Photo Courtesy of National Park ServiceI'm going to tell you a story, one you'll recognize. Because you were there.
You'll know it without my prompting. You'll feel it like a second skin. You'll recognize its sharpness like you recognize Wasabi when you get a mouthful of it.
That's the power of this story. Because it's your story, too.
The day was a Wednesday. The heat was high; the humidity bulbous. Sweat was your faithful companion, whether you wanted loyal sweat or not. Everyone on the surface of the sun was nearing their boiling point. Give them two more minutes and you could add pasta.
On this Wednesday, nothing was more celebrated than cups of ice covered in flavored sugar of various rainbow shades and even the air-conditioning units drooped under the burden of the temperature war.
It was hot. You get it.
This Wednesday was in August. August 1, 2012, in fact, and today I'm one year old.
This Wednesday was nothing like any other Wednesday. It was the last Wednesday of the last week before my best friend's last moments of singleness. She was getting married on Saturday. It was arriving posthaste. The wedding was a train, time the engine, and us the rails. So we did what everyone does pre-wedding, we pulled out all our nerves and frayed them.
Wednesday was the last day to finish errands. The next day was the bachelorette party, the day after the rehearsal dinner, and the day after that the wedding.
Our dance card was full. So life struck up another band and opened a second dance floor.
After nearly six months of fighting a pain in my left hip and leg that would not relent, I had self-medicated with a continuous mixture of chiropractic appointments, massages, and using a friend's private pool for my personal therapy.
I have great friends. Some have beautiful pools.
Wednesday would be my last hour to myself for days, my last chance for a solitary swim and a little therapy - physically and mentally - before my best friend moved out of the house we had shared for five years and into the home of her husband. By Monday, she'd be a Mrs. and I'd be heading to my first day on a new job in a new city.
Yes, I was moving, too.
Change, it seems, likes to happen in clumps, just like gum likes to happen in your hair. Sometimes you can salvage the surroundings. Sometimes you get a new 'do.
So I went for my morning swim. And that was the last moments of my last life.
When I arrived, I gathered my towel, stepped out of my vehicle, and felt a pain shoot up my left leg into my hip or down my left leg into my hip, it didn't really matter the direction to me. The point here is: I felt pain.
Initially, I thought it was a charlie horse. The mother of all charlie horses. A charlie horse that had invited all his other charlie horse friends over for a hoedown on my sciatic.
Baffled, confused, I'll admit slightly panicked, I stood in my friend's front yard and said some of the most enlightened words of my existence, "Oh no. Oh, God, no. Please, no." I may have repeated that, in a different order, a few times over the last year.
I tried to walk it off, but I couldn't really walk. I tried to swim it out and nearly drown. I tried to stretch it out and, instead, started losing consciousness. No matter what I tried, nothing could reverse what had happened. Nothing could back this event up.
X marked the spot.
I'll spare you the details of the days after. Truthfully, it's a long story and unless I can add voices, a few accents, and a joke I've used often about my butt, it just comes out sounding whiny. So, sorry. I don't do podcasts.
Here's the shorter version, minus the butt joke.
After weeks without sleep, and days of fun tasks like an emergency room visit, doctors appointments, pain management specialists, acupuncture, more massages, an MRI, and pain medication that did absolutely nothing but lower my IQ, I would be diagnosed with a herniated disk, one my neurosurgeon would call "severe" and then ask me if I was one of those weird people with such high pain tolerances they can hold their hand over an open flame and not flinch.
I assured him I definitely was not that person. Thankfully, he didn't flick a bic and ask for proof. He just asked lots of questions, shook his head a lot, and stared at me in a manner I imagine Bearded Ladies have experienced staring.
Instead of surgery, I went to physical therapy. And the hope I didn't even hope for slowly came back. Those stories I'll save for another day. Or a podcast because that butt joke is really pretty funny.
What I learned on that Wednesday wasn't much. Wednesdays aren't the days for spiritual growth. These are the moments you simply survive. You struggle. You fight. You bounce around from confusion to sadness, from defeat to faith. You trudge along until you're exhausted, spent, wrung out, beaten down, thinned out to the very fiber of who you are and who you are not, and then built back brick by brick.
Maybe you remember that day now because you've had one of your own. As I retold my story, you didn't have to ask yourself whether you could relate, did you? You knew the answer automatically. You arrived back at your day instantly. Transported. Dematerialized and rematerialized back into that moment in time, as if Scotty himself were at the controls.
Survivors of Wednesdays never forget.
When your day came, you didn't think you'd survive. But you did. You didn't think life would ever be the same. And it wasn't. You couldn't imagine God could ever redeem the pain. But, and here is the question I ask daily, hasn't He?
God carried me. And continues a year later to bear the load.
When it happened, for months after I honestly thought He didn't care that much for me. Not really. He loved my soul. Sure. I could believe that. But as for my life? Nah. Expendable. A throw away. You can't love a child and allow that kind of anguish. Right?
I find I'm wrong a lot about God.
None of this has been easy. I would never trivialize my day, or yours, with a "God has a plan" pat answer. He does, of course, but there are moments in our lives, days like Wednesdays, when that answer just won't cut it. We need more. And, sometimes, we won't get it. We just won't. Not instantly. Maybe not ever.
I asked myself a lot this year what I believed. Who do I believe God is? No, really. Down deep in the gut. Deeper still. Who?
Once, years ago, I was on a flight to Boston and fighting against a fear of flying with everything I had. Right then, louder than the rush of blood in my ears, God told me to make a decision. "Tara Lynn, I'm either with you or I'm not. I'm either good or I'm not."
He asked me that question a lot over this last year because he needed my answer. I needed my answer, too.
My Wednesday lasted forever. Since the effects of the last year will never go away, I can honestly say that Wednesday will never end, but not in the way you might imagine. I'm no longer haunted by it. I'm enriched. I'm spurred on. I'm anxious and hyper and excited to take that Wednesday with me into the future, whatever that is, because that day is now part of my landscape.
Because of Wednesday, I'm stronger now. Terribly so. I punch myself in the stomach a lot because my physical therapist is a little crazy and encourages self-flagellation. Also, it engages your core muscles, which are keeping the pain at bay and my sanity at present.
Mostly, however, I'm just a girl. Who broke. That God put back together again.
And His strength is the only strength I know. Mine, whatever I had of it, left on a Wednesday and I haven't seen hide nor hair of it since.
As for your Wednesday, first off, let me say I'm sorry. I cannot imagine. I cannot relate. Your pain is yours, not mine. It is/was a place only you and God know. But I'm in hope with you. I'm praying with you. I'm excited for the end result with you. I'm punching my stomach with you. (Feel free to not participate in that last one.)
These Wednesdays are the great chasms we have in life. They give us a beauty that is quite severe, frighteningly stark, but beautiful nonetheless. Why? Because that's what chasms do. They divide. They separate. They split. They dissect one thing into two, like your past from your future, your fear from your courage, your puny strength from God's magnificent brawn.
They are our Grand Canyon and, even at a glance, the beauty of the Grand Canyon will take your breath away.