results and then Mommy, Daddy and I trekked our way over to the hospital to see them both.

 

I consoled myself while I was still in denial by deciding to write this book. I told Mrs. Ridgely via a garbled voicemail that we were writing a book, and when we arrived at the hospital she handed me a piece of paper with some thoughts written on it.

 

I had said nothing more than, We’re writing a book. It’s going to be called Learning How to Sing a New Song. All she heard was the word, “song,” and she was off and running. It took me a while to work up the courage to actually read what she wrote but when I did I decided that we should change the title to Throwdown: Carol Ridgely.

 

Man alive. This cancer has given her a fresh dose of life perspective and apparently she’s ready to throw it down. I’m going to follow suit.

 

Sheesh. What have I gotten myself into? I don’t know that I’m ready for this.

 

But I’m doing it anyway.

 

It is impossible to ignore the leading of the Lord in our lives – how our paths intersected when I was young, how an unlikely friendship influenced how I view illness and God, how I got sick myself and learned that this path is not for the fainthearted, and how God’s grace is truly astounding in the midst of suffering.

 

Back in 2003 my Daddy had cancer. It broke my heart. And one day I was crying my eyes out in the Ladies’ Room at Church. I’m talking ugly cry. It was bad. Mrs. Ridgely found me and was extremely distressed to see me so grieved.

 

That week a card arrived in our mailbox. She wrote,

 

If our lives were always sunny we’d never know that He can deliver you, or give you love, peace, and joy in the midst of pure pain.

 

Mrs. Ridgely told me that over 12 years ago. A lot has happened since then.

I got sick.

 

And I learned first-hand that she was right.

 

That card meant so much to me that I kept it all these years. When I moved to Oregon I cleaned my room and threw out a lot of things. But after I got sick and moved back home to Maryland I found this card – it was too special for me to part with. But as we anticipated speaking together in April I knew Mrs. Ridgely had been having a rough time of it physically and had been in and out of the hospital. So I wanted to encourage her and found this card and mailed it to her. She had no idea I had treasured it for so long. And when she received it she told me she just cried and cried.

 

She also cried the first time she saw me after I got sick. I’ll tell you more about it in Chapter 3 but for now I’ll just say I had an AVM Rupture and massive stroke when I was 30 and after about 3 months of inpatient hospital life in Oregon I flew home to Maryland. I was at church one day, secluded in a classroom since I absolutely could not handle crowds at that point, and Mrs. Ridgely came to sit next to me.

 

The tears rolled down her cheeks as she told me she was so sorry she hadn’t been able to fly out to Oregon to be with me when I was living in the hospital. I thought that was so sweet! Even though I was still very loopy at that point (it took a long while for things to settle down mentally) I knew that Mrs. Ridgely had some pressing matters of her own to attend to, and thought it was ridiculous that she should think of flying across the country, but also deeply touching that she had wanted to do so.

 

When I first got the diagnosis of her cancer I mulled over the title of our book. Was Learning How to Sing a New Song the right thing? All of my books in this series start with Learning How…. but we could take it in any number of directions.

 

One afternoon I rooted through a box of old cards I had received while in the hospital but that had been largely untouched.   I knew there were cards from Mrs. Ridgely in there and went searching for some source material.

 

I was not disappointed. There was a whole series of cards from her. Since I cannot read normally now I had never read them. But this time I got my reading glasses and pored over the cards hungrily.

 

When I reached card number three I stopped in my tracks. Here was confirmation. …How to Sing a New Song was the right title. The card was dated July 13, 2011 – a couple of weeks after I was discharged from my last hospital and came home. Essentially, this is where the real work of Recovery began.

 

Mrs. Ridgely is an authority on long-term illness. You will likely receive lots of support from friends and loved ones when you’re in the acute onset stage of illness because everyone is panicking over the urgency of the situation. Once you make it to the Recovery stage you and your family start transitioning out of survival mode, though, you look around and wonder how the world could possibly keep on turning when yours stopped.

 

That’s just how it is. People necessarily need to attend to the pressing matters of life as you come to grips with your new circumstances and realize that since you’re still alive you need to gather the shattered pieces of your existence and see what this could possibly look like going forward.

 

It’s been a humbling and daunting process for me. It was horrifying to realize that I was the only one who would ever know about and remember certain things that happened while I was still drifting in and out of consciousness. The alone-ness was terrifying.

 

But in the midst of that terrible isolation came the peace and love of God – like a gentle dove that hovered nearby until I felt confident enough in what I knew about God and what I knew about myself to put out my hand and let it rest on my finger.

 

The timing, circumstances, and severity of my injury were bad. That’s an understatement.   The word on the street is that a lot of people were angry about it. But God saved me from a lifetime of anger and bitterness not because He wrote a special message to me in the clouds one day, or fashioned a rainbow into words for my benefit, but because I remembered that Jesus Christ came to heal the broken-hearted, and I fit the bill.

 

Even though something really bad happened to me, God was trying to tell me through a myriad of circumstances that He loved me, He knew exactly what was happening, and that I could trust Him.

 

I have trouble talking about many of these circumstances publicly. They are often still too precious for me to canvass. But let me just say that these things – e.g. planting certain people in a time and place so our paths intersect – has happened with truly frightening regularity and specificity that simply cannot be interpreted as coincidence.

 

One of the circumstances I am ready to talk about is the fact that Mrs. Ridgely and I are friends. She knows how hard it is to be sick for a long time. In that card she sent me after I first got home she wrote,

 

In case you hit a road that’s not so joyful and kinda gets you down I pray these verses for you:

 

Psalm 40.1-3

{To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.}

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

2He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

3And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

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497. Learning How to Sing a New Song

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Hi, everyone! Remember how I pulled the plug on my blog etc. so I could prioritize health decisions and stuff? Curve ball.

