In an instant - BAM - life changes.
You know it to be one thing. And then POOF, it's a whole new reality that you're dealing with and having to figure out how to go on from here.
Sometimes the change is for the better. Sometimes not. And sometimes when it doesn't feel like it is, you'll see some good in it, after some time has passed.
My life has seen its share of BAM and POOF seasons multiple times - including this year.
If you're a subscriber or otherwise regular reader, you know I've been dealing with some weird muscle atrophying condition this year. I've been working hard to get back the ability to walk. It's been a challenge. I'm just now starting to see the good that came from it - with a little enlightenment from a good friend.
I'll share a bunch of other BAM POOF scenarios as blog posts go on.
But today, let's go back to the beginning.
The first time life went BAM was when I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age seven.
I've written briefly about it before in this blog.
Up until age seven, I was a healthy, happy, active little kid. Once the temperatures warmed up after long winters in Fargo, North Dakota, I was seldom inside and seldom saw shoes until fall.
I was a bit of a tomboy. I loved being outdoors, barefoot, and running, jumping, and climbing whatever was available.
Favorite pastimes were running my warm toes through the cool grass, and running through neighbors' sprinklers and their cooling sprays.
Our neighborhood crowd of kids could be found playing games on any given day. I was the youngest, and I did my best to keep up with the 'big kids.'
Life was good and carefree, and I didn't know it could be otherwise.
I first noticed it the summer before first grade.
A strange swollen bump on my right ankle appeared out of nowhere. It didn't hurt, but I knew something was wrong.
It wouldn't go away. I finally told my mom about it, because moms can fix anything. I knew she would know what to do.
Upon inspection, she concluded it must be a bug bite. Bugs of all kinds were common in the hot humid heat. And being an experienced mom of four, she'd seen worse.
Still, like me, she sensed it might be more. We agreed to give it a little time and to keep an eye on it.
Summer dwindled away. But the swollen ankle did not.
Our family doctor ran tests that showed rheumatic fever. I'd never had heart problems, but I was suddenly on medication and told I couldn't run anymore.
Things were not boding well for first grade and my September birthday.
Being told I couldn't run seemed silly. I could still run - and did, every chance I got when out of view of prying eyes.
I couldn't not run. It seemed a death sentence to my seven year old sensibilities. Foals are born to run. You can't go against nature.
But I was told I had no choice.
The once inviting and colorful world I lived in - POOF - was suddenly cold, drab and dark.
I didn't want to play anymore.
A Deeper Darkness
The only thing I had to look forward to was Halloween. The thought of it kept me going.
I would get to wear my favorite Halloween costume again: a borrowed witch's costume from our neighbor girl. I loved its long orange yarn hair peeking out from under the hat, and against the blackness of the entire costume.
I fully expected to don my Halloween garb when the older kids got dressed in theirs.
Mom had other plans.
She'd said trick or treating would be too much excitement for me and I needed to stay home with her.
My world collapsed, again. BAM. POOF.
I wailed. I whined. I pleaded my case.
I'd be good. I promised not to run, just pleeeease let me go with the other kids.
I fnally got my way.
I should've listened to my mother.
More Trick than Treat
It wasn't but an hour later in the usual Halloweeny cold drizzly night air that I managed to limp my way home.
I didn't know what was wrong, but I could hardly walk.
I slowly climbed up our front steps.
Mom's alarmed face told me I wasn't in trouble, because something much worse was happening.
She let out a gasp when seeing my grapefruit-size swollen knees. A call to the doctor had me admitted to the hospital the next morning.
I would be there for the next three months, over the all-important holiday season, while the next diagnosis was attempted.
A Very Unmerry Christmas Season
In 1971, kids were not allowed to visit in hospitals. I was suddenly cut off from nearly everyone, except for my parents, pastor and neighbor mom, who all visited regularly.
I was on forced bedrest, 24/7. I wasn't allowed to leave my bed for any reason, including using the bathroom. Life revolved around bedpans.
