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Surface Tension

When grace is joined by wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age. – Victor Hugo

Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them. – Anna Magnani

 

One year ago last month

in the Great Meredith Renovation of 2013

after much, erhm, spirited debate

David and I reached a peaceful resolution to the exasperating question of:

Carpet on the stairs, or hardwood?

The beauty of our wood floor, its ease of cleaning – and our naive belief that our children were too old to fall down the stairs – won out over the traditional safety of our previously-carpeted stairs.

(Ahem.)

Ten days ago I fell down those stairs.

I could feel it happen. Side note: walking and texting is dangerous.

So are un-hemmed Lululemon pants.

Stressed over the possibility of a broken bone

– I was a bit on the whiny side for a few minutes –

David suggested I go to the hospital.

Now, he will tell you that I was the one obsessing and he always thought I was fine, but whatever. Get your own blog, Meredith. You can be the star of mine another day.

I told him

– I told myself –

that nurses don’t go to hospitals unless they’re dying.

They definitely don’t go to hospitals that they work at unless they have an advanced copy of the on-call list.

It’s just… no.

So, ten minutes of ice, two Tylenol, and ten less levels of pain later, I reassured my doting husband

– argh, seriously. He’s still the bloody star of this blog –

that I was fine.

Just fine.

A bit bruised, perhaps.

Later that night, while changing for bed, I caught a look at just how bruised I was.

My backside had a very clear, six-inch by three-inch rectangular, deep-purple, tattoo that yes, hurt very much to touch.

Guess you fell on the stair cap, hey? Says the Blog Star.

– I guess I did.

It’s not broken, Lana.

I know, I said. But my mind was whirling – back to another day, not so long ago, that the Blog Star,

– before there was a blog, even –

had talked me into going to the clinic when I was in, now that I look back on it, some of the worst pain of my life.

Worse than labour.

Worse than breaking a bone.

Worse than I could have even imagined.

Tylenol didn’t touch it. Hot packs didn’t relieve it. It kept me up at night.

Which was why I’d conceded to let him take me.

The night before we went in, I was propped up on the leather sectional we’d inherited from our good friends and thought of all the times I’d lay there, breastfeeding my girls in the wee hours of the night and distracting myself with The West Wing or Lois and Clark and thinking to myself in those rare moments of honesty that come only at 3 am that

there was something seriously wrong.

The next thought was more a dream. Those of you from more logical, concrete backgrounds will have to go with me on this one.

I heard God ask me if I was ready.

My answer surprised me.

Yes, I said.

The previous year had been a nightmare – perhaps the worst year of my life. I’d still say that now, considering all the years that have come since.

I was tired. I had a three year old and an eight-month-old, both of whom seemed to never stop needing me. I’d been disillusioned, beat up, and not felt right since before I was pregnant. Maybe since before then.

Could other mothers do this? I wondered. Or am I just this bad at this, that I’m this tired?

I thought again to my – finally – sleeping cherubs, and I changed my answer.

I’m ready, but they aren’t.

See, I knew.

I’m sure everything is fine, David said as we waited for the walk-in clinic doctor.

I nodded.

But I knew.

The next day confirmed it.

So ten days ago, I sat perched on the side of our bed, tracing the edge of my bruise with my finger, and asked the only thing I could think of.

What day is it?

My confused husband eyed me carefully. January 13th, he said.

And suddenly my face was wet.

New Years Day I’d walked into work with a sense of dread. I’d worked eight of the previous ten days, and can I just inform those of you who wondered, the weirdest people come to the hospital during the holidays.

Or the sickest.

Either way, I was tired. Ready for a vacation. Not sure I could do another night shift.

(Even if it was a stat.)

But just as I lifted my pass to swipe the staff door open, I paused.

It was New Years Day.

On January 1, 2009, I’d started taking Tylenol around the clock for upper leg pain that would not go away. I’d started my first round of antibiotics for a bladder infection that refused to be treated.