I also said I was working on Learning How Volumes 2 and 3, starring Trainer D and Coach R. New Plan: The guys are on hold and we’re skipping STRAIGHT to Volume 4: Learning How to Sing a New Song.

This one stars my dear friend, Carol Ridgely, aka “Mrs. R.” We’ve been tight since she got a liver transplant in 1999 at Georgetown University and I was a freshman. One week in September she was supposed to have shoulder surgery or something but the surgery got cancelled bc the docs didn’t like how things were looking in there so they did a biopsy. She has an aggressive cancer. So I was in denial for a couple days and then I consoled myself by deciding to write this book.

This is what’s on the back cover:

Carol and Ning are the unlikeliest of friends…

Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. God saved Carol from an awful life on the street and a heart hardened with hatred. God saved Ning from a lifetime of anger and bitterness after her sheltered Princess and the Pea life ended in a cataclysmic health event. But she knew that victory through illness was possible because she had watched Mrs. Ridgely do it first.

…but they shared the same need and love the same Savior.

2 Corinthians 5.17 …if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.

Mrs. Ridgely has been ill for a long time. When I got sick myself I assumed she’d continue to be around for me to talk to, laugh with, and consult regarding important things. Sigh. Barring another miracle, it doesn’t look like it’s going to pan out that way.

So it is my privilege to tell her story now. The nice people at Unshackled – Pacific Garden Mission, Chicago – sent me the original testimony she wrote in 1992 when she submitted it for their radio program. When they emailed it to me I was THRILLED. Wait ‘til you read the book. Her testimony is powerful and it’s impossible to ignore the leading of the Lord in how he brought us together as friends and to speak with one voice now about how Jesus Christ heals the broken hearted. As I worked through her testimony (I reworked it for the book) I kept on emailing her notes like, THANK YOU for doing this, etc. because it’s super hardcore and I am so grateful that she is willing to share her experience with such openness “so that others who are like I was can know that through the Lord Jesus Christ they, too, can be set free…”

Man alive, I’m playin’ with the big boys now for real.

Fasten your seat belts, kids.

This is not a drill.

The thing is, Mrs. R and I are used to canvassing very heavy topics with each other. We’ve done this since I was 19. So when we got the biopsy results and Mommy, Daddy, and I trekked to the hospital to visit her and Mr. R we walked in, I perched next to her on the bed, and we started jawing away like old times.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite. It describes our hospital visit (the picture at the top was taken that day) and a subsequent phone conversation. I love this story because it’s so typical of my life – really serious stuff tempered with hilarious moments that make it bearable. I will share chapter 1 tomorrow (Wednesday) at which point the book will be officially published and on sale on Amazon (Prime and Super Saver Shipping Eligible). As always, it’s all nonprofit.

…In the space of a week the cancer is spreading visibly. I know this because when I called yesterday she thought I was the oncology nurse so we chatted for five minutes and I heard the details. Since I have phone talking deficits and a brain injury I am used to pretending that I know what’s going on so I just rolled with it. Who knows how long the conversation would have advanced if she had not figured it out and asked point blank, Is this the nurse?

Bahahahaha!! We had a good laugh over it. The best part was that I was totally playing along even though I was only following about 25% of the conversation. It’s my Game Face. We could have gone on indefinitely. I’m really good at pretending. 🙂

I do better when we’re face to face. That way I can see your lips moving and have a better chance of really getting what you’re saying. I also developed the habit of people-reading before I got sick because it was useful for me professionally.

I was doing some major people-reading on Mrs. Ridgely when we went to the hospital last week. While she was chatting with her doctor and social worker (who, BTW, handled very difficult subjects with clarity and grace) there were some points when I wanted to run screaming from the room.

Well, I probably wouldn’t have run (I need a machine for that), but you know what I mean.

But I thought to myself, I am MUCH healthier now – I am familiar with these subjects and made my own decisions about life and death, etc. Mrs. Ridgely is doing great – she’s making sure she understands what’s going on so she can talk to Mr. Ridgely later and they can decide on what they need to do. The least I can do is sit here and support her.

So instead of running screaming out of the room I put my hand in Mommy’s and laid my head on her shoulder and prayed for help for Mrs. Ridgely to hear these things and also clarity of thought for what she needed to communicate from her end.

This is just a shell. Just a shell, I repeated mentally to myself.

After the doctor and social worker left I resumed my perch next to Mrs. Ridgely on her bed. We continued chatting away because we’re so used to it….

Seriously, please get ready to order this book. It is such a vivid illustration of God’s grace. Just look at Mrs. Ridgely’s smile in the picture above. Her joy is genuine and contagious. When I got sick she encouraged me and told me that long term illness has its ups and downs. Some days are hard. So in addition to reading our book, please pray for comfort and strength for Mr. and Mrs. Ridgely.

Thanks.

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484. THIS is why I do this.

 

489. A Letter From Uncle Bus

 

Bus & Myrtle Witmer 1950

Bus & Myrtle Witmer 1950

Uncle Bus’ Memorial Service was on  Sunday.  It was packed out because so many of us loved him.  When I knew he was really sick I remembered this letter that he had written me when I first floated the idea of going to Africa.  I was deeply touched when I received it and am so glad I scanned it and emailed it to Mom and Dad the next day because I knew I could dig around and find the digital copy since I wanted to share it.  As I have started to write and talk about what happened to me the kind of encouragement Uncle Bus took the time to give me has become invaluable.  He was the first person to make such a strong statement of support on my behalf.  He was also the first (and right now, the only) person I got to say “goodbye” to.  Based on my own experience and from what I’ve read, I assume that people who are really sick and have their eyes closed can still hear you.  So the last time I saw him I said what I needed to say.