My world became microscopically tiny. It was devoid of life. At least any kind of life I wanted. It was grey and mundane.
I quickly tired of the streams of doctors, pills and nasty hospital food.
I was poked and prodded and questioned repeatedly.
Finally, a diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis was reached. Intensive physical therapy began.
Bedrest had been the worst thing that could have been recommended for arthritis. It caused my joints to stiffen and lose movement and muscle mass. I had to work extremely hard to get it all back, through a whole lot of pain.
I said very little to anyone. I just wanted to go home.
I kept asking my doctor if I could go home for Christmas. Absolutely not, he repeatedly said. But because he was Chief of Staff, he worked around some rules to bring my siblings into a small visitation room with a Christmas tree. We would quietly celebrate for a short time, while I stayed in a wheelchair.
I was a different person, and they seemed like strangers.
I wouldn't see them again until late January, when I was finally released from the hospital.
A New Year, A New Lifetime
Everything was different. BAM. POOF.
Getting into the car from the hospital was the first time in three months I'd felt fresh air and a breeze on my skin.
Nature was no longer something I liked. It was cold and harsh.
Home was no longer welcoming or accessible.
The long flight of stairs to bedrooms and our one bathroom could as well have been a mountain.
The staircase I used to love to play on, run up, run down, and slide down, was now a formidable enemy.
My little weak legs would not be able to navigate it for several more years. I'd have to be carried up and down.
I could hardly move, let alone walk. Every step was excruciatingly painful and difficult.
Back then, there were few medications for adult arthritis, and none for kids. I would take baby aspirin every four hours around the clock. Daily doses of oral cortisone were the only thing that unlocked my joints at all.
Steroids aren't meant for long-term use, but I was on this steroid for five years because without it, my movements were frozen. One of cortisone's big side effects is that it inhibits bone growth. I stopped growing two years after I began taking it.
Who knew that would be the genesis decades later of my moniker of shortCHICK with the Walking Stick - with the cane added when I was a senior in high school.
I was tutored at home the rest of first grade. I wasn't able to join my class again at school.
For the rest of my school years after that, I would attend part days, and be tutored at home for the rest of my classes.
In my grade school, the kids were kind to me when I went back the next year. But they seemed like strangers.
I was different. And I lived more in an adult's world than a kid's world from then on.
Kids often shied away from me. Childhood was lonely.
From second grade through twelfth, I contemplated suicide. Life was painful, physically and otherwise.
I no longer saw any good to it.
I couldn't bring myself to cause such pain to my parents, so I never went through with my life-ending plans.
It was enough to know I could if life got even worse.
But I kept going.
One painful step at a time.
Finally, public school years ended. And college beckoned. It was the light at the end of an extremely long dark tunnel.
Convincing my mom to let me enroll and to attempt attending is a blog for another day.
But I did make it happen. And life was worth living again. Until the next BAM happened at the end of college. Yet another post for another long blog day.
Step by Step
We hear a lot about grit these days.
It's what my messaging is always about at its core, whether I'm blogging, speaking, podcasting or offering products.
Grit breeds perseverance. Perseverance is really about keeping going, step by step.
I find it ironic that remembering that keeps me going, whether my challenges at the moment involve walking, or something else.
Faith keeps me going, too. Perhaps that's another blog post one day.
All I know is that life is full of BAM / POOF seasons.
I've learned to keep stepping, whether I'm at a pre- or post-BAM / POOF time, or smack in the middle of it.
It's the only way out. Well, the only healthy way out.
I know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It offers hope.
In between tunnels and darkness, are brilliantly lighted seasons of goodness.
And to get to them, all I can do is keep going, step by step.
About Kris Harty: Kris Harty is founder and CEO of shortCHICK, llc, She brings perspective and wisdom to the table, and helps smart people like you move from overwhelm and obstacles, to over it and moving on, in life and work, Step by Step. She's a speaker, author, podcaster, and creative, giving voice to hope, joy, encouragement, and wisdom.
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