Monday, January 2, 2012

A Year In Retrospect

One of my favorite quotes comes from Oprah Winfrey.  She says, "I don't worry about failure.  I worry about 'Did I do all I can do?' ".  Right now those words hit home stronger than ever.  This time of year when the holiday buzz quiets a bit, I usually go for several fun solo runs in the crisp January air to take time to reflect on the previous year's ups and downs.  Making the obligatory new year's resolution has always seemed superficial and corny to me.  Why make a resolution to change things in your life when you have not yet learned from the old?  Maybe I am too melodramatic, but these two weeks following the start of the new year are always used for self-reflection.  It is all about me, me, and more me.  You see, my birthday falls on January 15th.  My birthday, instead of January 1st, has always marked my own personal new year.  It is when I activate my "reset" button, so to speak.  Instead of jumping on the bandwagon with other resolution makers to lose weight or start exercising more, I spend time thinking about what the past year has taught me.  Yeah, I always vow to eat better, run more and clean out my sock drawer (yawn!).  However on the most basic level, my thoughts revolve around what worked this year and what did not.  In what areas did I thrive and what efforts fell short?  How did I grow and where did I fall behind?  Most of all I wonder what direction my spirit is pulling me towards next.

This past year was heavy.  My beloved husband of 10 years faced some of the most difficult challenges of his young life.  When he was hurting, I hurt with him.  Personally and professionally, his life was turned upside down when his kidneys failed and an organ transplant was desperately needed.  His health deteriorated quickly and our time together was delegated to ER visits, uncomfortable dialysis sessions and long hospital stays.  His beautiful spirit suffered and his undying faith was tested.  Being a witness to this was heartbreaking at best.  My husband's need for a kidney transplant took over as we found ourselves on a quest to find anyone, relative or stranger, that would be a tissue match for a successful organ transplant.  Due to multiple complications, not one of his family members were a match.  He was placed on an organ donation waiting list where he would remain for possibly up to three years.  Not everyone survives the long wait once placed on the list.  He needed a miracle, but would have to take a number and wait at the end of the line like so many others.  The grim possibility of this outcome was not lost on me.

As monumental as his health problems had become, the solution actually rested in my hands.  When any aspect of your loved one's life is broken, you want to do all you can to fix it and erase that hurtful element from their horizon.  You want to be the hero that slays the dragon and rescues the damsel in distress.  You want to place a bandage on their boo-boo and kiss the hurt away.  I was granted this power when we found out I would be the perfect tissue match to donate a kidney to my beloved.  My husband had reservations from the start about me undergoing surgery on his behalf, but I had no doubts that this act would resolve the most pressing problems we were facing at the time.  My normally squeamish and cautious nature melted away as the transplant process got underway.  To fast forward through the story a bit, the transplant was successful and all the ailments affected by the initial renal failure have been reversed.  We both healed quickly from our respective surgeries and have matching "love" scars to prove it.  He was granted his miracle and I give thanks for every day he wakes up pain free.

My dear husband still wrestles with the changes caused by his health problems, feeling responsible somehow for our new reality.  My prayer for him is that he will soon make peace with this past year's events and come to understand that the experience is all a part of a greater journey.  You see, my husband has long been the Rock of Gibraltar for numerous individuals.  He was accustomed to being the "Helpful Henry" that could swoop  in and solve any problem whenever he was called upon.  His kidney failure was not a problem that could be fixed by his own valiant efforts.  For the first time in his life, he was powerless to overcome an obstacle on his own.  It forced him to shed some of his pride and accept help from outside forces.  We saw unimaginable kindness from everyone we knew.  He is slowly starting to realize that the countless family members and friends that lined to help him through this ordeal were the many lives he had touched through his own countless selfless acts.  They lined up for the chance to repay him for all the times he was simply being a good guy.

I could relate to what they felt.  By far and wide, I am my hubby's biggest fan.  Hey, I didn't marry the guy for nothing!  His cute butt and smile weren't the only things that lured me in (wink wink).  This simple guy with the big heart deserved a break and I wanted to be the one to hand it to him.  My belief is that God had a plan for us long ago when He put the two of us together.  Our kidney exchange was only part of it.  The rest is still being revealed.  My tacky joke is that the transplant surgery scars ruined my bikini body, but I never had a bikini body to start with.  Don't be mistaken because that little fact does not worry me in the least.  Over the years my less than perfect body was able to produce two strong healthy sons, run nine full marathons, and give one perfect kidney to my darling husband when he needed it most.  It could be said this old body has done okay.  I walk away from the whole experience knowing that we, as Oprah would say, did all we could do and it was so worth it.  For once I was able to step up to the plate and not worry about the wages of failure.  Since 2011 was such an interesting year, then the upcoming twelve months might have an even greater experience in store.  I am hitting my reset button now and opening my heart as we get primed and ready for the new year and all its shiny new promises.  With no guarantees of success or failure, I  anxiously await the chance to once again do all I can do.

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