Sunday, May 2, 2010
Whiney Reflections: A Pit Stop
Have you read “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper? After confronting skeptics, overcoming self-doubt, and a long, hard journey, the Little Engine successfully pulls the train cars over the mountain to the good little boys and girls on the other side, who, thanks to his perseverance, will have toys to play with and good food to eat. The story concludes, “And the Little Blue Engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. ‘I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could...’”
Next month, John finishes up his residency. Sort of. I mean, he still has four more years of training, but officially, the residency portion will be complete. Someone asked me today how long his schooling and training will take him, starting with high school graduation. Funny, but I’d never added it up before: 16 years (not including the two years he worked before starting med school).
When we got engaged and people heard John wanted to be a doctor (we were both still in the process of finishing up our undergraduate degrees) a frequent comment was, “You know, you have a long road ahead of you.” At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, emotionally or physically. I had no idea that meant 16 years.
So far, its been 12. People were right: the road has been long. Most of the time I haven’t complained. The medical labyrinth of school, training, fees, debt, exams, travelling (or staying home while someone else does the travelling), sleep deprivation, and lonely times is a path we chose for ourselves, hoping it would be worth it in the end. I’ve worked hard to both survive and even find joy in the journey. I’ve kept my eye on the prize, and focused on my blessings. I’ve mostly succeeded. Until now.
The past four months have been especially grueling. It has been intense and exhausting and downright horrible. I’ll spare you the details; I’m really not hosting a pity party – just sharing my thoughts as I struggle to understand them. We all have our trials and coping mechanisms. Suffice it to say, lately, I think I’ve reached far closer to the end of my limits than in the past – which brings me back to our Blue Engine Friend.
I’ve always loved the message of the story – persevere to the end, no matter how hard the journey, and you WILL make it, and will bless the lives of so many people along the way! I’ve desired and happily anticipated the sense of accomplishment the Engine exhibits as it puffs happily home, “I thought I could…”
So, here I am – admittedly not at the end, but I told myself it would be okay, and I could consider it a pretty great “rest stop” if I could just make it to April 29, when John’s schedule would change drastically and things would get better. They have. We’ve seen John. Today he folded laundry. Yesterday he cheered the girls at their soccer games. On Friday we barbequed as a family in the backyard. Its been great. But I don’t feel like the Little Engine. I feel horrible.
My stomach aches and I feel nauseated. I’m soooo tired. I am exceedingly emotional and I’m snappy. I am not chugging down the mountain, pleased with my milestone. Rather, I’m looking for a cave, and sobbing because I can’t find it fast enough. What’s wrong with me? (no - I'm NOT pregnant). I am supposed to be a happy blue train!
This is the part where I tell you my epiphany and you are impressed with my insight.
(Insert wisdom here).
Maybe it’ll be better once residency actually ends next month, or maybe it’ll be better once he finally finishes all his training, or maybe – I don’t finish the race well. I set out strong, and work and sweat, and grind my teeth through all kinds of CRAP – and then quit. That’s my fear. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Is it possible that I get just to the edge of the top of the mountain, see the waiting boys and girls at the end, and then lie down? Am I – gasp – a quitter? Surely the Little Engine chugged the last ¼ mile. Why can’t I?
A friend today suggested that she thinks Heavenly Father supports and compensates for when we truly can’t walk it alone – and then sets us down to walk alongside us once we are ready again. Um, hello – do I look ready?? (I’ll answer that, just in case you’re not sure – NO).
…but I think she might be right. I’ve had the strength when it felt like it all depended on me. And now, I have a partner again (at least sometimes, anyway) and the Lord is graciously allowing us relearn to collaborate, parent, communicate, and live together. He’s still there, but expects us now to reclaim our strength as a team. Don’t get me wrong – I know we still need, and can rely on, the hand of the Lord in our lives – but he gave us each other for a reason, and he’s now giving me the “space” now to utilize that gift.
Hmmm…gotta think that one over. I’d still rather bury my head in a dark hole than face the future right now, no matter how brightly it might be shining. Because the truth of the matter is that I still have to walk by faith, and faith is hard. Faith that it’ll get better, that this road we’ve chosen is worth it, and that I have the strength to complete the journey. I’m not always sure about any of that, especially now when I’m so - …tired. I’m surrounded by women facing far greater struggles than I. I admire and love women who serve amidst trial and fatigue. Why can’t I?
I’m not the Little Engine. I’m just me, doing the best I can – and sometimes, that’s not so very good. I can “should” on myself all day long about how I should be and should feel, but the reality is that sometimes, it’s just plain hard, and I’m not as strong as I’d like (insert growl here). I guess I’m at a rest area after all – and who likes rest stops? Seriously? No matter how clean and fresh the toilets appear, they’re just somewhere to stretch our legs, make sure we’re on the right track, assess and meet everyone’s personal needs – and then hit the road again, full speed ahead.
Will you think I’m a whiner if I tell you that today I think I hate this road?
Thanks, I appreciate that. I’ll be better tomorrow.