Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Road Back

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats, OR
(Photo Taken By Diana M. Bateman, Sept 2010)

During all of 2006 and most of 2007, I spiraled out of control with my health and my MS started to rear its ugly head. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I stopped caring. 

I stopped wanting to care. Not just about me, nor was it centered on my MS. I simply just didn’t care. I had moments of clarity though. 

During those times I tried to do what I’ve always done when in emotional distress. I wrote. That is when I began this blog actually. It has been very therapeutic for me to articulate my thoughts and feelings in this manner. 

However, my internal attitude was very melancholy for a number of years. I’m sure it was draining for my husband... Just when I thought I was starting to come out of my dark place, many things converged and attempted to drown me even further. 

It was then that I actually hit the lowest point in my life (in 2008). I hated almost every minute of that year. There were so many blessings, but the incessant onslaught and gravity broke me.

In the fall of 2008, the stress had reached a critical point. Not knowing what else to do or where else to turn, I took my aggression out in our unfinished basement/make-shift gym. 

By the time January of 2009 arrived, I had literally sweated my way out of the darkest of it all. The weight loss was nice, but I was still vacant inside. 

It was around this time when I began to witnesses the rapid decline of Don, my father-in-law, from a sudden onset of a very aggressive cancer. 

During one of the early-on evening vigils at Don’s place, I was in a quiet moment where Don was resting on the couch; all others in the house were helping Nan, my bonus-Mom, in some way or another. I felt compelled in spirit and body to sit on the love seat and listen to his rhythmic, labored breathing. I’d seen him struggle and use all his might to be mobile while accepting little assistance. 

That stubborn man was relentless! It was while sitting there that I realized that what I’d been witnessing with him was a polar opposite to my own experience over the last few years. This somehow... unlocked me; I began to unfold right there. Something hit me hard at that moment and I realized I needed to make a change in my heart, my mind, my actions - I was not the person I wanted to be in this life’s journey. 

I was now compelled to internally rise to the occasion of my existence. I had given up on myself in a big, big way. I think some of Don’s determination transferred to me at that moment.

I was immediately compelled to make changes. Somehow a beacon of light turned on amidst the haziness and that light was centered in me. I do not claim to understand it, but something clicked and I knew that, despite my previous inaction, I wanted to live my life to the fullest. I also instantly knew what I needed to do. 

I furiously began making a list of short and long-term goals; forty-one in total. They were organized in order, with the short-term goals designed to help me get to the long-term goals. 

By the time I was done making that list, I was in tears, but smiling from the release... I’d finally let go of myself, so that I could emerge and move on with my life. 

When I was done, I looked up and saw Don looking at me and smirking. I have no idea how long he was watching me, but something told me he knew and could feel the power of the change that had just overcome me. 

He didn’t say anything; he just looked at me, sat up (with labor) and smiled the entire time. He nodded with understanding and the moment left as others came filing back into the room from their tasks.

So far, I’ve achieved twenty-seven of those forty-one goals. In order to see the next goal on the notepad of my iPhone, I have to scroll down the list of goals where “ACHIEVED” is written next to each and every one of those twenty-seven. 

By the time I get to the next goal on the list I am energized, because I’ve just seen repeated proof that the mantra I repeat while running is true and applicable elsewhere in life: I Can, I Have, I Will. 

This experience fills me with a surge akin to the one I had while sitting on the love seat at Don’s. I still feel Don near me in spirit. I feel several people nearby in spirit actually. But it is Don’s presence and light that has been radiating most recently.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Best Halloween Treat Ever!

Tonight I attended a special Military fireside (event) wherein President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the keynote speaker. This was an absolute amazing treat for me.

You see, in April 2010 at the Priesthood session of the Annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), President Uchtdorf gave a talk called “Continue In Patience” that has meant a great deal to me. 

Though I was not in attendance at that particular event, I was able to later listen to the audio recording. 

This talk is so powerful that I’ve been compelled to listen to it almost every day - either driving to or from work ever since I purchased the recording in June 2010. 

Much peace and good sound advice is shared in that talk and oddly enough, it all boils down to how we consume marshmallows (insert chuckle here).
Tonight, I went through great efforts to make it to this Military event. Several obstacles ended up in my way. The biggest issue was fatigue. 

The day after my MS treatments often leaves me... lacking in energy. When I finally made it to the event location (five minutes prior to it's start), I was disheartened to see that cars lined the road several blocks back. 

I sighed and kept moving forward in the vehicle hoping for a miracle. I neared the parking lot and was stopped by an attendant who informed me that one spot in the actual parking lot would be opened and I could have it. 

It was being used for the shuttle that was bringing people to and fro. There was so much relief in my heart that I wouldn’t have to walk a great distance, because I didn’t have it in me. 

I got into the event to see that it was PACKED, but because I was alone I could squeeze into one spot not too far from the entrance and I was guided by an escort right to the spot. Whew! I made it.
Prior to beginning I was able to take a quick look around and behind me to take-in a sea of military uniforms and their civilian counterparts. 

It was an overwhelming and an awe-inspiring sight. Then the opening hymn of High On The Mountain Top began and I could hardly keep the tears back; there was so much gusto from all the male voices around me, it was amazing. Apparently, the event was being broadcast live to soldiers in Iraq (it was three-thirty in the morning their time); also a very humbling site.

Many wonderful things happened at this event and powerful words were shared; just as amazing as Uchtdorf’s talk on patience - but today, my take home message was wrapped up in these key points:
  • Support courage to do what is right.
  • Advance independent thinking.
  • For our own sake, we need to be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord.
  • This life is a time to learn to overcome challenges.
  • Things of great worth are never “easy”.
  • We can’t banish trials, but we can banish fear.
  • God will not leave us comfortless.
We closed the meeting with the congregation singing, Onward Christian Soldiers and I simply couldn’t get through the song. I was too overcome by the beautiful choir all around me. These Christian soldiers and their families, pressing onward, united and joyful. I was honored to be in their presence tonight.
After the close of the meeting there seemed to be a pathway that opened up, especially for me - just like parking the car and finding a seat, I next found myself in front of President Uchtdorf and his beautiful wife Harriet. 

I was able to shake their hands and in a rare moment President Uchtdorf paused long enough for me to get the words out that I listen to his talk on patience daily and that I was compelled to let him know I’ve not eaten my marshmallow yet (a reference to the main point of his April 2010 address). He chuckled and embraced me with a very warm and strong hug that my soul needed.
I will never forget this night, or the gratitude I feel in my heart. Despite the challenges, I’m so blessed to be in the military world. 

It has all been worth it, simply to hear my fellow military families and service members singing the way they did tonight. God bless you (us) all.