And on Sunday I said what I wanted to say:

My name is Ning. I knew Uncle Bus since I was a baby. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing either of my grandfathers, but Uncle Bus was one of the people who stepped up to the plate and chose to fill that role for me, and he was REALLY good at it. And as I’ve gotten older the fact that someone CHOSE to be a part of our family became more meaningful.

 

I was very healthy until I turned 30 years old – I was living in Portland, Or and I got really really sick. Right before I got sick I had decided to become a missionary and had been invited to move to Burundi, Africa. But I never made it. Two weeks after I visited Africa for the first time I got sick but eventually I accepted that through illness the Lord had amplified my reach for a different audience. When I published my first book I gave Uncle Bus a copy, and the first time we were alone (it was at lunch at K and D’s house) he took the opportunity to be very specific in his encouragement bc he had enjoyed it and it had touched his heart. I appreciated that so much because he had obviously been thinking about it, and he was so generous in his affirmation – and it was a gift I will always have.

 

He had done something similar for me when I still thought I was going to Africa. I actually didn’t tell anyone at first – I just prayed about it bc it sounded like I was completely insane, especially to me – bc we have a Princess and the Pea situation here.

 

After 6 months of silence my Daddy said I could go visit, and soon a lot of people were praying for me. Within a week I received a letter from Uncle Bus, and it made me cry like a baby. Because I was nervous that I really was crazy. But the letter basically said, This makes sense, and I believe in what you’re doing.

 

It meant a lot to me that someone who knew me so well called it, and he took the time to write me a letter on his typewriter and tell me about it.

 

February 7, 2011

 

Dear sister Ning:

 

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I am very happy to hear of your desire to serve the Lord in His vineyard.

 

My heart goes out to you in full support. No greater work can one comprehend than that of service for your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Your letters are most full of the confidence of the leading of the Holy Spirit…Over the years the Lord has been preparing you for this decision you have made.

 

You will go out to His vineyard with the blessing of your home assembly with their prayers and fellowship…

 

Sincerely in Christ,

Uncle Bus.

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Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

51. “I see this very well…”

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Originally posted November 28, 2012.  Can  you believe I’ve done this for that long?!?!

Manzanita, OR

After a few false starts I was able to start using an alarm clock again.  It helps since I have to be up early to get to Planet Rehab on Tues/Thurs.  VT is just down the road so getting there doesn’t take so much doing on Mon/Wed, but I just set the clock for the same time every day since it takes too much eye-work and motor skills to change it.  I have long favored waking to the radio vs. the buzzer and I recently woke to hear a message by Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, the pilot among the 5 missionaries who were killed in Ecuador.  Steve is the little blonde boy in that famous Life Magazine photo of his cowboy-hatted profile with the beautiful tropical bird in the background (a gift from the people who eventually killed his father).  Now if you have no idea what I’m talking about go watch Beyond the Gates of Splendor on Netflix – it’s a documentary (2004), and there’s a hysterical sequence at the end that shows Steve Saint and Mincaye going to the supermarket.  There was also a feature film made about this subject in 2006 called The End of the Spear.

What really gripped me about Steve Saint’s message was the story he told about his youngest child.  She was the first girl in the family, and the Saints were thrilled.  It took some convincing on her part but they allowed her to go on tour (she was a musician) for a year.  On the day of her return in 2000 she wanted to lie down for a bit since she had a headache.

She had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and the paramedics came to whisk her to the hospital.  There was a huge flurry of activity which must have looked very strange to Mincaye, their adopted grandfather, who was staying with them.  Mincaye was a member of the Waodani (referred to in the past as the Auca Indians) and he had been a member of the group that had speared the 5 missionaries when he was a young man.  There had been no time to explain what was happening to Mincaye, so in the middle of the hospital hubbub Mincaye caught Steve Saint by the arm and asked, “Who is doing this?”

I think his question implied that he was ready to go spear the responsible parties with an IV pole if they were hurting his “granddaughter.”  Steve Saint simply said, “I don’t know.”

But then understanding illuminated Mincaye’s face and the fierceness drained out of it.  “Aaaah, I see this very well,” he said, using a turn of phrase characteristic of his native tongue.  “God Himself is doing this.”

The Saints’ daughter died that day and the story of their loss grieved me to the core.  But Mincaye’s words struck me as a brilliant summary of a very dark and sad event.  His mere presence in the Saint home is a powerful testimony of love and forgiveness.     He was responsible for Nate Saint’s death and yet Steve and his family welcomed Mincaye into their inner circle where he discharged his duties as grandfather with honor.  But it was his words at the hospital that I find even more daring than the change in his life after becoming a follower of Christ.  I personally would have cringed at assigning responsibility to God that day in the hospital.  But Mincaye just called a spade “a spade,” and maybe I should, too.

Last night I told Mommy, “Sometimes I wish this hadn’t happened but I know it really did happen and I’m so used to it now that I don’t really wish it hadn’t happened anymore.”   When I was hospitalized in OR it took a while for me to acknowledge that my injury might have happened.  After I decided that everything was too detailed to be a dream I started thinking, Okay, this happened, but my behavior and the questions I asked indicated that I was hoping it hadn’t happened.  It wasn’t until about a year ago that I stopped hoping it hadn’t happened and started accepting that it did.  It’s taken some time but I’ve gradually become unafraid of assigning responsibility for what happened to me to God.  Now I know that it’s okay to carry my logic through to the end point and rest the responsibility in His hands – after all, He is God – it’s not like He can’t handle it. (Side note:  Forgive my colloquialism – you know I mean it reverently.) 

