Progress, Not Perfection

imageICU-February 20(isn-March 3rd (ish)

imageAt home-sometime around April

I am back in the hospital for my final round of Chemo. That’s a miraculous gift, if you ask me. I believe that with all my heart and am grateful. GOd saved my life twice ( that I am aware of…) in the past 4 months. The first time, He provided friends to point out that the symptoms I was whining about might require a Hematologist (at the time, I was uneducated on these terms and didn’t realize that there is very little difference between a Hematologist and an ONCOLOGIST-probably a good thing). I made it to the hospital in the nick of time. The second time was when I was in ICU recovering from bowel ischemia. Let’s just say that there were some highly educated and seasoned medical people who were holding their breath. It didn’t look promising for me. So, as I am sitting in this particular hospital room tonight (I can count at least 10 different rooms I have spent time in at this hospital in the past 4 months), I am reflecting on how far I have come.  The picture from ICU speaks for itself. I look at it regularly, especially when I am lamenting the slow rate at which I am getting back to “normal.” As you can see above, even in April i was still bald. If you could see the rest of my body you would also see that was very thin, frail, bruised, flakey and old-looking. And as of tonight, I still have a long way to go. It was a discouraging weekend  for me and my body. Putting summer clothes on this foreign body was strange and a little depressing. Eating and not exercising and mostly lying around don’t produce a good “summer look”. Either do bruises and scars from periods of having low platelets. I was being pretty hard on myself and decided I needed to do some reading to gain some perspective on the matter. I picked up a book and  almost immediately came upon an underlined AND highlighted paragraph reminding me that my goal for a successful life is about celebrating “PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.”

What does that mean for me? It means that when it comes to Leukemia, instead of mourning that I am not where I want to be today, I can reflect back and rejoice that I am not where I was 4 months ago. Here are the ways in which I have “progressed”: I no longer need a tube down my throat to breath for me. I no longer need a feeding bag to provide me with “food”. I no longer require TWO nurses to help me take a shower. I no longer have to cling to someone’s arm or use a walker to get to the bathroom. I no longer have to pull my body up the stairs using the railing as my life-line. I can breathe, eat, shower, pee and run a flight of stairs all by my little self now-yea me!

It also means, that when it comes to the rest of my life-this is still a good reminder. I have A LOT of areas that need improvement. Becoming a better wife, mother, friend, and member of society are all on my list. More specifically, I long to be a more patient, loving, compassionate, inspiring, courageous, trusting, faithful, joyful and God-honoring woman. I had an epiphany this summer while in California with my sister-in-law (who DOESN’T have epiphanies when in California?). It dawned on me as I was telling her that “i just didn’t feel I was ready” to jump into something new. What that really meant was that I didn’t feel like emotionally and spiritually I had ARRIVED at a place to be useful to God just yet. Now, I know in my heart, that is a lie from the pit of Hell. But it’s also a pretty good excuse to stay stuck in self-pity and self-loathing.  Comparing myself to where I used to be and where I am now is the best way to stay grateful and celebrate the good changes in me. My body and my character and spiritual life are all PROGRESSING, but I will never ARRIVE at PERFECTION. I want to remind us that PROGRESS is not always charted “up and to the right.” It will look a bit more like the readout of an EKG monitor strip at times (up up up down up down down down up up wayyyydown wayyyyy up). Our best and only hope is to let God use us and our messy, broken, unstable, rocky, up-and-down journey today. So, maybe we can all stop living in regret and shame over our lack of PERFECTION and start celebrating our PROGRESS. Maybe today you could WRITE down all the ways you have gone from being metaphorically “intubated in ICU” to “posing like a sexy bald chick.” Take heart in how far you’ve come. Chances are, God has brought you through some pretty dark places into the light of his glorious grace. Stop beating yourself up and throw yourself a party.

4 thoughts on “Progress, Not Perfection

  1. Once again, you wrote words that can help many on various levels. I was reminded of my month in the hospital, with a potentially deadly illness, as a 21 year old. During that time, my heart stopped and we were told by my team of doctors that they need to abort my 2 1/2 month old baby to save my life. Unable to keep food or even water down, I lived on IVs for weeks, while my stomach was pumped. Since, I was not able to get out of bed, I lost 20#. I refused abortion, saying that my baby and I would get through this together. I was told that my husband prayed at my bedside much of the night that my heart stopped. God’s plan prevailed, and my “baby” is now a wonderful and healthy 50 year old. I am eternally grateful to our Lord for him, as well as the extra decades I’ve been given. My son often thanks me for the fight to give him life.

    Your life and story will also continue to encourage people for decades. It seems that you have a unique God-given gift for sharing deep thoughts in a way that touches hearts. Prayers for a healthy future with your dear family.
    Carol Cherry Anderson

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