And I’d sat with my legs propped up on the back of our sectional and pleaded with God to let me raise my kids.

The weeks following were a blur of test results and internet searches and real research from expert doctors who were still mystified at a 28-year-old healthy woman with a sudden case of chronic myelogenous leukemia.

But on January 13th.

January 13th was the day I first started the little white pill.

I still take that little white pill with my breakfast each morning.

And I’m still here.

Five.

Years.

Later.

Back in January 2009, the question was how long and prognosis and chances and what now.

And really, we knew nothing.

The little white pill was new. We had very little stats on survival rates because

people just weren’t dying as often anymore.

But I still looked up the five-year survival rate.

It was 80%.

Ever the pessimist – and even more so back then – I immediately thought, I’m going to be one of the 20%, probably.

Good things hadn’t happened to my family back then.

Things just seemed to go.

So.

Horribly.

Wrong.

We just weren’t those people who got miracles, I reasoned. We were the examples of how to keep soldiering on when the miracle didn’t happen.

But it wasn’t enough anymore.

The day I started chemo, I rocked Elliana to sleep for her nap. It was the first day I couldn’t feed her myself, which she promptly responded to by crawling on my lap and clinging to my neck.

The.

Whole.

Day.

And as I looked at this little David-clone, I told God I knew I wasn’t supposed to be one of those who got a miracle,

But this time, I really needed one. 

It didn’t have to be dramatic. It didn’t have to be perfect, or even permanent.

I just needed to know

No matter what happened to me

These little light bulbs, these tiny Merediths

– and their dad –

would be okay.

Hmmm. Was the only response I heard.

A week later I sent David to the doctor for food poisoning that had lasted five long days and left leukemia lady to care for the whole family,

and while he was there, he begged the MOA to hear my latest lab results.

She paused.

Even he knew she wasn’t supposed to tell him.

But she smiled anyways.

The white blood cells were going down.

I was going to live.

Somewhere in that time, amidst the bountiful meals our family and friends showered on us, I received a steadily-written card with only two lines inside it:

I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I read this today and I think its for you:

I shall not die, but live

and proclaim what the Lord has done for me.

(Psalm 118:17)

My face was wet before I even finished reading. I was not in a place to believe those words, nor was I naive enough to think that just because I found something I liked in the Book most important to me, it didn’t I could claim it as mine and make it happen.

Friends, it just doesn’t work that way.

But ten days ago, as I eyed my bruise and wiped away tears, I thought of this card and realized that

it was five years later

and I was still here.

I was one of the 80%.

My fingers shook as I pulled on my pyjamas.

I hadn’t died.

I’d lived.

For now, at least.

And really, that’s all any of us have.

But for me, it’s a miracle.

Who really cares about having to work night shift when it means I’m still alive?

Ladies, let’s talk for a moment, shall we?

I am surrounded by so many stunningly beautiful women. Their clothes, their hair, their dewy, glowing skin and flawless makeup always inspires me to try different things; to care more, be more, and carefully craft an attractive exterior –

Attractive people attract people to them.

Beautiful people invite others to be beautiful.

But ladies, can I just ask:

When did beauty become synonymous with erasing evidence of life?

When did stretch marks cease to be a memory of when we carried our children inside us and merely a blemish to be erased?

When did wrinkles cease to reflect years of collected wisdom and become evidence of poor self-care?

When did flaws become something we had to do away with instead of the things that make us human?

When did beauty become all about staying the same instead of growing older with grace?

When did we make this all about being young and naive and careless and ….

Easy?

When did we start having surgery to erase the moments we spent…

living?

Ladies,

I understand.

I do.

But that night, when I looked at my giant bruise, I wasn’t thinking

I wonder what kind of swimsuit I’ll need to cover this thing for when we go on vacation next month.

I was marveling that I was still alive.

The next morning, when I looked in the mirror at my growing smile lines and crows’ feet, I smiled bigger.

And just for that day, I didn’t put on moisturizer.

Just one day.

Because those wrinkles mean

I got to grow older.