Admittedly, I’m still a far piece off from “celebrating” the fact that this happened to me.  I mean, come on – I’m still getting used to acceptance.  But check back with me in a year or two and we’ll see what my story is then.  Speaking of celebrating, I’m going to start thinking about Ed’s 82nd Birthday Bash!  My brother will celebrate a milestone birthday then too, so maybe we’ll all go up to see them and party together.  Hey, E&R – let’s discuss.

p.s.  I did okay at PT yesterday and am back to my M-Th therapy schedule.  Let the good times roll!  Thanks for praying.

p.p.s.  Steve Saint was badly injured in June 2012.  He was testing an aircraft (his ministry designs flying devices for indigenous peoples) and something (sorry, I’m unclear on the details) fell from the sky and hit him on the head, resulting in neck-down paralysis.  He’s had spinal surgery, is regaining feeling and can walk now, but I’m sure he and his family would appreciate your prayers as he continues to recover. 

Ann Ning Learning How |Nonprofit books on Amazon!

484. THIS is why I do this

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At the end of 2014 when things started going downhill but before he called me out, Trainer D started getting in my grill about wanting even more information to feed his data-driven approach to Training and started talking to me about his favorite metabolic rate test – it involves wearing this crazy mask thing that measures your breathing, etc.

448.  Called Out

448. Called Out

I held it together while at The Gym but I cried for a week as I struggled with the memory of one of the first times I sat in a chair. I consoled myself by pre-ordering a Fitbit Charge HR (the one that measures your heartbeat through your wrist – you don’t need to wear a chest strap) so I could provide more data if pressed sans mask and when I showed up at the gym again I explained the situation to Trainer D with tears in my eyes. I don’t want to do that test, D…bc I make jokes about thinking I might die during PT but the first time I really thought that I was scared bc I couldn’t breathe and I lacked the verbal skills to tell anybody.

I haven’t done that test but now, 5 months later, I did the thing I vowed NEVER to do and got on The Gym’s body fat scale because Trainer D was talking about wanting more data again. I have told both Trainers, I am never getting on your body fat scale, nor will you ever approach me with a pair of calipers.

I made Coach R this reminder.

I made this for Coach R’s benefit.

But as is my custom, I seem destined to do things I never thought I would – e.g. that horrifying StairMaster experienceand we measured my body fat. (PS. Calipers = Still Not Okay.) So Trainer D got geekily pumped to go home and map out my new Training Plan and I lost no time in reporting to Smurfette and getting the ball in motion to see her professionally since I need some additional assistance with my eating “disturbances.”

Let me just state again that I’m not Training for Training’s sake. That’s the point of this post – I’m not just talking about body fat for kicks, promise. There’s some major method to this madness and as I’ve indicated before, more muscle protects my joints – which are increasingly showing signs of wear since they move in a way that is abnormal. But hey, I am grateful to be moving them at all. I work hard at this so my voice, vision, stamina, balance, spatial awareness, and overall carriage continue to get stronger.

I saw Mrs. P a few weeks ago at one of CP’s big design events. (He’s my friend who inspired the “Food for Thought” Business series.) The event was swarming with people eager to see C’s design, hosted in a beautiful private home, not a public ADA compliant space.

Food For Thought When Launching a Business Series | Ann Ning Learning How

But I did it – I survived a rare evening event and it was SO worth it. Mrs. P (C’s Mom) told me how she was hilariously struggling to get her son the artist to look at the pretty spreadsheets she had built for his business, and at dinner she said, You look amazing.

Side note: if you haven’t seen me in a few months or more, you see more dramatic changes and your language is likely to be stronger.

Me: Thanks, Mrs. P – I’m telling you, it takes a village. I have a team of highly trained professionals for all this. [Pointing to myself up and down.]

It’s true – I get a lot of help and invest all my time and money into Recovery so I can do things like go the Design House.   I took some squatting breaks bc my hips were bothering me, but I’ve been trained to do what it takes to last longer and move more efficiently, and J told me, You were moving really fast on those stairs.

Recently I was honored to speak at the IFI women’s conference – Mrs. D made it easy for me with an “interview” format and predetermined questions. Mrs. R was supposed to be my partner that day and I was SO Excited. Mrs. D didn’t know that Mrs. R and I go way back when she first asked us to do this. Mrs. R was as glad as I was to be asked, but she wrote me a nervous email about how she hadn’t done this before.

I laughed and tried to calm her – Seriously, Mrs. R, I knew this sort of life was POSSIBLE bc I watched you do it for over a decade.

I kid you not – I knew what this looked like bc I started hanging out with Mrs. R when I was a freshman at Georgetown, and GU was her hospital. She prayed me through undergrad, my early working life, and Business School (and beyond). Thanks, Mrs. R!

And at the conference I’m telling you, she was phenomenal. (Side note: she had been hospitalized like the week before, or something.) It was Words of Life on steroids. You can’t speak with Power unless you’ve lived it. And she’s lived it, and I learned about it not because she sat me down and talked to me but because I spent my early adulthood watching.

Right before we started I walked down the center aisle caneless. I saw myself like in a movie – I could hardly believe I was really walking, but I made it safely to the front and sat down. Later, I told the group – No one told me I had to run. I decided to do that by myself. And THIS is why I do it.

The ability to participate in events like this and have the mental stamina to prepare appropriately is exactly why I pursue Recovery aggressively. But my life isn’t spent just “waiting” for the next event. Every day there are small triumphs and things to look forward to.

