valley

Time in the Valley

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I’ve confused myself by this verse in the past. I read it correctly, but my mind always wants to put my name in the second half of this sentence. Something about “…but Justin directs his steps” sounds a lot better and translates a lot easier than if I were to merely allow God to be in control. A life outside of this always leads me to frustration, discontent, and unhappiness, but I try to make it work anyway, daily forgetting the consequences. I’m thankful that I’m given grace every day.

I’m still learning.

As the seasons of trials and tribulations change, I continue to learn valuable lessons of patience, gratefulness, and appreciation. The past couple of days have been especially tough. It started with phone calls that I had to make on Friday. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but let me just say that coordinating files and referrals between doctors can be a very difficult endeavor. Talking to receptionists doesn’t make it easy. By lunchtime, I was frustrated. I know to not let things that are out of my control get to me, but the uncertainty of my medicine, where we’ll be, when we’ll be there, and for how long has worn me down. On Friday, the lack of control got to me. I took for granted that after almost two months of chaos, I’d continue to be patient.

Katie had offered to make the calls for me, but finding the balance between feeling like the tasks of leukemia are my responsibility and allowing people to help out when they offer is something that I’m not good at doing. In the grand scheme of things, it might be a lot easier to do, but it’s difficult to anticipate a simple call turning into a web of confusion. That’s a microcosm of what dealing with cancer is like. It’s impossible to anticipate anything. Between Katie and me, I’d rather fall on that sword. However, someone with profound, or even simple wisdom might suggest that if Katie had handled the calls, there wouldn’t have been a sword to begin with. Many of her strengths supplement my abundance of weaknesses. I’m thankful for that.

I had it in my head that I was going to finally get to go home on Friday. When I realized that it would be a better decision to stay, it took a larger toll than I anticipated. On Saturday, I felt like the past few months just came crashing down on me. I couldn’t get out of my own head. I slept, a lot. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was discontent, I wanted to be alone, or maybe I didn’t. I wanted to do something. I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew that I had lost all confidence in everything that I did, was doing, or could do. I tried to write, I couldn’t. I tried to relax, I failed. So I found a pair of shoes, put in my earbuds, and walked the hilly streets in the local neighborhood. It’s good to get moving. With all of the uncertainty, lack of control, decision making, and waiting on other people, the only real thing that I can control is what I do in my down time. However, sometimes I feel like I can’t even control that.

Katie was out eating with her mom when I called and told her that I’d be walking in the neighborhood. Towards the end of the loop, I saw her and her mom return. Katie got out of the car and walked the rest of the way with me. We talked about the things that I had uncharacteristically felt those couple of days, and I apologized. I told her I was sorry for not having a whole lot of energy. I realized that I wanted to be alone because I was afraid that others would confuse my lack of engagement as disinterest. For some reason, I had lost all confidence in everything that I was doing or going through. I felt extremely vulnerable and I couldn’t get out of my head. When we passed the house, Katie encouraged me to run the next lap on my own. That’s exactly what I did. I ran.

I’m not sure that I went a block before my lungs began to tell me that life was much better on the couch, but I pushed forward. I haven’t run in at least six months. I knew it would be hard, but I wanted it to be harder than sitting at home and wondering what was going to happen next. My legs kept moving. My body began to hurt, but my head began to lighten. I’m sure that I looked like the Lance Armstrong of zombies as I struggled up each hill, but I’m confident that nobody has looked less graceful running down them. It was just what I needed. I felt much better.

The marathon of the mind is one that never goes away. After two months on the road, any amount of frustration can pile up if you let it. I let it. I need to stay moving. It would be easier if I didn’t have to be out of my apartment and into a new place by the end of the month, if I knew when my doctor’s appointments would be or what city I’d have to be in, if I knew that there was nothing or something I could do for my eyesight, or if I could just return to home base and sleep in my own bed. Until those things happen, I have to do my best to stay occupied.

I took a small break from blogging over the weekend. As much as I wanted to write on Friday and Saturday, I knew that it would be heavy and that I’d more than likely regret it. I couldn’t get out of my own head and I knew that a lot of what I was feeling was temporary. Overall, I’m not in a bad place. I’m very grateful, I’m very thankful, and I’m super appreciative of all that I’ve been given, the support that I have received, and the kindness of those I’ve interacted with. I never want to come across otherwise. It’s just another day, another lesson, another hurdle on the road to the finish line. I’ll have hard days, but that isn’t a prerequisite to be hard on myself. When I learn that lesson, things will be a lot easier in the future.

  • B. Kennel

    Ditto! I try my very best to stay in the present. That, for me, is difficult because my thoughts wonder from past to future. I am just “learning” that it is not a task that comes naturally. I guess I programed my mind to cling to the past and and reach for the future which doesn’t help the present. I am currently reading “The Power of Now”. One thought I may be learning from his writings is how much my mind returns to the past or future and doesn’t stay, for very long, in the present. Why? I am not sure. Maybe when I finish the book I might have a glimpse of what the author is trying to convey.

    • B. Kennel

      Houston may be calling this week or next. The genetic testing is in! I am nervous. I know from the biopsy that there were cancer cells in the left lung but that’s all. I will wait for the conference with my Dr. What a mental exercise! Going to Corpus Christi today. I am grateful I have the strength to go and enjoy the bay.
      BK

      • Justin Ozuna

        I’m hoping and praying for good news, Barbara. I can appreciate and sympathize with all that you’re going through. Let me know if I can help in any way.