Yesterday marks our Second Crashiversary…the day Gordon and I laid strapped to boards wearing c-collars, side by side in the trauma bay.
When you have an awesome paramedic who realizes you need to laugh to stop yourself from crying, she offers to take a picture of you strapped to a board.
Two years….731 days…17,544 hours…since the moment I lay staring up at the hospital ceiling and asked Gordon “How are you doing babe?”….and he replied “The nurses took my pants? Did they take your pants?”…and we giggled like two lunatics.
Laugh though we did, that is how long it has been since things changed in a very drastic way. And in the last 2 years the universe has persisted with this insane trial by fire. As soon as we conquer one challenge it throws another at us. As soon as we accept new limits, you can almost feel the universe rubbing its hands with glee, contemplating what other abilities to steal away.
Best analogy I can think of is for you to imagine the worst session at the gym...with that trainer you paid to torture you. Imagine you are running on the treadmill and you feel yourself approaching the limit where your heart is about to burst from your chest, your lungs have seized up, your legs are cramping, your brain is screaming “Good God why are we paying someone to do this to us!!". And in that very exact moment that crazy ass trainer reaches over and increases the incline and the speed on the treadmill….and just for kicks demands you stop running and hop on one leg instead. True story.
"Humor is something that thrives between man's aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth. "
- Victor Borge
So here we are 2 years later, both hopping uphill, one legged on a treadmill running at full speed. Honestly, though we both look a hot mess, together we are keeping up with that sadistic trainer known as the universe. I’m proud of it; this thing the two of us have that allows us to keep on keeping on.
In healthcare, we talk about this concept of “resiliency”. I always thought it was a term that applied to both Gordon and myself. I would proudly say “We are resilient people” …. that is until I went and looked up the definition.
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences. – American Psychological Association
A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road.
-Henry Ward Beecher
As Carmela would say.... "Fool Please!!!" Clearly I have been deluding myself. We aren’t resilient. Neither one of us is elastic enough to “spring or bounce back into shape”. Granted, we have stretched and given and accepted our new shapes, but neither one of us is literally or figuratively in the same shape that we were in 731 days ago (Round is a shape right?).
So I’ve been looking for a new word to describe this thing. A new word that describes what we do. That way of being that allows us to stretch but not break. What is this “way” of being that I’m talking about? Well, I’m talking about our outlook…our ability to find humor in the middle of all of this. We laugh…all the time…at things most people wouldn’t find hysterical. But we do it…and it is a gift that keeps on giving.
"If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide."
- Mahatma Gandhi
The last week has been hellish for us. It started out well enough. Everything was on the upswing, we could see the possibilities coming our ways. Then in the span of 7 days it all went to royal fetid monkey kaka.
On the eve of Gordon’s first day of his 1 year intensive Game Art and Design School Program, the sadistic trainer made an appearance again. That Prima Donna bulging disk in his lower back felt it needed a more prominent role in the comedy drama known as our life. Pain, excruciating pain like I’ve never seen before. Nights of us both spent awake trying to find a way to make him comfortable…days of sheer exhaustion and unbelievable fatigue.
"Sometimes in the most tragic situation, something just profoundly funny happens."
- David Hyde Pierce
Now…. the story could end there, and that could be what we chose to focus on. But not our family. No way. One night, we had tried absolutely everything short of hitting Gord over the head with a hammer to make the pain go away. It was about 04:00 in the morning. Finally, there was a moment of miracle and we got him situated so he could fall asleep. As he is drifting off Ms. Carmela Juanita hops on top of him and drapes across his naked chest and looks lovingly into his eyes. Relieved he is comfortable I go to get some shut eye of my own.
No more than 30 seconds later I hear the most creative cussing from Gordon. Young mistress Carmela had decided she would express her anal glands all over his chest and then drag her foul fishy bottom across his chest as she climbed off him. We died…our neighbors must have thought we were nuts…but we clearly didn't care. In that moment we chose to see how ridiculous the situation was instead of focus on anger and frustration. We were both gasping for breath, making ridiculous puns about Carmela’s “Hole-istic Therapy” and “Special Fish Oil Medicine” ….coz that is what we do.
And it didn’t end there. Gordon went through the stress of having to defer starting his program, and days of us tinkering with his medication to get his pain under control. And on the third day we breathed a sigh of relief and though…ok…. we have a plan…. we can move on.
So we decide to go ahead with the tendon release surgery to my left hand that was booked months ago for the following day. Procedure went splendidly and Gordon picks me up from the hospital. We are chatting away and I realize he is having trouble moving his left leg. Seriously!!! Seriously!!! Shit Shit McShitty Shit!!!! We gotta go to war with that stupid trainer again.
So off to the docs and the emergency room we go. When my love, Sir Birchmore (who married a nurse despite his intense and irrational health-care-professional-phobia), gets nervous, his sense of humor is at the forefront; so, every healthcare professional he encounters is subjected to his off-colour humor.
At the triage desk I watch and shake my head when in response to the nurse's inquiry about his previous medical history he lists his various ailments and then tacks on two more..... he claims to have 2 rare conditions...being a “Fatty” and a “Pussy”. The nickname “Fatty Pussy” is born that night.
We don’t care if we are being inappropriate…dammit we are hopping one legged up hill at full speed together…we don’t care if we do it buck nekkid screaming profanities…as long as we keep up.
Eight hours later, we learn the herniated disk is the culprit and he will need spine surgery sooner rather than later. The pain medications make him nauseous...he very publicly gets over his fear of vomiting….not once, not twice, but three times….I am beyond proud of him….we high five each other in the ER waiting room and yell “Team Birchmore”. We eventually get home and pass out, bodies and minds exhausted.