Last week I cleared the dishwasher in the morning. I do my best physical work soon after waking up. Still, I had to do it in installments, and I had to practice my breathing and bracing bc my back was getting grumpy. But as I took the last dish out of the bottom rack I smiled knowing that Mommy wouldn’t have to do it later. She spent enough time picking nuts and berries out from under my wheelchair cushion and washing my hair for me, etc. It’s taken some time but now I can do more – so I smiled again and thought, THIS is why I do this.

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474. Overflowing

Kpop's T-shirt for a school vocab project

Kpop’s T-shirt for a school vocab project

I was in a lot of pain last weekend. It was stress-induced, I think – not helped by my strength training regimen, but mostly sympathy pains bc Coach R is having some shoulder issues he’s ignoring. I told him I should do the Vulcan Death Grip on him and put us both out of our misery. Problem is I don’t know how to do the VDG. Maybe Gen can teach me.

So I suffered all weekend and felt better enough in the morning to take it out on Trainer D first thing on Monday, after which I tried to play it cool with Coach R, but then was so annoyed at my lack of “running” stamina I relieved my feelings by sending him one of my hilariously passive aggressive emails and hoped that it would make me feel better.

It did.

Still, I’ve avoided writing this post, bc it’s pretty bold – like 395. Well Suited. After I wrote it and transitioned to the Full Disclosure Model with my peeps I took a major physical hit.

395.  Well Suited

395. Well Suited

Well, although I’ve been feeling GREAT lately I’ve acknowledged that the physical situation is deteriorating rapidly (speed bump! I’ll tell you about it next week) so I figure I might as well go all the way and write this, although I fondly hope the physical situation will right itself ASAP.

So here we go: When this happened to me I lost a lot of things. I owned pretty things – not super high-end stuff, but things I liked well enough to still miss. When I saw which way the wind was blowing, the things I still had a fingertip hold on I decided to lay down and pretend like that was my intention all along.

Example 1: for 3 years I pawed through my belongings mentally and thought, When I get this back…. But at a certain point in Oregon last year I threw a “souvenir” back in the box and said, I don’t need any of this. I dismissed entire boxes that were still sealed with packing tape.

358.  "I don't need any of this."

358. “I don’t need any of this.”

After we went to OR I landed at Boo Boo’s house and actually thought about what happened. One morning I came to the kitchen and cried on Mommy’s shoulder: Boo hooo!! My pretty things. Poor Boo Boo  relieved her feelings by banging some pots around on the stove.

She told me later, You did it smart, Ning – you made a clean break.

It wasn’t what I had wanted, but I agree – ultimately it was a smart move.

Example 2: My name. Are you confused by the Ann|Ning thing (FAQ)? An old friend from B school contacted me via my website and called me “Ann.” He was relieved when I told him to please keep calling me “Ning” even though I thought it was really sweet of him to use “Ann” since he thought I might prefer it. Please – it’s totally cool for you to call me what you’ve always called me, or you can choose the name you’re most comfortable with. It’s fine. The thing is that Shady Grove “The Place” was the first hospital I arrived at awake. I wasn’t used to people talking to me directly and lacked the vocal strength to tell them, My name is Ning.

So they called me “Ann.” It is my actual name, after all, and I like it – it’s just that I never used it until now. So my name was something I laid down intentionally, too. I’ve embraced the usage of “Ann” – it’s kind of my Medical Alter Ego now. I embraced it to the point where I told myself, It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.

But it kind of does matter.

Sniff.

Yesterday I told you I’ve had a hard time believing that the Land of the Living is for me. That’s one of the reasons I insist on being identified with the Disabled Community – they were the first ones to make me feel welcome here and to tell me that there are workarounds to get stuff done even if you’re living with XYZ and things aren’t like they used to be. It’s a function of my time in The Valley and the strange waking up process.

The last couple of times I spoke publicly about How I Found Grace in The Valley I emphasized at the end that This Disabled Life is not all drudgery. There is stuff that has happened that is so good that I can’t talk about all of it still bc it makes my teeth hurt and I’m afraid they might fall out of my head entirely. I joke that the Lord had to do something SO drastic to keep me out of Africa bc I am so thick-headed about these things that I probably wouldn’t get the memo unless He did something as serious as putting me in a wheelchair (even so, it took me another 6-8+ months to concede the point post injury).

In the same way, I’m super thick-headed about good stuff, too. But God, in His mercy, persists in giving me extremely kind and obvious “post it notes” to remind me along the way that even though this is crazy, it’s okay because He’s taking care of me. These circumstances, like my injury, are way too pointed to be considered coincidence.

359.  Running With Myself

359. Running With Myself

This summer when I was still feeling great I was in the Gym’s café buying some “Brain Juice” (EPA/DHA) and told Trainer D as we stood in line, I didn’t know this [feeling of wellness] was for me.

A minute later I said, My chi is so strong right now, you have no idea.

I can feel it, he contradicted.

As I walked to the lobby I told him, I’ve decided that we’re calling this “healthy,” so I need you pony up and play along.

There have been lots of ups and downs since we had that conversation, but the main thing I’ve clung to is my statement, I didn’t think this was for me. “This” = The Land of The Living.

As soon as Decision Day hit and I decided that Jesus Christ is in fact who He says He is I knew what I’d have to do. God gave me some extreme circumstances, but His grace has been so vast and surprising there’s no way for me not to be “all in” and respond in kind with an extreme sort of lifestyle even though the expectation was that I might just lie in bed and watch Netflix for the duration. Even back then I knew a Public Recovery would occasionally be brutal, but again, I chose this lifestyle with my eyes open because this message is so critical. But although I’ve found my calling this isn’t all “work.”

