Wednesday I went to my Mom’s to get her grocery list. On it was a product most women are familiar with that helps with pain when you have a certain kind of infection it’s called AZO. About six weeks ago she needed this same medication and was complaining of symptoms. I got a telehealth appointment for her and she was started on an antibiotic.
Two days later when I asked how she was feeling she looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m fine,” she says. I quiz her on symptoms and again she insists she’s fine. When I explain she’s being treated for an infection, which is why she has a new medication in her pill box, she looks shocked. “Well I’m fine but if you say so.”
In light of all this, when she asks me to get the AZO this week, I quiz her on symptoms and she insists she’s fine again. She says she just wants to have some of it, “on hand”. Because I know a lot of women feel the same way I decide to accept this at face value.
Two days later when I stop to check on her, she’s asking if I can get her more and I see she’s taken the whole box. Now I know something is up. I quiz her on symptoms and she says, “I might have an infection.” I get her started on an antibiotic right away. The next day I stop to see her.
“How are you feeling Mom?”
“Yesterday you said you had….” (and I describe the symptoms).
“I’m fine,” she says shrugging her shoulders.
I check her pill box and she’s taken what she needs to so I say, “Please keep drinking water and your cranberry juice.”
“Mom, I just need you to do this.”
She looks exasperated with me. I give her an air kiss and leave.
In the car I want to beat my head against the steering wheel except that the whole team of people trying to figure out how to save the vision in left eye would be a little upset. Unfortunately, the brake on my immune system, which has been sent into overdrive by virus after virus this winter, has not figured out how to shut itself off. This has caused something called orbital inflammation syndrome and trust me you don’t want this.
It’s like having a hot poker stuck in your eye every day—which after a conversation with my Mom sometimes seems like an attractive option, because maybe my brain would hurt less. This sounds incredibly dramatic because some days it feels that way.
I’d like to tell you I’m doing an amazing job navigating all this—my Mom’s health and my own, but I don’t feel that way. Most days I feel like I’m unraveling. Living through a pandemic doesn’t help any of this. All the normal things that might help alleviate some of the stress aren’t readily available. Not a single penny I’ve found has done much to inspire me either. The bottom line is that this is a hard season in my life and there’s no getting around it. In my prayer time I keep asking God what He’s trying to show me? When life feels like a recursive loop there has to be something I’m supposed to see.
It’s been weeks now and finally something lit up. I was cleaning the house with Chase and he saw me stop for a minute to close my eyes. He asked if I was okay. He’s been a witness to all this and I could hear the concern in his voice. My motherly instincts kicked in and I said, “I’m fine Chase.” As it rolled off my tongue my Mother’s voice echoed in my head.
I + Am + Fine =’s don’t worry, which I don’t want him to do. However, in my Mom’s case it’s a phrase she uses because she literally can’t think beyond the moment. Her short-term memory has been so annihilated by dementia she doesn’t have the capacity to think past what’s right in front of her. It’s heartbreaking to watch and yet there are days I envy it.
My Mom is fine because she can’t think beyond the moment and I’m not fine because I can. This is what God wants me to see. My I AM narrative is all wrong. My current narrative has me so tied up thinking about what’s happened and might happen, that I get lost in the moment. You see, whatever follows your I AM statements is what you internalize. Try it, say I’m so tired, or I’m so fat, or I’m so worried and you know what—you will feel like all of these things.
I’m convinced this is why God keeps putting me in situations where my Mom thinks everything is fine when it’s clearly not. I wouldn’t imagine He’d do this to minimize my struggle, but I believe He might do it to help me change my perspective.
Late in the day when my eye feels like it’s going to explode, I have a choice. I can say I’m losing the battle or I can say I’m looking up and I see the sky. There are other “I am” truths I could embrace. I am healing. I am brave. I am resourceful. I am resilient. I am surviving.
Yes, some of these seem trite but what they all have in common is a vertical integration with God. They take my focus off the horizontal line of the cross which shows where I’ve been and where I’m going, and put my thoughts on the vertical line which demonstrates what my life is connected to—the Spirit of God—the great “I Am”.
As hard as it is to witness, this is what my sweet Mama’s life demonstrates over and over. All we truly have is the moment we’re in, and in that moment if you’re breathing YOU ARE FINE.