I’m in one of those periods I’ve thankfully only had a couple of times in my life, where your world is suddenly turned so upside down that no aspect of daily life is normal. Perversely, I find these times intellectually interesting, noting what becomes important when I suddenly have to narrow my focus to only that which is critical. I always learn something through these observations.

I’ve learned these last couple of times that sleep is more important than hygiene. When you’ve been awake for more than 30 hours, even food becomes secondary. Vanity falls away quickly: makeup, jewelry, and matching clothes are luxuries. Working out and listening to music–normally considered daily requirements–are as distant a dream as a beachfront hut in Tahiti. It’s also interesting what I add back first, as things slowly normalize. Toothpaste and underwear made it into the first Walmart run this time, a sleep mask in the second, dental floss in the fourth.

It’s amazing how quickly you settle into a new normal. Wearing the same shirt and jeans for two, maybe three days is fine. I know where the hospital stashes their towels, tiny and scratchy and thin as they are. My trip to the refrigerator now includes a 30 yard walk and a monkey key chain hanging from a hook at the nurse’s station. After five days, I finally broke down and spent $16 on a hair dryer that I don’t need at home so that I don’t have to go to sleep at night on the hospital fold out chair with wet hair and chattering teeth.

Yet there’s just no way to feel sorry for myself for long. Scared, yes, worried for my daughter, yes, but not sorry for myself. We can hear the hospital’s helicopter coming in for a landing from our room. It comes with sad regularity, at least half a dozen times a day. Too many kids in wheelchairs in the hallways are bald. Others have the expression of a child who has never had the normal routine of my children’s lives. We are blessed.

We will continue to cope our way through this period, putting one foot in front of the other day by day, sometimes even hour by hour. We will focus on what matters. We will allow those who care for us to surround us with love. And we will work hard to remember that the God who created the universe placed our special daughter here with us for His plan, and remind ourselves that He loves her far more than we ever can.

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” –T.S. Eliot


About Kelly J. McCleary

Wife and mother of three, author, financial professional View all posts by Kelly J. McCleary

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