I’ve realized that I don’t constantly have to grit my teeth and brace for impact. Yes, my feelings have been hurt beyond the scope of “normal” human interaction as a byproduct of this lifestyle, but it pales in comparison to the goodness I’ve received from the gentle care of the Good Shepherd (who, btw, knows and cares about my hurts). It’s just that part of my Recovery has been to learn to be willing to receive. This is still a process, and I’m at the very beginning – but I want to state for the record: my cup runneth over (Psalm 23.5).

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453. 3 Good Things (2) Tea – Setting the Record Straight

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I am so grateful that I got to speak at the Christmas Tea and thank the friends who made it possible and all of my gracious listeners. I started off by informing everyone I was struggling physically (Trainer D had called me out the day before) and needed them to show me a lot of grace and pray for me as I was speaking. They did. Thanks, everyone!!

Coach R asked if I had been nervous. No, I wasn’t nervous bc I have been preparing for this for over 3 years. As soon as Decision Day hit I knew exactly what I needed to do. God’s work in my life is far too important for me not to talk about. I’ve just been working on getting physically ready.

I packed little baggies for our guests all by myself whereas the year before I had roped friends in to help me prepare this sort of thing when I went to Rise Up. I did them in sets of twenty and rolled around in my wheelchair during breaks. But my motor skills got a great workout and my OTs would be proud.

I had to sedate Ed Blueberry when Smurfette (Trainer D’s wife, Team Tanimal’s dietician) said she was coming. Eddie got a new tie from Mommy (Thanks Mom!!) so he could look good. Side note: at one point when I was talking I said, …Mommy is “a good and longsuffering suffering woman.” There were cheers of affirmation from the audience. #TrueStory.

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Let’s go back to Trainer D for a moment. Although he was very enthusiastic about the whole thing I made it clear that Smurfette was welcome to bring anyone except him since he is male. So she arrived and all of my friends were very happy to finally meet her and it became apparent during our conversation that Trainer D had failed to prep her at all regarding my background.

Of course she knows about the nature of my illness since she’s my dietician, but she didn’t know anything about Africa etc. and we hadn’t spoken in person prior to the Tea.  So right before I got up there I said,

Hey, J – you ever done this sort of thing before? ‘Cause [things are about to get a little crazy].

See for yourself:

Clip 1:

I tried to pick and choose, here, but I really like the whole thing. We touch on a lot of very important subjects. “I learned how to walk when I was 31. I did not survive the bleed to walk on eggshells now. So I’m just gonna say it…”

Ann Ning Learning How | Dec 14 - AVM and Stroke Recovery Yr 3 | Yeah, I totally just went there

Clip 2: I told you they cheered for Mommy. This is the story of Decision Day.

 Ann Ning Learning How | AVM and Stroke Recovery Yr 3 | Decision Day

Clip 3: “I was angry, too…” The statistical likelihood of am AVM Rupture is very small, but the circumstances and timing of mine were too pointed for it to be coincidental.

Ann Ning Learning How | AVM and Stroke Recovery Yr3 | I was angry, too; Is it ok that you lived?

 Clips, courtesy of KAR. Thanks, friend!

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99. Mirror Image

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One of my favorite passages in all of Jane Austen’s work (besides the fruit pyramids in P&P) is the part in Persuasion where Admiral Croft describes Sir Walter Elliott’s dressing room.  Background:  Sir Walter is a handsome man who is extremely vain and rather silly.  He is old enough to have three adult daughters.  Sadly, his wife died a long time ago, and any sense of economy died with her.  As a result of his financial ineptness, Sir Walter is forced to “retrench” and so relocates to Bath and rents out his estate to hopefully get out of debt.  Admiral Croft becomes his tenant.

Admiral Croft visits with Anne Elliott, the second daughter of Sir Walter, and the heroine of the story, and the Admiral tells her one of the first things he did upon taking possession of the house was to move all of the looking-glasses out of Sir Walter’s dressing room.  Your father must be a rather dressy man, he tells Anne, There was really no getting away from oneself!

I love that line.  It speaks to how silly/vain Sir Walter is and how different the Admiral’s lifestyle is.  I often feel like I’m in Sir Walter’s dressing room when I’m at therapy because at every hospital, the gym is lined with mirrors.  When the mirror on the wall is too far away, they have full-length mirrors on wheels that they can roll right up to you so you can see yourself up close.

I used to look in the mirror in my room or in the gym at RIO (3rd Hospital) and ponder the scar on my neck and how my hair was sticking out in funny places.  There was a large shaved patch in the back where they operated, and a small pokey thing in the front where a drainage tube once resided.  I would look at these things and think, Okay, maybe I did get sick after all.

I wasn’t sure since I had been asleep for the worst of it (thankfully).  I still don’t have the feeling of being “present” at the events I’m told happened.  Instead of viewing my own timeline as if I’m looking at my reflection in the mirror, I see pictures/videos, or read updates written by Tanpo or Ai Ai.

Tanpo has been helping me edit my “Memoirs” recently and he commented on how short the OHSU and Vibra (1st and 2nd Hospitals) chapters are.  Well, I was kind of asleep, I explained.  He suggested that I read up on what happened so I’m more aware of just how much the staff at those facilities did for me and can write about it.  I recently read through Ai Ai’s Facebook updates and I was like, Oooh – what happens next?!  And when I came to the part where she had to go home to her family after visiting me in Vibra I was sad.  I felt the same sadness I felt but couldn’t express when we were living that moment and I told her, “Quick – eat some cookies – chew fast!”  I was still pretty loopy and was concerned the poor girl was too skinny.  So I wanted her to eat some cookies in my presence before she got on the plane.

