Chapter Fourteen: Ripples of Self Love
While Steve was on the second floor of ICU, his mom, sister, and I began to feel like we had a little more breathing room for ourselves. Steve wasn’t considered to be in extreme critical condition any more. He was now in recovery, so this gave us a little more time to consider what we needed for our own personal care. We had been in ICU with Steve for a month, and had been so stressed with the daily ups and downs that we had barely had any time to think about what we needed. Getting a quick shower at 5:30 each morning and then getting to the hospital soon after that was my daily routine. My in laws would arrive usually an hour after me. We would sit by Steve’s bed until it was time for dinner. We would have dinner and then return to Steve’s room for a few more hours until it was bedtime. We would sleep and then start our daily schedule all over again the next day. After a month of this schedule, we were beginning to get very worn down.
Our fatigue showed up in our inability to make decisions about small things. I could make a medical decision when I was asked to by the doctors, but when it came to mealtime for us and what we wanted to eat, our brains would feel overwhelmed by the choices we had to make. The hospital cafeteria was perfect for this dilemma. We would walk down a hall from Steve’s room, look at food, order food, sit down and eat the food. Simple. We couldn’t handle anything more than this, unless Steve’s dad or step dad took us out to dinner. Then we would get in a car, be driven to a restaurant, order food, eat the food, and go back to the hospital.
We called our overwhelmed and stressed brains, hospital head. Many times, especially in the beginning when we had first arrived at the Flagstaff hospital and Steve’s life was touch and go, we wouldn’t allow each other to go to the bathroom alone, fearing we might get lost down some long hallway and our confused, overwhelmed heads wouldn’t be able to find our way back to the ICU. Hospital head was difficult, especially for three intelligent women who could, under normal circumstances, take very good care of themselves.
One day I decided to venture out into the world that existed beyond the hospital and Taylor house to do my laundry. I was going to have to find a laundromat, figure out how to use the laundromat, and drive back to my safe world. I hadn’t seen the inside of a laundromat for more than twenty years, so this was going to be an interesting adventure. No one could go with me that day, but my laundry was in dire need of help, so I decided to go alone.
I knew Flagstaff very well. I have shopped in Flagstaff for the entire time that I have lived in Sedona, so I thought I could find the laundromat with no problem. Immediately, just being in busy traffic again became the first big problem for my hospital head. Everyone was driving so fast and they all had some place very important to go. After passing the laundromat a couple of times, circling back, then passing it again, I finally parked in the parking lot, hauled my bundle of clothes in, gathered my coin purse in my hand after locating the two washing machines I thought might be empty, and then stood there leaning against the machine, forgetting everything I knew.
I was completely overwhelmed by the busy activity around me as college students did their weekly chore, playing loud music as their clothes spun in never ending circles. I stood frozen in front of my two machines unable to decipher what a quarter looked like and afraid to ask for help. My shaking hand finally found what I thought was a quarter and counted out four of them. After a few minutes, I found the slots they belonged in and pushed them into place as my clothes began to spin and whirl with the beat of every other washer and dryer in the place. I somehow managed to gather up my empty baskets and headed to my quiet, safe car. I sat there shaking for a while wondering how I was going to manage to get my clothes into the dryer. I didn’t even know how I was going to drive back to Taylor house when my clothes were done. I needed help, but I didn’t know who to call or even how to make a call. I was lost. I needed Steve. I was tired of this and I wanted to go home. I wanted everything to be ok again and for life to return to normal. I was exhausted, and I really needed a hug!
I somehow managed to dry my clothes and get them back into the car. Driving back to Taylor house was a blur. I told my story to my in laws as they stood in front of me, wide eyed and scared. They told me how brave I had been to leave the safety of our little hospital world. I promised them I would never venture out by myself again. After that, my sister in law always went with me to do laundry. It wasn’t long after my laundromat breakdown that the troops of love began to arrive.
As word about Steve’s condition began to spread through our Sedona community, our friends began to respond by coming to Flagstaff to nurture us. They would make dinner for us and bring it to Taylor house, or drive us to a restaurant and feed us. Our friend, Michael, kept us supplied with homemade chocolate chip cookies. He would always bring them right out of the oven, still warm. We looked forward to those cookies. After a particularly hard day at the hospital, a homemade cookie, or a box of chocolates brought by another friend, would soothe our battered souls. It was the simple things we wanted most; a cookie, a hug, a card filled with hope.
Friends who were massage therapists would come to our Taylor house room and give us massages, when we could find the time away from the hospital to get one. And, relatives arrived to gather us in their arms and give us comfort. Each of these acts of kindness, each tiny simple one, during that very difficult time were deeply appreciated and quickly soaked up by our weary bodies and hospital heads. Receiving this love began to ground our confused, and often delirious brains making each day with Steve’s confused, delirious brain more peaceful and sane. We were all beginning to deeply understand the concept of how nurturing ourselves, nurtured Steve. As our heads cleared, so did his. We were experiencing first hand how the ripples of self love create more ripples of self love.