For the most part, I like to be prepared and plan ahead. I like to know what's going on and what is required of me to make the day a success (or less of a disaster). But I'm not opposed to being spontaneous on occasion. Like last week. After the absolutely worst night's sleep I'd ever had, I had a short conversation on the phone with a doctor who mentioned "...could be the appendix...." Immediately a light bulb went on in my groggy head. (Shortly before this phone call I was dizzy with pain, and I passed out briefly and woke up in my own vomit--sorry, should I not include details like that? You'll understand the lack of photos. But I didn't want you to think sleep deprivation was the worst part.) The possibility of appendicitis hadn't crossed my mind all that long night, but I suddenly was confident that's what it was. I was 100% supportive of the idea of clearing my calendar (and my husband's) for the day and taking a spontaneous trip to the ER.
While we were there, my husband contacted one of my friends from church. And before I even parted with my appendix, meals were arranged to be brought to my family for the next several days. During those days, my preschooler was having a blast spending lots of time at her cousins'. Janae brought over some groceries. I was excused from everything I'm used to doing during the day to just . . . rest.
When my husband told me about the line-up of meals, I was grateful. More than grateful. I know how much time it takes to put a meal on the table each day. But along with the relief that it wouldn't be me doing that work, a wisp of guilt crept in. Did I really need that many meals? Wouldn't I be able to fix a meal in a couple of days? After a day or two, wouldn't I be able to take care of our basic needs without asking for all these generous women to sacrifice on my account? It's not like I had a new baby demanding my attention as well as a recovery. Flowers arrived. I love flowers, and they are a real treat, especially while spending lots of time indoors. But I was I really sick enough to deserve them?
Next, I justified. I told myself I shouldn't feel guilty because I hadn't asked anyone to make these sacrifices, they had offered them. Another day passed, kids were at school (and the cousins'), I napped some more, watched a movie, listened to a recorded book (I couldn't even get much computer work done as my eyes weren't focusing well because of the medication), and yet miraculously, dinner was on the table at dinner time! I almost wished I had another appendix so that I could do this again someday. But then again, came the guilt. How could I let these busy people serve me while I just lie around like this? It's not like I was in pain, at least not much, and not while I was being so lazy.
I tried to be up and available when the kids came home from school. Usually I'm doing kitchen work during the snack/homework routine, but this last week I didn't have to. I sat and listened, talked, and watched them play outside in the beautiful weather we are getting. I realized that I very seldom do that. And because our "basic needs" were being seen to, I could spend what energy I did have on my kids, who didn't really understand what what going on anyway.
The comments started adding up. The day I came home from the hospital, I went to a special dinner for my son I really didn't want to miss. There I was told several times that people were surprised I had made it. My parents' emailed and told me to take advantage while I could. Janae (a.k.a. wonder woman) seemed to think I should be taking it easy. The friend who had set up several meals called to see how things were going, offered to do more, and emphasized that I not be "heroic." I finally started feeling like no one thought I was just taking advantage of their generosity, and that I truly had license to just rest. I didn't even have to exhaust myself or start hurting first, I could rest first!
Suddenly I saw myself on the other side. Personally, I'm terrible at bringing people meals. But I really do like to help wherever I can, especially when a mom I know is in need. And more often than not, the moms are hesitant to ask or accept. We all know it's hard to keep all the balls in the air when you're the mom, and we don't want to throw another ball into anyone's juggling routine.
But it's deeper than that. So many of us feel the need to be reliable, strong, nurturing. That's great, we need people like that in our lives. But we also have times when we are weak and needy. And at those times, we need permission to hang up our mantle of reliability and take a break! And thankfully, there are those who recognize that not only would a meal be helpful, but permission to accept it guilt-free, whether or not you really could get up and fix something yourself, is also a blessing. And the more we spread this permission around, the more likely it is that when it's our turn, we'll have permission to hang up our strength in the closet for a few days, and just go ahead an lie down! And enjoy the flowers--they represent how much someone cares, not how sick you are.