No matter what happens next,

That’s my miracle.

So, ladies, please,

why

are we so darned insistent 

that we hide our tiny, daily, effortless little miracles?

Please hear me:

Be beautiful.

Take care of yourself.

Exercise, dress well, eat right.

Use makeup, if you want to.

But stop obsessing over that woman with the perfect skin you saw in Sephora.

Stop wishing parts of your body, your brain, your soul away.

Get better.

Laugh more, cry less, do more, love more, forgive more.

Clean up your life.

But stop obsessing over that friend of yours who’s so much more nicer than you are.

Since when did life become about being nice?

Nice people aren’t remembered; Kind people are.

So,

if I could say anything

to my sisters

many of whom are entering the most soul-searching years of their lives

can I just say

Live.

Them.

All.

Years are given for a reason.

Make them full 

of moments no one will forget anytime soon.

Not by being outrageous,

or showy,

or by finding the perfect Instagram picture,

because really,

are we Instagramming our life or living it?

Be brave.

Help your sisters embrace their marks.

Celebrate the wisdom in those wrinkles.

Marvel at the miracle of life that grew those stretch marks.

Hug love into the flaws of your friends and family.

And maybe in five years, we might all look at each other

a little happier

a little lighter

and a little braver.

Because,

here’s the thing:

I didn’t die.

I lived.

So I think its about time

I proclaim what the Lord has done for me.

And if I’m counting wrinkles

I think its about time

I start calling them what they really are:

Victory. Marks.

How about it, friends?

Are you in?

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. lorinda rempel #

    You’re a gifted writer, Lana. You’ve an amazing past & an awesome future! Loving you more & more.

    January 23, 2014
  2. Amanda b #

    You’re ability to write amazes me :] thanks for this gem, you’ve conquered some great hurdles in your past, are incredibly strong because of it an i admire you greatly. Wonderful post as usual! :]]

    January 23, 2014
  3. Anna H #

    Beautifully written, my dear friend. I am ever so glad you are in the 80th percentile! And I, for one, believe crow’s feet are a signs of many years of smiles and would never want them erased. 🙂

    January 24, 2014
  4. Sylviemari #

    Thanks for your contemplative words!

    January 24, 2014
  5. Brockas #

    Grace to you, Lana, in amazing ways and to all of those you love around you! Through unusual trials, we often realize that in some way God has chosen us for this – and so everything matters and especially for His glory. Your testimony reminds me of walking into the gymnasium in my hometown years ago for another basketball game. The first thing for all the world to see was our trophy case. God has chosen you for a prominent corner in His trophy case. And freshly polished each day as your family seeks His presence in your lives, to come close and gaze closely at your testimony, there we see the reflection of Jesus and the glory of God. Some trophies are won by taking the ball and winning the game. But the brightest trophies and the greatest winners in life are those who take God’s will and make every day score for Him. Nevertheless, Lana, on the other side of the finish line and one day with all of God’s children home, let us give you a big hug for everything that you have been through – and five years later with all the grace to shine!

    Love from Kansas City, Chuck and Irene Brocka

    January 24, 2014
  6. Lana, I’m so glad you are one of the 80%. The Brockas said it so well and I agree with them.
    I lost a dear friend, one of my bridesmaids to cancer just before she turned 40. I said then I would never be one of those women who hated growing older because it is a privilege and so I do my best to embrace each birthday and the visible signs of aging (funny how even that phrase brings to mind anti aging creams) as a gift from the Lord.

    January 25, 2014
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  10. Isn’t this the funniest little writing I’d ever read…I was laughing out loud when I first started reading your laments of carpet vs. just having wood on the stairs…thinking – well of course this is another Lana…we Lanas are ALL talented and funny…

    And then I began to read …the rest of the story.

    and it was beautiful.

    Years…Live Them All.

    Yes. I say yes.

    I am in.

    And i am thrilled to meet you Lana.

    Hugs,
    Lana from Sugar Land, TX

    August 4, 2015

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