The Everything After is so very raw and needy. It draws out, hungry for an unending supply of patience, pain, and true love. (No, not Twoo Wuv, Princess Bride style. Though that is a great movie to watch when you are stuck under an icepack on the couch.) True love. The quiet simplicity. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. Service. Sacrifice.
At first, true love was abundant. My husband catered to my every need. I had near-constant attendants at hand. Friends bringing gifts and meals. Offers to clean my bathrooms and do my dishes. It was wonderful and I felt so very blessed. Dire thoughts only broke through in rare moments, or in conversations about the uncertainty of my future.... or when I missed the mountains. Between gratitude and sorrow, my face was rarely dry.
A week after my unfortunate adventure, Aaron woke me at 4:45 am. At that point I was still waking every few hours to take different meds, nibbling uncomfortably on food in the middle of the night. My sleep quality was unfulfilling, and any unconscious moment was precious. I awoke to his face leaning over me, looking expectant. (It's not the first time it has happened in the middle of the night, but that seemed an odd early morning request considering the circumstances.)
"Can I do something for you?" I muttered with raised eyebrows and sticky eyelids.
"Can you get up and get dressed?" He inquired.I crutched perilously to the bathroom, my sense of balance not quite awake in the dark. Then Aaron helped me dress and carried my crutches downstairs as I scooted down on my bum. He helped me to the couch and told me to wait there.
"Am I going somewhere?" I parried.
"May I pee first?"
"That's probably a good idea."
"Is someone coming?"
I had my suspicions, but I was half asleep and happy to just let things play out. Aaron disappeared upstairs again and reappeared with a bag stuffed with a sweatshirt that also rattled with pain meds. And as the glare of headlight cast across the living room wall, he helped me to the door and out to the driveway. Renee and Jennilyn greeted me on the front walk with slightly awkward crutch hugs and flung the van door open to reveal my morning chariot. All the middle seats had been removed and the back seat was piled with various soft things. I laughed, exclaimed, and climbed right in.
Jennilyn looked sleepy. "I don't get up early on a Saturday for just anyone, Kristyan."
I grinned at her silhouette up front. "I'm honored."
A short time later they were asking me directions to the canyon, and we bumped up the long, winding, treacherous canyon road to a perfect lookout spot. Farmington Canyon is one of my nearby escapes. My trail home, if you will. I've traversed most of it on foot more times than I can count now. As I exited the car on my crutches, the mountain air washed over me and I gasped. It was if I'd been suffocating and I hadn't known it until that moment. My eyes scanned from the impending sunrise at the top of the canyon, to the lush evergreen mountainsides and out to far off Antelope Island. I could almost feel the trees welcoming me back, and the canyon breeze was the sweetest nectar. The dust in the air, the coolness of pre-dawn, the slow fade of color back into the world. It was overwhelming. Unbidden tears cascaded off of my eyelashes and a sob escaped my throat. Friends who knew held me close as I let it all go, and then drew myself back together again, whispering thanks that could never do justice to my all-consuming gratitude. They set up camp chairs, one piled high with pillows to keep my foot elevated. Renee flipped her fancy van seats backward as Jennilyn set up the camp stove.
I sipped hot tea and sunrise, lost in the gentle splendor of it all. The smell of sizzling peppered bacon mingled deliciously with dusty evergreen, and for a moment I could forget the pain and stress. Renee handed me a cup of orange juice and Jennilyn passed me a steaming plate of eggs and bacon. She apologized for it's untidiness, but to me in that moment, it was the most perfect thing in the entire world.
I thanked them, unable to express my gratitude and elation. I felt naked relief. Oh, my heart. We chatted and joked and laughed. It felt so good to laugh! They set up cameras and took pictures of the three of us as the sky turned pastel and gold on it's morning journey to daylight.
It will remain one of the most thoughtful and amazing acts that anyone has ever done for me. They were my angels. And they would spend more time and energy on me in the coming weeks than I ever expected. Renee helped me clean and cook. She brought awesome meals catered to our food sensitivities, and kids to keep mine entertained. She brought magazines and sparkly nail polish, conversation and much-needed laughter. She even brought Jennilyn for girl time and yoga play in the park.
I don't know what I did to deserve either of them. Renee and Jennilyn, I love you girls so much!!
Times like these make the rest of them bearable. I wish I could highlight every moment with every caring friend. Katie was ever attentive and hilarious, bringing movies, magazines and girly things like toenail polish in shades of grey to match my bruising. I can always count on a text or comment from her to make me burst out laughing at inappropriate moments.
Kenzie brought a card addressed to my ankle- telling it to get it's act together. It totally made my day! It was accompanied by more glitter polish. (Apparently I needed some shiny bling for my nails, because everyone seems to know the secret- glitter makes you heal faster. )
Cindy- my selfless Cindy from the planet Wonderful, came to change my bandages when I didn't know how. She has checked in regularly, been my listening ear, and even cleaned out my chicken coop and picked up feed and bedding for me! (Aaron doesn't do animal poop.)
My sweet crazy Sara has spent countless hours, cleaning out and organizing my laundry room, cleaning my kitchen and bathrooms, and best of all, having the most real, honest and understanding conversations.
Steve and Nan brought dinner, company and adjustments. And continue to check in and encourage with calls and texts.
