I woke up in the middle of the night, or actually I should say the early morning around 4:11am. I can't sleep because my new medication to try control my seizures has this nasty side effect of insomnia. Yes, another medication to try and fix what's broken, and seemingly yet another failure. I'm running out of things to try, things that will keep me alive. It does give me time to sit back and reflect though instead of sleeping all of the time from exhaustion and heavy burdens.
The window is cracked just enough that I feel the cool West Virginia morning breeze. I'm not used to that. I'm used to Atlanta where we would still have the air conditioner on most of the night to stay comfortable. Here, in West Virginia, the cool mountain air is a good change for this time of year and I have enjoyed it. Through the window I also hear a familiar sound that I haven't heard in years that used to haunt me. It is the sound of crows.
Say what you will about superstition and crows, but they do have an eerie chime to their song. It is callous, the same tone, like someone telling you about something you already know but they keep nagging you about. The year before I became ill, I was flying back and forth from Atlanta to Seattle every week working in Redmond for Microsoft. A small part of our larger group were assembling together for a new product, a new chapter that would ultimately define our fate. I became close with the group, Amy, April, Mark and Rob. Yes Rob I mentioned you last just to do the whole alphabetically thing that you hated, but it is just in fun you know that.
We weren't used to working together in close quarters. We were road warriors out on the road eighty percent and higher, all the time. And as road warriors we were always all alone and had to conquer each new week with a new challenge, a new client and another week towing a heavy line for the company. In our new temporary roles, we had to work together to get the rest of the group ready for a new bleeding edge product that was already being tested at major companies quietly. It was assumed to be the next big thing. To us it was a big adjustment going from working alone to working with each other. For weeks, we worked on our tasks each on our own, slowly but surely working closer and closer together. At the end of our project, we were disbursed back into the field to conquer larger clients and longer weeks away from home around the world.
Every week that I was in Redmond, it rained. Surprise right? Rainy, misty gloomy weather in the upper north corner of the U.S. When we would go to lunch or even if I walked outside or was close to a window, I always saw crows, heard crows and began to take notice. My health had been trending downward for the two years previous only to keep at a faster pace that year. I always wondered if the crows meant something was going to happen. The rest of the group would look at me funny if I mentioned it almost as if it was as annoying as the crow's call. Not because they didn't care about me, but because they didn't think what would happen that next year would ever happen.
On October 1, 2008, I was at a large client site and I was supposed to be doing training on this new software. Well, without divulging sensitive details and after two very long days, I became critically ill. The next year our department was axed from 10,000 feet without explanation. This October will be four years of not just illness, but free falling with my health, losing all material possessions and becoming among the sick and poor in this country.
Obviously, the last paragraph could be a book in itself. But that story is a story that may be told later, if it is purposeful enough to help others. Right now, it is just a sad story of how fast we can fall when we lose our health in America. When we lose our health, we lose everything, and there isn't anything that will probably change that in my lifetime. The only hope is for a miracle or a national change of heart to where we support each other willingly in the bad times so that sickness is less of a struggle for the families involved.
I miss working, I miss my friends and my community that I have left behind. I think about them often. But I am trying to move forward and not dwell anymore on the things that I have lost. I am trying to live out what to do with what I am given. And I say given because every day literally is a gift at this point.
You would think that I might stick a word in there like curse or damned because of where I stand physically and emotionally. A few months ago, I probably would have. There is something that is changing in me that is indescribable. It is something that I could only learn through suffering, extreme suffering. I had to have everything stripped away from me so that I could begin to clearly see what the world is, for what it is. And let me tell you, it is a gift.
There is so much that we take for granted in each other. There are things that I never thought I could understand, things that have been shown to me in a way that I could not have ever imagined or dreamed up. I have been shown the afterlife in my dreams and it is not what think we think it to be. But if we just concentrate on the afterlife, we miss this life and what we are to do now.
There is a time and a place for the afterlife, it is when you pass on. That time is not now, it is not something to dwell on and forget this world around you. Trust me, I know, I've been there, I've dwelt in the if's and the unknowns. Sometimes I fall right back into it. You get lost very easily in a world that is ironically so tied to this world and this life that you when you get there, you will have missed the greatest part we have to play in this world. Nothing, and I mean nothing that happens to us or passes by us is by chance. We only have the chance to grab it before it passes us by.
If I sit and listen to the crows counting them to think about what they mean, I miss out on the lessons I should be hearing loudly in my daily struggle. It is a blessed struggle, if there is such a thing because I am shown things that aren't supposed to happen. I am shown things that I never asked to see but I realize that they are the essence and the fabric of who we are.
Winter is coming soon. I know that we will probably have a colder winter than last year because it was so warm last winter. Winter is when things get worse for me physically, but summer hasn't exactly been the greatest. But I have to keep in mind what is ahead of me in terms of spiritual growth and things to be thankful for. I tend to wallow sometimes in the physical sometimes and it overtakes my spirit. But my spirit is still there.
I still long for the summers of my youth when I had the energy and stamina of a marathon runner. So in my mind and in my heart, I hold the summers of my youth to get me through this long winter, this season of my life. And I don't hear the crows any more.
In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer - Albert Camus