This morning I woke with a mixed heart. I had either had a dream or was praying – I’m not sure, but it involved one of my friends who is dying. I actually have more than one friend who, according to regular expectations in life, should not have that word a part of their vocabulary at their ages, so my thoughts are busy.
It’s weird to contemplate and to watch and to live life with people who might not have many days left. They are solid in their faith in the One who is the Author of life, who has numbered our days, whose love and strength and presence and power rule in the midst of every and all circumstance(s). Yet it’s a struggle to know where to put all the emotion that comes with hope and suffering and sickness.
Because it’s all there.
So we travel the road together. And the last few weeks have made me so grateful for the way these friends have lived their lives – before and after a cruddy diagnosis. And it hit home yet again the importance of being hydrated BEFORE hitting the incline of life’s mountains.
Such a hydration happened this summer when Jen, one of my friends on this tough road, asked me and others who meet together on a weekly basis to study Scripture – “Will y’all contemplate heaven with me?” Of course we will. And – I’m grateful to Randy Alcorn for contemplating heaven and sharing what he learned through In Light of Eternity. And we did. The sickness was there, but not quite as mountain-y as it is today.
And it has helped Jen and all her fellow travelers to be able to continue the climb – hurting but ascending. I can say the same about Greg, and Jeannie and sweet Lauren & her daughter Samantha. Hope keeps everyone going – not in some Pollyanna sort of way, but in a reality sort of way – because of who HOPE is.
Okay – so today I woke up with that.
Not every day, but today I was sad.
I am sad.
The tears just sit, perched, threatening to fall at passing thoughts.
So, I decided to head to the pool for a swim. And, as Florence (one of the older ladies who is often nice to share her lane) says, exercise “to get the poison out.” My kids sort of make fun of me for where I swim. It’s a terrific pool at one of the local hospital’s rehab center. Suffice it to say, I’m few years younger than most of the clientele.
Since my mind was so filled with thoughts, I forgot to bring a towel.
Most fitness centers provide towels, But here, there’s a new rule – a 1-towel rule. Patrons must have been using too many of the center’s towels. (Being that the towels are about the size of a postage stamp, I understand why!) So they clamped down and decided to only provide one towel per customer.
Realizing I had forgotten my towel and knowing that I am for sure showering after my swim, I decided to ask the check-in gal if I could just this once have an extra towel. After she happily sent the elderly lady in front of me on her way, she turned to me.
“What can I do for you?”
“Well,” I said, handing her my membership card to be swiped, “I don’t need a locker, but I do need a towel.”
Dressed in her pirate outfit for Halloween, she took my card, eyed me a bit and handed me a towel off the top of her stack.
“And,” I venture sheepishly, feeling a bit like George Kastanza standing in front of the Soup Nazi, “… is there any way I can have an extra towel. I forgot mine. I never do, but I forgot it today.”
She smiled at me and sing-songed, “Absolutely NOT. There is only ONE towel per member.” She cocked her head, raised her eyebrow for good measure, then addressed the man coming in the door behind me with an equally syrup-y, “Well helloooo.”
I had no response.
I took the tiny towel and wondered how in the world I would be able to swim, shower and dry off with a rag.
I walked away feeling the sting of her words, making my way to the pool to swim. I wanted to run back and yell at her – GIVE ME AN EXTRA TOWEL, LADY! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY LIFE. I JUST NEED A TOWEL. CHECK MY ACCOUNT. I’M NOT A HABITUAL TOWEL FORGETTER. JUST THIS ONCE PLEASE BE NICE TO ME. I NEED NICE. MY FRIENDS ARE DYING!!!
I cried some more while I swam.
And I waged war with my thoughts as I forced them off myself. I know one can drown in thoughts glued on self. And I was moved to consider #hydratefortheholidays.
In the same way we’ve “hydrated” over the last several months post diagnosis with my friends, I decided to use this as an opportunity to practice dealing with unnecessary rudeness – an issue that will absolutely hit us during the holiday season. It comes in the form of honking, traffic, nabbing parking spaces, curt sales people, grumpy customers, lines, lines and more lines. And if we forget to notice one small detail in the equation – we might be tempted to let it get the best of us. And words we don’t mean to say just might come out of our mouths.
The detail: people.
I wanted to yell at the towel police, “I’M A PERSON. JUST A PERSON – AND THERE’S MORE GOING ON INSIDE THAN WHAT YOU SEE ON THE OUTSIDE.”
So, as my laps built one upon the other, my thoughts made headway, too.
The towel gal is a person. Who knows how many people have griped at her over the new rule. She might have bristled, readying herself for backlash, expecting me to blast her like countless others. She’s a person. A person doing her job.
Then I thought about the towel. Beyond its small size, the one she handed me was especially rough, like sandpaper. Which at first glance, made me even more frustrated. I wanted to stomp back and say, “If I only get one – AT LEAST LET IT BE A SOFT TOWEL!” – until I started to think about the person behind me. Who knows what’s going on in his life. Maybe HE might need the soft more than me.
And with my thoughts loosening themselves from me – and the sting of what felt like a rude response fading – I actually started to breathe.
And I urged myself to remember – in every situation, especially those laced with unnecessary rudeness, there are people, just people, on the other side. People who are likely dealing with tough situations. So regardless of what they hand me, return to them the soft towel and maybe a smile.
Such action soothes all the souls involved.
I guess I’m grateful for that small rough towel for helping me #hyrdratefortheholidays. I’m also grateful for the exercise that helped me get my thoughts in order. I’m pretty sure that’s another hydration tip – exercise, but only if the exercise isn’t self-obsessing over trying to be a certain size.
Thanks for walking the road for me.