We walk in through the front door and find out Fred and Carmela had a "recycling party" in our absence. There are containers strewn all over the house. Freddy offers his dad his most precious find. There is some profanity...but it dissolves into laughter, because that is what we do.
The next morning, we wake up and we check on ourselves. Bertha (my head injury) is in the house and I’m walking like a drunkard and substituting words; my hand is on fire because I forgot to take pain meds; his pain is within a tolerable range. But none of these things are gonna stop “TEAM BIRCHMORE” from getting up, getting showered, walking the dogs and getting our McDonalds Coffee!
Weeeeeelllll……that is until we notice Fred staring at us woefully and gesturing to his penis going “Look Mahmah Lady and Daddy Manz!”….”Look at dhis!”….”Why is my bathing suit region dripping pus”. Sweet mother of all that is holy help us now…..that sadistic trainer upped the incline again. So we load up the kids into the car and off to the vet we go. Gordon walking with a very pronounced painful limp….me staggering, weaving and guarding my left hand….Carmela as usual without her marbles….and poor Freddy of the pustulant bathing suit region.
Long story short we left the vet with strict instructions to flush Fred’s prepuce with an antibacterial solution twice daily. We get in the car and die of laughter…. because there is hell-no-way Gordon can wrestle with pus crotch McGee, while I flush out his bits one handed.
We spend the whole ride home trying to figure out creative ways to do this. We laugh uncontrollably at some of the sentences that come out of our mouths. Freddy sits patiently in the back seat clueless as to what is coming his way. We get home…and after all that planning and strategizing….with Carmela looking on with concern, young Master Frederick decides to flip on his back, present his bathing suit region and happily let me flush it on my own….one handed. I don’t know if I should be impressed by him, or concerned by this. Either way, it becomes another reason to spend 5 minutes dying of laughter.
No dignity at all
Why am I telling you this? Because these moments of humor, these moments of hilarity, these moments when we appreciate the comedy of our situation…. these are the things that keep us keeping on. These are the things that allow us to keep on that crazy ass treadmill rather that flat on our faces on the ground beside it.
Are things all dandy and rosy? Absolutely not! Delores (my Depression), is best friends with that bitch Bertha and the two try to take over constantly. Their whispers of negativity, and futility are there lurking in the back of my mind.
"Humor is the weapon of unarmed people: it helps people who are oppressed to smile at the situation that pains them."
- Simon Wiesenthal
Delores that idiot is so sure I can’t keep up on that treadmill….that I am no longer as good as I used to be…..she likes to remind me the research says my head injury is well past its "heal by date"...and that after 2 years, Bertha and the various deficits that tag along with her are no longer renters I can evict...instead they now own some rather prime real estate in my brain...and they are lowering property value....they leave their busted up furniture on the front lawn....they are the couple that get into beer fueled arguments every night...the kind of fights that inevitably end in one of them setting the other ones clothes on fire on the front lawn....or weeping and loud drunken declarations of love.
She is very fond of telling me that I will never get better….that I will never be "more" than I am right now...that I will never be able to do my Masters or PhD…..that Travel Photography is forever gone from my life….and worse she taunts me with the knowledge that I have lost the dream of little Viking Ginger Afro interracial Birchmore babies. She loves to poke and prod at me "what if the hospital can’t accommodate my new limits and find a use for me….what am I going to be then?" She loves to scream “You will be nothing…you are worth nothing…you will never be better…this will never stop…you must have done something horrible to deserve all this”, and on and on and on it goes. I admit...sometimes it is difficult to not believe these whispers and buckle under their weight.
But then humor comes to the rescue. I am lying in bed being dragged down by Delores…and Carmela decides she can not go to sleep unless her precious tiny Chuckit ball is safe…so she decides her new favorite hiding place is in the crack of my ass…Fred stomps across the bed, drops his rancid drool drenched "Bruce dah shark" on me and gives me his "Lets make out mahmah" look; followed very quickly by his tongue swiping across my entire face...Gordon walks into the room wielding what he calls my "emergency medicine"; a bar of Cadbury's chocolate he had stashed in the freezer...and I laugh and realize…no matter what, I will always have an ass that has amazing Chuckit ball protection powers, to Freddy I make the best kissy-face, and I have a wonderful, fantastic miracle of a husband who will always be there for me....and frankly...my little crazy family rocks.
After 2 battle weary years, I am realizing we are not resilient….it isn’t possible to be resilient in this situation. There is no way life can pull, yank, stretch and tear at a person…and for that person to bounce back like an elastic. That isn’t how humans function. We cope with those challenges and these experiences shape us for the future. We don’t come out of the experience “the same”. That is a fallacy. We come out of it changed…. sometimes for the better…. sometimes for the worse.
So, what should we call this if it isn’t resilience. Ok…before I reveal the word I’d like to use…. I will openly admit that I was strongly influenced by my love of our 2 dogs. I believe that the best word to describe this way of being that has kept our family afloat is….
obstinately determined; willful or tenacious
persistent in effort; stubbornly tenacious
(of a person or their efforts) persisting tirelessly.
So there you have it….my prescription for anyone on their own uphill, fast paced, hopping journey. You should be dogged….dogged in your commitment to be honest about the pain & challenges you face (mentally and physically)….dogged in your commitment to find and appreciate the small moments of joy and good…..dogged in your commitment to revel in the free comedic fodder... and dogged in using all of these as survival skills.
In honor of this family tradition of "humor" and “doggedness” I share with you this image that was taken yesterday….Gordon had a diagnostic nerve block done ….and much like 2 years ago...the nurses took his pants.