I remember the last time I sat down to write. It was right before a big push at the local fair that I hoped would help raise my visibility enough to push my new life forward writing the Purple Moose books, doing birthday parties and crafting classes. Instead, my body had a different idea. A routine follow up doctor appointment ended up with me back in the hospital. It was exactly one year from my original TM diagnosis and hospital stay. The coincidence felt like some universal joke. My bladder wasn’t working, and my old leg symptoms were returning with my mobility decreasing. I wouldn’t find out until months later that the enlarged bladder could create a re-emergence of my onset symptoms. Instead, the myriad of doctors that came in and out of my hospital room those few days had no answers. That’s the problem with a teaching hospital. My regular doctor was only there when he was scheduled to be. The rest of the time it was students with a higher up doctor that didn’t know me or understand Transverse Myelitis.
It was a stay that included catheters and a loud and unhappy roommate on the inside part of the room, with an endless parade traveling through my space to hers. It included a shooter in the hospital causing a lockdown, and a swat team with high power rifles sweeping the room unannounced (good thing I didn’t have a heart condition). I left with a working bladder and a renewed appreciation for life, but no answers yet as to why my legs were regressing. I also left with the sobering realization that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. The efforts required to promote the center, as well as its up keep, was more than I could handle. My house had been on the market since February with very little activity, but I knew it was time for me to start planning and preparing for what would happen next. I no longer had the option of what I wanted to do. It was time to do what I needed to do and it was time to try and figure out what that was.
That’s when the next lifequake happened. My in-laws were both killed in a tragic carbon monoxide accident at the end of September. I was talking to my husband on the phone when he found them. I doubt I’ll ever forget it. An immediate trip to Ohio brought forth the realization that maybe it was time to return to there. He had been there working and caring for his parents, as I was in NH working and trying to care for mine. Unconventional to be sure, but we did what we needed to for a variety of reasons. It mostly worked until I got sick. Then it got more complicated. How was I supposed to take care of my parents when I could barely take care of myself? My in-laws deaths made me re-examine that plan. It seemed that we both could use someone in person, rather than just by phone and visits for support. The plan was hatched to for me to move back to Ohio, at least part time, with the hopes of splitting time between there and NH.
,The next logical step was to begin packing. It sounded easy in theory, but in reality it was to be no small feat. I lived in a 2600 sq ft Victorian. The top floor and attic were all the discovery center children’s museum, as was half of the main floor. The other half and basement was all me. It all needed to be sorted and packed. It was time to downsize. The most important items were carefully packed to return to Ohio. My days consisted of packing, sorting, resting, eating, sleeping and repeat. It was all I did. As the weather grew colder and the snow began, I became for eager to move all I could before winter unleashed its full fury upon us. Watching the long range forecast convinced me that I needed to do so sooner rather than later.
A week before Christmas I helped load a 20 ft truck with the first round of stuff for Ohio. I learned that a penguin waddle allowed me to carry items and move without canes. Not fast or pretty, but you do what you need to do. I continue to be grateful for the fact that my right foot still allows me to drive. In this case, it was driving the truck while towing my car behind it. I am also grateful for the fiery spirit within me that allows me to push and keep going, even when I am scared or uncertain. Driving the truck combo required both. I rose to the challenge.
As fate would have it, it was just like in the movies. If you pack it, a buyer will come. While in Ohio, a buyer came through. I returned to NH to finish the packing task. I thought I was mostly done except the center. I was wrong. It’s the dumb little stuff that drags you down every time. And the stuff to give away. There just wasn’t a place in northern NH big enough to want to take it all. The routine returned with a slight alteration. Pack, sort, find places to give stuff away, eat, rest, repeat. Walk like a penguin, load a truck, take to storage, shovel, collapse, repeat. I closed January 29, but didn’t finish for 5 days later thanks to my last give-away pick-up that bailed on me. I persevered.
February was a month of complete exhaustion, physically and emotionally. I had pushed well beyond the limits of what my body could tolerate. In my quest for rest and retreat, came the realization of how much my parents relied on my presence. The reality is that much of my stuff lives Ohio, but I don't. But moving back in with your parents is not easy, regardless of the intentions and need. Not to mention, a house filled with over 50 years of life has little room to add more into it. But everyone deserves a place to call their own. So instead of buying another house or renting an apartment, I followed a long time dream. I bought an RV. My U-haul driving experience gave me the confidence that I could do it. She is my Pemberley and the car part that drives it is my Mr. Darcy. If I ever tow my car behind it, they will be united with my Elizabeth. It’s been a delight to decorate and make my own. Except that when I returned to NH, apparently winter did too. Pemberley currently sits buried under a layer of ice and snow. Hopefully someday soon we will be reunited and I can begin to reclaim and recreate my life and it's journeys. It's already been 8 months since life took such an unexpected detour. I guess, what's a couple more weeks to wait, right?...
8 months. One month more and I could have given birth to a child. Somehow that seems significant. Perhaps it is a re-birthing of myself in a way. The last 8 months I didn’t write, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I couldn’t. In order to do all I had to do, it was truly all I could do. It took every ounce of effort, focus and strength to go through the motions that needed to take place. Part of that included silence. There was too much I wanted to say. But they were all things I had no control over. The path was laid out. I just had to do it. The Nike logo might be catchy and motivational, but the truth is, it’s only part of the story. It starts with the decision to do it, but progresses only as you continue to “Just do it” over and over again. The larger part of the last 8 months required me to “Just do it” in a manner that left no room for reflection or pause.
But winter can’t go on forever, or life becomes much like the beginning of the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, devoid of hope and life. Though it doesn’t look like it as I look out my window, spring IS coming. Life needs all the seasons to keep the cycle going. Though the wind blows and snow covers the ground, there are daffodils popped through, even up here in northern NH.
I still feel guarded. The instinct to retreat inward is still near the surface, as is my need for a warm coat, gloves and scarf to burrow in. But as the weather thaws, so does my spirit. I have never moved in the winter before, and I never want to again, but somehow, it seemed to fit. My work is still not done. There are two small storage units still to be emptied. There are decisions to make about what, if anything, I will do with all the Purple Moose stuff I’m not ready to give up, but don’t know what really to do with it. In truth, there is still a lot of “Just do it” left to come. There will be probably for the rest of my life. But I hope I can manage it with a bit more grace, and a little less isolation, so that I can share the lessons learned and the stories within. I know I am not alone in my mission.