Last week I commandeered Tanpo’s phone in the car and scrolled through his picture gallery.  There were lots of pictures of my hospitalization I had never seen before.  One of them caught my attention because there was a skeletal face with one eye open and my hair on its head, body propped up weirdly in a chair.  “That can’t be me,” I thought.  And when I scrolled to the next picture the skeletal face looked even worse (there was a strange grimace), but the face was undeniably mine.  “Okay, that’s me after all,” I thought.  I will not be sharing either of those pictures with you – you can thank me later.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with some friends and I made a cavalier-sounding joke about the onset of my illness.  “You don’t know what it was like,” J told me in a jokey chastising sort of voice.  Her statement was funny at the time, but it’s also terribly true.  I really don’t know what it was like even though it happened to me.  I’m dependent on what other people tell me or what they recorded at the time.  Tanpo was the primary documenter, but I’ve read Ai Ai’s updates more recently.  All you need to know about that time period is summarized in three words:  e-coli and spinal tap.  ‘Nuff said.

I showed those pictures to Mommy later that day, and I totally cried over that first one that I didn’t think was me initially.  I cried because it looked sort of gruesome (even though there was no blood or even swelling), and also because I didn’t think it was me.  I have no recollection of any such scenario, and in the pictures I’ve seen thus far I’ve either been more awake or fully asleep – not this strange in-between state.  But then Mommy scrolled to the next picture (the one that I thought got worse) and told me, Look – you’re really happy here.  And sure enough, once we zoomed in I could see that the scary grimace was actually a facial contortion meant to convey happiness.  I can understand why.  The bandage on my neck indicates that my trach had been removed, and Mommy is standing next to me with a paper cup presumably full of ice chips.  My mouth is probably half open so it can receive the spoonful she is about to offer me.  According to my sister’s account, I had been asking for ice chips for at least 5 days.  The relief I felt when Mommy was finally able to let me suck on some ice was wonderful – I remember that part clearly.  So even though that picture is painful to look at I’m glad that moment was captured.  It’s characteristic of this whole experience – hard to look at, but joyful.

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Another favorite mirror image: (I was learning to tie a ponytail.  Can you tell?)

220.  I've Got this

220. I’ve Got this

 

421. Validation

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Last year I enjoyed a special outing with my sisters. As we were leaving I contorted myself out of my chair and managed to stand amidst the unfamiliar terrain of low tables and cushy seats (we were having tea and weren’t seated in a typical restaurant set-up). I gripped Leo the cane and pointed myself in the direction of the door, ready to follow my sisters to the exit, but our server stopped me, and took my free hand very sweetly. My sisters moved a discreet distance away but were careful to remain accessible in case I called them.

I don’t know what happened, our server said, still holding my hand, I don’t know anything about you – but I just feel like really good things are going to happen for you.

Sniff. I could tell she was holding back tears. Or maybe it was just me. But I rallied enough to say,

Thank you so much! You know, I think so, too – because I know Jesus Christ.

Amen! She said in response.

What a great moment. It was so kind of her to reach out to me like that. And when she did I just HAD to mention the Name. I agreed with her at the outset but needed to clarify that feelings can be tricky things, but my hope is built on solid ground.

165.  How to Get a Heart Tranplant

165. How to Get a Heart Tranplant

I’m so glad I said something, because it turned out that she said what she said because she knows the Lord Jesus, too, and we enjoyed that moment of happy alignment. I didn’t want to validate her statement in case she was just going on a gut feeling, but we ended up in a conversation that was mutually encouraging.

A year later I returned to visit Boo Boo after going to Oregon. I told some friends at Ai Ai and Tim’s church about my OR trip during a coffee break and one of them said, It’s great that you went and saw all those people (at your hospitals). I bet it was a huge validation of their work.

I hadn’t thought about it like that, but it was. I am a living, breathing, walking, and talking example of what medical expertise and compassionate care can do. Some of the reactions I got from people were hysterical. I recognized their faces and knew their names as if no time had passed, but apparently I’m quite different. There was more than one jaw on the ground, and the look in several pairs of eyes was actually hungry as they scanned me over to gauge the healing that has occurred.

In retrospect these meetings, like my conversation with that lady, were mutually encouraging. They hadn’t seen me in three years, but when I came home after two months, my Trainers immediately saw a difference, too.

You look like you have a lot of energy, Coach R said. I’ve considered doing an entire post on Coach R-code. It would by a complete riot. But then again it might be one of those times when I crack myself up bc I’m prone to that but other people are not as amused.

But as time has passed my Trainers are still seeing changes even though I see them more often now, and there has been no hiatus to make any shifts obvious.

One day I sat at Trainer D’s desk as we worked out the month’s schedule. In all my born days I have never seen anything like that man loading his Outlook Calendar. I am still an administrative assistant at heart. It almost killed me. However, the bottom line is that he is gifted and I have told him point blank that the giftedness really is the only reason I tolerate him. But I must have been wearing a pained look on my face bc he decided to punish me by engaging Epic Training Mode.

There was a lot of sweating on my part, and a couple of days later Gen touched my shoulders and exclaimed, WHAT have you been lifting?!?! But as I did a certain exercise, Trainer D backed away a bit and assumed the critical observing stance so familiar to me now – they all do it.

Your movement has improved SO much, he said.

Coach R has told me my form has gotten better, too. We do this one exercise every week, so we can both tell how I’m doing bc of the reflection in the mirror, and how much pressure I need to exert on his hand.

Your balance is excellent, he commented after a set.

I’m gonna need you to engrave that on a plaque, I replied, switching to the other leg.

Mobility and muscle mass improvements are some of the gains I referred to in Monday’s post. Outside of the gym, though, my improvement has also been marked – and really, this is what this is all about. I know how to position myself to lift something, how to breathe and use my muscles to accomplish a certain task within X minutes (before I get too tired), and I’ve been told that I’m using all this [imagine I’m pointing to my head and torso] completely differently.