Adam and Nikki cleaned house and entertained my littles.
MaKayle brought my fave ice cream and took up a collection amongst my Yoga Buddies.
Lane hand-delivered spring-loaded racing crutches and pain relieving spray. I know!! Racing crutches!
8 days after surgery, I met my surgeon for the second time.
Dr. Chardack walked in to the room and exclaimed, "The toughest woman on earth?! I was pretty shocked when you left the hospital right after surgery! With an injury like yours, I thought you'd stay a day or two at least!" I hadn't even known it was an option.
He pulled up my x-rays on screen and my jaw dropped. I'm sure some sound like, "Huuummmnnedegewhaaaa?" came out of my mouth before I shouted, "I thought you said a coupla pins?"
"I told you it was a mess in there."
How many screws are in there??"
"No, really. I have been underbragging! How many??"
He turned to the screen and poked at it with his finger, "One, two, three, four... five, six..., seven. This is a metal plate, and this section over here was mush, there's like a whole buncha little bone grafts in there. "
It looked like he'd just cut it open and spanked the Home Depot over the top of it.
He was still not very forthcoming with information.
"I'm a trail runner and a yoga teacher, doc. Give it to me straight. How long do I have til I'm back?"
I didn't like the answers.
8-12 weeks non weight bearing. 50% chance of osteonecrosis. Pretty much guaranteed early arthritis. Anything on uneven surfaces may be iffy. He made it sound like trail running was out. I refused to accept that. Don't you dare tell me I can't.
"If I was another doc, I'd put you in a hard cast. But if someone did that to me, I'd throttle them on the spot. So you get a boot, but do NOT put weight on it. Keep it on most of the time and don't move around without it. You can bathe without it, but that's about it. Do NOT mess this up. It's your one chance. I can't fix it again."
A nurse snipped and removed the two long rows of stitches... clumsily and very painfully. I had to use my childbirth breathing and meditation methods to get through it. I picked out more fragments of them later that day. She stretched my achilles until my foot was in the right position for the boot. I had to stop to breathe and surrender. I didn't cry. Not there.
I quit taking narcotics on the way home from the appointment. I hadn't taken enough with me for the appointment plus the hourlong wait to see the doc. When it wore off, I decided the pain was more manageable than the heartburn, anger, nausea, horrible constipation (seriously), and other myriad of side effects. When I stopped taking the meds, there was no more hiding. It got real, really fast.
I am a shameless optimist. I strive to highlight the good and live in gratitude everyday. I don't like to talk about the hard stuff. The stuff that is there between the visits and laughter. The stuff that lurks in the recesses of my mind only to face me boldly the moment we're alone. The struggle. But I do it so that others don't have to struggle alone. So that I don't have to struggle alone. I have struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for years. I battle it by tying up my trail shoes, and losing myself to nature. But I can't do that anymore. Not for months and maybe more. I can't run. Escape is not an option. It all came crashing down. Denial, depression, anger, despair. All of the 'what ifs' and the 'how comes'. Sleeping in that boot was nigh to impossible. With sleep deprivation and PMS on the pile, I was buried. So many tears. So much snot. Poor Aaron.
Then one day, misery became so boring. I was tired of it. I woke up miserable, in pain, wondering what the point was. The pressure in my head mounted and tears started their familiar trickle down my cheek and onto my pillow. My eyes came to rest on my yoga mat. Aside from the mountains, my mat was home. I missed my mat. The morning sun was streaming, golden through my bedroom window. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and lowered my aching body carefully and awkwardly to the floor. I crawled over to my mat and unrolled it in a patch of light, sending dust fairies dancing in the warmth. I crawled onto it and began to breathe. For the first time in weeks, I closed my eyes and went inward. Feeling every movement, exploring what was there. Tears continued to fall, but now out of gratitude. As I flowed through simple movements I began to realize what I could still do. I sent love and acceptance and healing to the broken bits- of body and soul. I acknowledged the trauma and sent love and honor for having met the challenge. I traveled inward even more and found.... me. I was there all along. In finding myself for even a moment, I had found an inner light. My connection to the Divine. My hope. My reality check. I still get to choose. I always get to choose.
It has not been all golden light and zen since then. There is so much more to process and accept. So much more the stand up to and fight. But most of all, there is waiting. With time comes the demons. The doubts, the worries. The dull and persistent pain wears away at me like sand paper. My efforts have untold consequences. One day I am my own hero, taking the kids out for a "crutch", cleaning the house on my hands and knees, tackling a project, going shopping. That night I find blood on my shirt from crutch chafing, my knee callous is cracked and bleeding from crawling too much, my hands are too weak and painful to grasp my toothbrush, and my back and hips ache mercilessly. Every good day has its price.
But I continue to roll out of bed and crawl onto my mat. I find myself and say 'Hello' and 'Namaste'.
I remember that I am not my body, though it is a part of my journey. I find God and check in.
I would be remiss if I neglected to thank one other person. My husband, my Aaron, my everything. I would have blown away bit by bit in this storm without him. To wipe my tears, to attend to my needs, to hold me together when I'm flying apart. To remind me who and what I am. He is incredible.
Thank you, my love.
I have come a long way in two months. I have a long journey yet ahead of me. I am tired. I will keep on. I have so much to aspire to. There is so much more awesome to become.