Path And Purpose
This time last year, I was healthier than I have probably ever been. I was eating right and exercising better than ever. I was assured in my path and where I was headed. I knew I was on the right track. I could feel it in my bones. For family and business. I had a plan laid out. And then it just got shot to oblivion and threw me for a loop for the next eleven months.
At the end of last July, I switched from running on a treadmill to a gravel path and earned myself THE most painful side shin splints on both legs from ankle to knee. They (and their inflammation) stayed with me for the next three weeks. I gimped along and avoided walking. Anywhere. By the time they left me, I was hit with all of the food allergies that were eliminated through acupressure treatments almost nine years ago. And asthma, which I’ve never had. And unexplained low grade fevers. And fatigue that left me horizontal so much of the time, internally pounding my fists that I didn’t have the energy to play with my kids. Wondering, how on earth could I make an eight and ten year old with endless amounts of energy understand that it wasn’t them, it was me. What good was it being a stay-at-home mom, running my photography business and shooting only the stories that I wanted to tell for families and weddings if I couldn’t actively participate? What happened to my path that I KNEW was the right one for me just a couple months prior?
Visits with multiple specialists ensued, yet my primary care dr, ENT, pulmonologist and infectious disease dr through all the X-rays, echocardiograms, MRIs, CT scans and blood pulls (I’m pretty sure one visit drew near half a gallon from me in small plastic vials and large glass bottles. I teased the phlebotomist that for taking so much blood, there better be some great cookies and juice waiting for me.) So many things were ruled out, yet no root cause was uncovered. I never went for more than 3-4 days without a fever. During a wedding I shot in the fall, my lighting assistant was shoving an inhaler in my face every two hours and pointing out the wheezing I was trying to ignore. And somewhere in there, I got the H-flu and prescribed strong antibiotics (they got switched around a few times after realizing a very bad reaction indicated I was suddenly allergic to penicillin) that caused horrible leg cramps for nearly two months.
February came (and made me shiver. earworm, anyone?) and I hydroplaned on a small road and almost totaled my minivan, rear-ending the car in front of us and setting off my air bag. With my kids in the middle row. We all got a bit of whip lash and problems in our midbacks from our seat belts doing their jobs. FYI – if you need an air bag replacement, it takes a good three weeks to get a new one ordered, installed and put through numerous safety checks to ensure it will pass manufacturer specs. Two days after I got the minivan back, I hit a deer that ran out in front of us after dark on that same small road just another mile down. It cracked my grill, but ran off and wasn’t seen by the side of the road on the following days. And in that next week, I fell on our rock hard kitchen counter pulling blinds off the windows over the sink, which earned me three compression fractures in the middle of my spine and what now appears to be the loss of half an inch. When you’re only 5 foot 3, that’s big.
Easter started the longest lapse of no fevers. Or fatigue. I felt normal and was so immensely thankful. But the fevers and fatigue returned before Mother’s Day weekend got off to a good start. It was over the next month that my naturopath and I were able to determine that my fevers and fatigue were triggered by foods. Specific foods. And as I tested them when I was feeling good, I would very quickly realize that yes, I was having an immediate response to that food and no, I was not as invincible as I have always liked to think (closer friends/family know I’m no poster child for safety when it comes to using power tools).
Allergies, in themselves, are rather silly. Itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezes and hives are all inappropriate responses to benign substances like pollen or peanuts. Yet they can horribly affect one person and not another. It seems that when I eat certain things now, my body ups its white blood cell count, starts a fever and wears me out. My mom always said I was special.
Over this past month, I have been better about avoiding certain foods while simultaneously eating healthier and beginning to exercise again. I’m so thrilled that I have more days than not where I have the energy to do what I want. I’m ecstatic I haven’t needed to take asthma meds for over three months. And that other medications won’t be necessary, so much as self control and diligence in staying away from the foods that wreak havoc in my body.
Yet, this past year has made me question my path. Did I really know what I was doing and where I was going? Was this past year just a hiccup in that overall plan? Or was I flat out wrong? I don’t know. And I’m okay with that. Now.
Over this past year, so many things have changed me. I’ve worked hard at letting go. Letting go of control (being an only child and majorly OCD, giving that up is no easy task). Letting go of past hurts and resentments. Not jumping into a fit of anger out of frustration. Going with the flow and standing back a little as I analyze a little more to find what is unique and different and to be celebrated.
While I have been slowly letting go of so many things and acknowledging that I may have no clue about my future path, I most surely know my purpose. Something I have never been sure of in the past. But now I do. More surely than anything else. My purpose here is to love. My family. My friends. The strangers who end up becoming my friends after being in front of my camera for a few hours or a day. And even, for the punk that cuts me off and makes my side passenger yell out “Idiot!” and my kids ask if that driver was paying attention and if I think s/he should get a ticket. Because, most people, on most days, are doing the best they can.
This purpose is reconfirmed for me almost daily, now that my eyes are a little more open. In the moments where my arm is wrapped around my girl child as she snuggles in closer to me or when my boy child pops a special wink at me while trying hard to keep the other eye open. At the end of Kung Fu Panda 2 when Po realizes his real Mom really did love him. When Tea Leone’ performs her “I choose us” scene in the Family Man. Or the scene at the end of Love Actually when everybody is hugging in the airport as the song “Love Is All You Need” plays on repeat and makes me cry. All of these scenes get me. Every time.
So now, I am focusing less on my path. Trusting it will unfold as it should. I’m embracing a newly restored health that is slowly being rebuilt and cherishing these days in Minnesota with my inlaws. I’m pulling my kids a little closer and squeezing them a little longer. And I’m sitting back, enjoying watching them as individuals who are finding their own way through this life. I’m praying for the patience and guidance that helps me to remember to act and speak in love. And to not miss any opportunities to let my loved ones know just how much I love them.
And I’m also looking for opportunities to tell the stories of love for others. Because I have never had a job I loved so dearly or enjoyed so much. That puts a smile on my face and contentment inside me like being a photographer and being there to capture the moments where families and couples melt into each other, fits of giggles abound, and safety is felt. I am soooo looking forward to what the rest of this year will bring.