Wait Up

I lay on the ground in serious pain. One leg is propped up on a bench, the rest of me on the cool, dewey grass, as I try to focus on the squirrels in the trees above me. “Breathe,” I tell myself. My effort is entirely focused on staying calm for my two-year-old who is waiting patiently beside me, a furrowed brow beginning to form on her face. As we wait, my husband is running the mile back to our house to get the car and our cell phones. Finally, he arrives, and we are off to the hospital.

Moments before I’d gone down a rather evil, two-story slide on the playground with my daughter tucked in on my lap. What I hadn’t figured in to this physics equation, however, was the surprising momentum that occurs when nylon running shorts hit a wet slide. About 3 feet down this hellish chute, I knew that I’d lost control. There was no saving this. No gentle, graceful landing.

As we exited the slide and flew several feet beyond it, I instinctually pulled my daughter in tight, and we landed together on my left ankle. “You caught air,” my husband would later report with laughter. It turns out the physics of an additional 35 pounds on your lap as you land on your ankle, leads to a fracture. Thankfully, I narrowly avoided having surgery and pins.

But this was just the start of my morning, and it’s just the start of my real story. That particular night was my high school class’ 20th reunion on a yacht in the San Francisco Bay. I’d looked forward to this event for a while, as I had a small circle of friends that I fondly remembered and hadn’t seen in nearly a decade or more. And you know what? After a pep talk from my dad and some serious hustling, we made it happen. I got a temporary cast and drugs and rented a wheelchair.

My husband drove the 2 hours to the city, while I laid in back, my leg on pillows. I notified one of the reunion coordinators that we were on our way. But after some mishaps on the road, we were going to be late, and not just 15 minutes late, but nearly an hour late. This is not a problem for an ordinary hotel reunion, but being late to a party on a boat isn’t really an option.

I had the feeling I imagine a football player does when she is almost to the line about to make a touchdown, only to be tackled. I explained to my friend via texts that I was sorry, but we wouldn’t be able to make it in time. A few minutes went by. Nothing. And then she texted back. She said they would wait. She said they’d leave when I got there.

When we did finally arrive, there were smiles and hugs and solicitous questions about my leg. These people gave up part of their paid cruise for me. I will never forget that overwhelming feeling of kindness and compassion that she and everyone on that boat extended to me that night.

I have reflected on this event frequently and smiled with a grateful heart. Ironically, life has a way of teaching us lessons sometimes a little too late.

Years prior, I chose not to wait for someone. She was over an hour late, and it was my bridal shower. Only this wasn’t an ordinary bridal shower at a house; it was a wine-tasting event. There was a limo idling outside, 6 ladies who had paid for the adventure and who were already a few mimosas in, and a clock ticking on our rental time to get to the wine country. I decided not to wait.

Now, I could tell you all about the extra social complications surrounding the event and my agony deciding how to proceed, but at the end of it all, I made the decision. I nearly lost that friendship over that decision and the hurtful exchange that would follow.

I ultimately said my apology to her, we attended each other’s weddings, and we remain Facebook friends. But while we are still friends, it has never been the same. You see, even though I apologized, Amy Poehler would remind me that my apology was said with my brain and not my heart. Let me tell you, those are completely different apologies. This is a lesson I’ve learned. We must set the details aside, and apologize purely and simply with our hearts. We must wait up, because we don’t always know what someone is dealing with in her life.

I write these stories, because 1) a dear friend encouraged me to resume my blog—my cathartic, creative endeavor. And 2) I’ve been feeling left behind. And it’s no one’s fault. There’s no one to blame or get angry with. Hashimotos holds me back like weights around my ankles. It limits my energy. It limits the kind of exercise I can do and the foods I can eat. Instead, my time is filled trying to get extra sleep, to fit in yoga, to spend longer shopping for and cooking meals that are nutrient dense and require fresh, whole foods. It’s a lot of chopping, frankly.

Meanwhile, I watch friends getting smaller in the distance ahead of me. Most of us are in our 40s now and hitting our stride in our careers. We’re smarter, wiser, tougher, highly efficient creatures with goals. My friends give up sleep to keep up with their messy houses, kids’ school projects, life’s paperwork, and to get ahead at their jobs, taking on extra responsibilities to further their careers and increase their paychecks.

I watch enviously, as they spend a whole weekend day being active and still have the stamina to go out at night for fun. They can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and still have energy for sex with their man. And I see their social media, feeding my illusion that they have boundless friends, time, and reserves. They are phenomenal women, vital, willing and able to sacrifice.   

I miss my old life sometimes. I miss the boundless choices and freedoms absent of the worrisome thoughts, the perpetual insomnia, the aches and pains, the brain fog, and the general malaise. “Will I be able to go out tonight, or do I have to cancel again?”  “Will they understand?” “Will they stop asking?” “How many more times can I pass up career opportunities before they stop asking?” “How will I ever make more money, if I don’t take on extra work?” “When will I stay well for a whole year, so I can finally prove to myself that I have this autoimmunity managed?”

I’m watching my friends say, “Yes,” while I say, “No.” I’m sure there’s a new lesson in this for me. But for now, I can’t see it. All I can think is, wait up, please.

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