unearthing our stories

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I must confess I am a bit of a personality test junkie.

I can tell you my four letters for the Myers-Briggs, my number

on the Enneagram or what type of animal best represents me.

I remember slapping down $5 as a pre-teen to have my handwriting

analyzed at a shopping mall kiosk.

I held the results incredulously and exclaimed to my

father, my surprise at how the typed paragraph

described me perfectly.

My father simultaneously shook his head and grinned

while asking me why I was shocked when the

letters spelled more than my name.

Yet I am always shocked.

For some reason, I have always wanted further

undeniable proof of “who I am” painted boldly

on a sky-high blimp.

Writing a piece of my life story last week was illuminating.

I hadn’t envisioned 5 days of full of words.

As silly as it may sound, I was caught off guard that there

were some interesting portions of my life.

I have spent much of my life choosing modesty at all costs.

I have pressed down areas of my life which were a big deal

and acted if they were not in the least.

During my second year at Mayo, I called a college classmate

and friend.

She had banked on attending Mayo and I felt badly

that I was accepted instead of her and this influenced our conversation.

We took turns sharing our P.T. school experiences and

at every turn of our dialogue, I downplayed Mayo.

She on the other hand glowed about her program.

I hung up the phone and I felt like someone had thrown

a medicine ball straight into my midsection.

I definitely had struggles at Mayo but bottom line,

it was an amazing medical center.

Over the course of a half an hour, I had devalued

myself and my surroundings because I wanted

to make someone else feel comfortable.

She had moved on and was settled into her place,

I had not.

I was tiptoeing when I should have been pressing

the soles of my feet firmly in my shoes.

The past week taught me the importance of

sharing our stories.

I encourage you to whisper them when sitting across a

table or proclaim them while leaning

deeply into a worn-out sofa.

Even when you fear the details are plain and mundane,

I assure you they are not.

Our stories help us be known by others

and to learn about ourselves.

Bits and pieces of our life story intertwine us

in ways deeper than discussing weather patterns.

When Moses died, Joshua was chosen to lead the Israelites and

God tells him,

 “I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on–“

How would our lives change if we believed every square inch of land

we stepped on was ours to inhabit?

Would we see the people who cross into our plot of land as divine

opportunities?

Would we cease believing someone else was better suited for the

land than we are?

Our stories reveal we aren’t marking a place for someone else.

We stand shoulder to shoulder in prescribed measurements

of earth, let’s open our mouths and repeat our stories.

 

knocking on the door of a work of heart

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The final day of April dumped 12 inches of snow leading up to

graduation from physical therapy school.

The end of July found us scurrying for cover against golf ball-sized

hailstones.

Carl and I were not sad to leave behind the rigors of graduate school

or extreme weather seasons, but we dreaded saying goodbye

to two of my classmates who had met and married during our 2 years

in Rochester.

Brennan and Ellen, had become “our” couple and it seemed

implausible that we would ever find this type of connection again.

Carl gently pressed the accelerator and I found it impossible to

end my backward gaze and face the road before us.

Shards of my heart would always inhabit the land of 10,000 Lakes.

We inked a star on our paper map and headed to Portland, Oregon

as neither of us could find work in our original destination of Seattle.

I began work at a center for medically fragile children and Carl searched

for a job in medical technology.

Pediatrics comprised the first 5 years of my practice

and was my sweet spot.

Over the next 15 years, two daughters were born and hundreds

of patients were treated.

As varied as the settings and schedule I worked, my caseload

was just as diverse.

I worked in orthopedics, oncology, burn units, spinal cord

and brain injury rehabilitation.

I felt the fragility and intensity of life working Level 1 trauma

and the pulsing joy of cardiac patients with patched up tickers.

Sometime around year 10, I began to struggle getting patients out of bed,

not physically but emotionally.

I couldn’t bear being the one who would make them hurt to hasten their healing.

I wanted to lean in close and chat with the bed ridden.

I wanted to comfort the families and perhaps drop off a casserole.

I never possessed the hard-core personality of most physical therapists

and I couldn’t fake it any longer.

Even though I wanted to hand in my gait belt,

I knew there was a reason I became a physical therapist.

God had given me the necessary aptitude, it wasn’t a fluke.

During bouts of discouragement, I would reflect on the

days prior to graduate school.

I witnessed unimaginable mercy and favor

by the hands of the Mayo board.

I had failed the second term of college physics

(a graduate school requirement), hoped to

never let Mayo be the wiser by

attempting to “fix-it” during the

summer but I belly-flopped again.

I thought about how often God whispered the same sentiment

as the generous people at Mayo said,

“We know who we picked.
We picked you and we still want you.”

Weighty words of grace reached into the depths of my failure

and chose me.

2003 opened with the revelation of adding another child to our family.

Oh he was a feisty one and it was a challenging pregnancy.

Barely through the first trimester, I developed painful sciatica and could not

lift more than ten pounds.

The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and runs the

full extent of the leg.

When it is irritated or compressed, it becomes angry.

The nerve fires back by signalling pain, numbness and even

disruption of movement.

Sciatica is the painful loss of control.

My manager was polar opposite to those before her or my Mayo

angels, she informed me over the phone that I “was of no use to her

if I couldn’t lift patients.”

The response stung in the moment  but faded to relief.

I allowed my wee boy full range of my body until he arrived

with great joy in late September.

The next 5-6 years were a compressed period of losses and heartache.

This would be the second stripping away period in my life related less to my

identity but exposed the  faulty substance of my faith.

I had sciatica of the heart.

I felt mismatched in my career and had no tangible

control over the unending and crushing

circumstances of my life.

I frequently tidy our home when I am stressed.

If I can’t order my world, I can at least bring peace

to my surroundings.

On such a day, I uncovered old work files and casually

shuffled  through a decade worth of performance evaluations.

Without exception whether comments from colleagues or bosses,

the highest marks were not in my abilities as a clinician but

as a writer.

I could no longer ignore the words.

It was time to pay attention.

I had dropped my bookmark  and perhaps it had landed

safe and securely anchored in a life boat of words.

**********

To be continued…

This is the third post in a series titled A Work of Heart History.

You can read the other posts here and here.