45.  Editing Reality

45. Editing Reality

This is why I’m insisting on doing this. Perhaps the most encouraging meeting I had in Oregon was with my surgeon, Dr. Dogan. I was lucid this time, neither of us were wearing scrubs, and I came prepared with questions. I think the fact that I held a high level conversation with him, combined with the physical improvement he saw (I showed him my stance and gait) encouraged him. Although I wouldn’t say that I’m a “representative case” for the student he had in attendance, I am certainly a grateful example of why Dr. Dogan chose this profession and teaches others to do it. My interpretation of our meeting is that based on what he observed and his knowledge of the severity of my injury he could tell that something is different about this situation. He ascertained that something good is happening here so I’m supposed to keep on doing what I’m doing. And I am.

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420. I Said It

Scaling new heights

Scaling new heights

As I’ve reunited with my doctors, Therapists and Trainers here I’ve been bracing myself for explaining the last few months and there have been moments when I’ve held my breath and thought, Don’t make me say it, PLEASE don’t make me say it.

From 388. Vespers

388.  Vespers

388. Vespers

2 weeks after I wrote that post, I said it. I went all out. That’s when I made the transition to what I call “the full disclosure model” with my Trainers, and then I published these posts on my blog:

394.  Spectacle

394. Spectacle

395.  Well Suited

395. Well Suited

On Monday I said how gains come at a physical cost in RecoveryLand. When I wrote about the ups and downs of this past summer and that if given the choice, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, this conversation (I called it my “Goal Reset”) is what I had in mind. It was the biggest gain I’ve met with this year apart from going back to Oregon. Gen and CMD also know my whole story now. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not have to remember who knows what. I had been trying to ease everyone into this situation (since it’s a lot to chew on for all parties), but the time was right this summer. I took a real hit from the stress that came with sorting through and verbalizing these ideas for the first time, but now we enjoy a freedom of communication that is so easy for me, and healthier for everyone. Bottom line: It was more than worth it. As J told me when she came to the Running Gym a couple weeks ago, I can tell you feel really comfortable there.

My Trainers knew nothing about me when I met them. To remind you: Trainer D is a Personal Trainer with a neuroscience-physical-therapy vibe that is getting me kicked out of Rehab. Coach R is an Athletic Trainer trusted by professional athletes and Olympians to get them stronger, and to take care of them when they are injured. Thank the Lord that Coach R (the Traffic Cop) was there when I found a local AlterG. I told him I was diversifying my trust portfolio. This was code for, Now I don’t have to be alone with Trainer D!

They just saw that I have mobility issues and was plucky enough to seek them out and ask for help. Based on what they observed they immediately bought in to the idea of helping me Recover. As I sought non-prescribed assistance for the first time I entered these situations cautiously, giving them an opportunity to tell me to please go home and sit down, but I quickly ascertained that they knew what to do. I like people with plans.

It was enough that I walked into their gyms and asked them to help me. But when I told them (several months later) that the fact that I got sick is only half of the story they became even more committed to my Recovery. I’m big on loyalty. It’s a two-way street.

I decided to take the plunge and tell them the whole story bc I need their help with the following things: (1) Cardiovascular Health – feedback indicates my voice is improved! I know it’s bc I’m using the air I’m breathing more efficiently. This helps me speak to people in every context. Also it helps with stamina, which is already improved in that I’m able to exercise the mental acuity necessary to plan and hit time targets in more formal settings. (2) Core Strength – My public interface is almost normal.  It’s part of my job now to be approached from any angle and to meet and greet appropriately. This takes balance and coordination so I don’t step on people or fall down (yes, these are concerns).

The fact that I framed this conversation in the context of physical goals was right up their alley. My reasoning was that I had to address this situation head-on since I had been in increasing levels of distress since I met them, but now that I had gone to Oregon I was settling down and signaling that I’m ready to work. Although they have extremely different demeanors, these guys are cut from the same cloth – that’s why I keep them around.  I gather that they’re used to more robust athlete types and although they are careful with everyone thy train, my situation automatically requires a different kind of vigilance.  I suppose it doesn’t help that I email them things like, I forgot to tell you – I have a hole in my head where they didn’t replace the skull…I do not expect to fall on your watch, I’m just saying that in the event that I do, I’m supposed to NOT fall on my head, k?

🙂 I like to keep things interesting for everyone. You’re welcome, guys.

I told them my “spectacle” analogy about being lit on fire and jumping off a bridge into a roaring river. When I test drove this idea on my friends they required about 30 minutes of explanation on my part. My purpose was to make sure I was not overstating the case, and they were a great focus group. At the end they said they were happy to hear me speak so definitively, and were like, You gotta make that bridge super high!!

My Trainers, on the other hand, accepted the premise without question. It has since occurred to me that they are not used to hearing anyone (certainly no one in a situation like mine) make such bold assertions in an extremely matter of fact tone. It was to them that I said, The only reason I’m able to look you in the eye and talk about this with confidence is not bc I’ve been untouched by this situation, it’s bc I’ve already decided.

Decision Day 2014 (PS.  Yes, I buy workout wear I the little boys' section now.)

Decision Day 2014 (PS. Yes, I shop for workout wear in the little boys’ section.  I just can’t relate to what they sell in the ladies’ department.)

It was important to me to make sure they understood that although I like to laugh I do feel the full weight of my loss. It’s bc I’m convinced that I stand to gain so much more that I can laugh – it’s not a pretense, it’s living joy that comes from an external power source.

Based on how people (people I know, people who know of me, and perfect strangers) respond to me now, I realized that I’m no longer waiting for “something” to happen. When explaining this to my Trainers I summarized it like this:

I’m not an injured player trying to get back on the field. This IS the field.

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