Not the Worst Day of the Year

Monday was not the worst day of the year. Monday crept in softly with a blanket of snow, a warm cup of coffee, and an expected five, quiet, stolen hours with my husband driving back to our home from a weekend of nourishment with friends and activities. Monday started off as a lie.

9:00AM: Fear clenched and twisted the contents of our frames with a frantic decision to let our vet perform vital and expensive surgery on our dear Hollywood. Like the moment when I learned Adam Gabriel’s heart had stopped beating just 7 months ago, I swiftly made the necessary decision without emotion. But the inevitable tears and gulps for air found their place in the silence of the car, filling space in the now gaping hole in our hearts. Our little lovebug, our pup with the boundless energy and goofy smiles for all, might not make it through this seemingly ordinary day.

10:00AM: Hollywood was in surgery and my boss called to tell me he could only afford to pay me for 20 hours of work a week. After a frank conversation about longevity of the relationship, among other things, I was left to consider my life in a country town with no extended family, possibly no job (and no immediate prospects in this American district still prospering on what is left of coal)…and no jovial best friend to walk with me at noon or lay beside me as I spend endless hours staring into a computer screen.

11:30AM: Hollywood survived surgery, but his spleen and a small part of his stomach did not. His heart was not beating evenly, but we were to expect that for now. His doctor said tears were okay. She reminded us to prepare ourselves for the worst as the next 24 hours were critical.

2:00PM: Finally home, we were granted visiting rights solely because of the shock of this happening while we were out of town. I didn’t want to think it was because this might be our last visit, but I knew that was a possibility. I curled up on the floor next to him where tissues magically appeared – one box and then two – to make sure we had what little creature comforts could be afforded us in this ghastly situation. Covered by a blanket, with rogue blood spots seen with stolen glances underneath his body, was our little guy taking shallow breaths and drugged into oblivion.

5:15PM: After a flurried house cleaning, we greeted our 6 house guests, planning to stay the week with us. Then my husband and I collected Hollywood to physically transport him to an all-night emergency vet hospital. With sea legs and serious confusion, we led him to the car and lifted him in the backseat, where I sat beside him and let him lay his head on my lap. Again, the shallow breaths were heart-shattering but when I asked him to look at me, his glassy eyes found mine after a two or three moment delay. He was in there still.

6:30PM: Ill-prepared for our guests, we went running through the grocery store with our hearts bleeding and our eyes burning from tears. My husband and I declared this, “A very bad day, but not the worst day of the year.”

As I’ve said in various ways, at 31, this is not where I imagined my life. But grace has found me anyway. I am thankful for my husband’s stable job so we do not have to worry if we can cover feeding six extra mouths this week in the midst of my paycut and our newest set of undesired, unexpected hospital bills. I am ecstatic that I am typing this next to a shaved, happy/tired puppy with an eight-inch scar across his belly held together with medical staples. I guess, instead of the obligatory bad luck in threes, ours comes in about double that, but I have to think the end of this streak is near.

I feel a place inside of me has grown, in the midst of the worst and not worst days this year, and I feel a stirring of something holy…something I need to listen to closely and earnestly. Maybe it’s just will, or purpose, or just knowing what the heck matters to me. Whatever it is, I feel it’s going to lead me out of here.

But, in the meantime, there is love here. There is plenty of light. And, there is the sweetest little guy named Hollywood.

Battling the “Blessed”

For a few years now, I’ve been privately battling the word “blessed.” If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I used to work for a firm with conservative, WASP-like men leading the charge. One of them insisted on having a Christian cross on his email signature and another (young and recently promoted) had committed his instant messenger tagline to indefinitely say, “Blessed.” I try not to be the type of person to announce my faith before the strength of my character (especially in a business email), but – after leaving the firm – I cringe every time I hear the word “blessed.”

Now, before I go any further, I would like to make it clear that I actually identify broadly with the Christian religion (Catholicism) and do not have an issue with anyone’s freedom of opinions outside of the work environment, but let me explain why these pronouncements cause me such discomfort.

Everything I really need to say about the “blessed” is summed up so eloquently here: Just like the author, Scott Dannemiller, I have made it a practice for the last couple of years to instead say I am “lucky” or “fortunate” instead. To make the correlation between one’s positive country of birth, monetary position, network of loved ones, etc., and God’s favor is to forget about all of those whom have been left behind. What about the victims of natural disasters, abandonment, or identity theft? I cannot imagine that God looks with any less favor, or blessings, on them. Like Dannemiller, I cannot believe our Great Creator of all things handpicks treats for only some of us, dropping perfect lawns and 6-figure jobs down to the chosen few. 

It is very dualistic (black and white) to believe that good comes to/from good and bad comes to/from bad. Most of the time, I just think that shit happens and all that really matters is how we try to put ourselves and our loved ones back together. We learn to be more sensitive, more kind, and less sure of certainties. And then we learn it all over again. We give people the benefit of the doubt even when they don’t deserve it. And, we know popularity, money, and power do not come to us because we are so darn blessed. If we have those things, most of us have had to work hard for them and – if hard work wasn’t involved – it’s not because God granted favor. It’s because that wasn’t part of the lesson one needed to learn…it’s because one tumbled out of the planets and are a lucky-ducky, speckle of dust that rolled and landed on more prosperous ground than some other speckles of dust.