I can hardly believe it’s here. My brain doesn’t want to wrap itself around the fact that today is the day. This, the 89th segment of my fictional story When Life Hands You Lymes, is the very last segment. Of ever. This is it! The end. Yes, you will see those two little words down at the bottom of this post. The End. Oh, happy words.
I am currently
knee elbow-deep in working on the synopsis and author bio and all those cheery little extremely difficult things for When Life Hands You Lymes. It’s a long road to publication, y’all. Therefore it’s pretty special to be able to take a break from all of that to sit here and share the final instillment with y’all after going on this journey with you for the last twenty-two months aka ninety weeks aka 632 days aka… You get the point. It’s been a long journey and I’m so very thankful for all y’all who went through it with me.
I’m not even sure if this book would have been written without the constant push to get a post on here each week. Y’all kept me accountable and helped propel me forward. You cheered me on. You encouraged me. You read my story and actually enjoyed the messy little words. Since I’ve been posting the first draft on here y’all got to see a lot of freaky-bad writing, but you kept coming back for more and thankfully I kept delivering.
Since y’all were such a huge part of the writing process, I wanted to do something to thank you. Now, my idea might not throw any of you into the realms of joy, but this is the kind of thing I really (really, really) think is cool.
In the second book I have some neighbors who Madalyn’s family does a lot with and when I do my third re-write I’m going to sprinkle the neighbors throughout the first book, too. These neighbors have names, but I thought as a special “thank you” to my Noveltea readers I decided I’m going to actually name them after y’all!
What you can do is enter the giveaway and if you’re the winner, than I will use (part of) your name (or a variation – you get to choose) as one of the characters. That way you’ll have your name in a book which is going to be tons of fun. There are three neighbor kids, so there will be three name-winners. I’m also giving away a $15 Amazon gift card as another Thank you!
*Please Note: Even if this is the first time you’ve read a segment of When Life Hands You Lymes you can still enter the giveaway! This is open to everyone. The more the merrier!
“I can’t believe you’re calling me from your get-away cabin.” Julia’s voice was reproachful. “Not that I mind, of course. I love hearing from you. But why in the world aren’t you just being by yourself like you said you were going to be?”
“Good thing I wasn’t hurt.” I pause. “You do know how to answer the phone with a torrent of words.”
“Consider it my gift to you.” Julia laughed, “I actually figured you were probably lonely for the sound of my voice and so that’s why you were calling.”
“You were right.”
“I could always drive out there and hang out with you one day this week if you needed me to.”
It made me happy to realize that Julia was missing me, too. “No, I need to have this time away, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call and talk on the phone does it?”
“Of course not.” I could hear Julia moving around.
“What are you doing?”
“Outside or on the treadmill?”
“Outside. It’s a nice day. You should be out walking, too.”
“It’s not a day at all.” I looked out at the inky darkness. “It’s night and it’s dark and please tell me you’re just in our gardens or fields and not on the road like an idiot.”
“Don’t worry, Mother, I’m in the garden.” I heard a noise.
“What was that?”
“Um, I may or may no have just run into a pile of rocks.”
“Julia, should I call you back later?”
“No, I’ll just sit down on one of the benches. There, now I’m safe and still so lets talk about you. How are things going?”
“It’s going good, but it’s hard.”
“I can imagine that. How is it hard?”
“I’m going through so many emotions in my head and it’s driving me nuts.”
“I’m going through so many emotions in my head and it’s driving me nuts.”
“Pecans or almonds?”
I shook my head at Julia. “Walnuts.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“What’s the difference?” This conversation is just what I needed. Goofy, nonsense and giving me a break from everything I’d been going over in my head.
“Walnuts have so many ridges that confusing thoughts and feelings can hide in. That makes them a bad nut to feel like because when you reach the crevices the sights you see are pretty scary.”
“You’re a nut yourself.” I couldn’t help laughing.
“I know, but I’m a hazel nut.”
“A hazel nut? What does that mean?
“It means that I’m feeling small and round at the moment.”
“Julia, you’re the best.”
“I could argue with that, but since I’m really easy to get along with, I won’t.”
“Such a dear.” I took a sip of water and then went over and laid down on the couch, kicking my shoes off as I walked. “For real though, I need some advice.”
I sighed in relief at how fast Julia’s tone changes. She can go from goofy to serious in a split second if she knows I need her to. “I’ve been realizing that I still have this fear inside me holding me back. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is and I finally realized that I’ve hidden so much of my pain and all I’ve gone through with Lyme disease from everyone except my closest family member and friends.” I took a deep breath. “I’ve hidden it for so long and somehow it feels wrong.”
“How does it feel wrong?”
“I’ve learned so much and having Lyme disease and being sick has changed me in so many ways and helped shape me into the person I am now. I know that I would have never been able to learn all I did from Lyme disease if it weren’t for my parents and all they helped me through and taught me…”
“So you feel like you should maybe open up and share your struggles with the world?”
Deep breath. “I don’t want to be ashamed of it. I want what I went through to help others when they go through a hard time.” I close my eyes and rub my forehead. “But how?”
“Write a letter?”
“Yes. Telling about this week. Why you went away. What you’re learning. Why it was hard.”
“Who am I supposed to write this letter to?” I felt my forehead wrinkle.
“To the world.”
“How will they ever see it?”
“Newspapers? Online magazines? It doesn’t matter what venue we choose to send it to, what matters is that you pour your heart into it and be completely open and honest.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“And I’ll be praying for you, Madds. Remember, you’re strong. And you’re going to win this.”
“Thanks for having faith in me.”
“Of course, dearie.”
I turned water on for tea and then took a shower and changed into my pajamas. I needed some way to relax after an emotionally trying day so I spend the next ten minutes with my tea steeping and looking through the collection of old DVDs the cabin had on a bookshelf. At last I decided on Babe: The Pig, recalling somewhere in the back of my head that this story was a part of my childhood. It would hopefully do the trick of numbing my mind until sleep would take over.
Ninety minutes later I put water in my mug, deciding to wait to wash it until the next morning and climbed into bed, pulling the covers up to my chin. “One day down, six left.” I speak the words in the darkness and smile. “I just hope I can survive them without talking to myself too much.” As I drift off to sleep my last thought is No wonder old ladies get cats.
Julia’s words glide in and out of my head during the rest of the week. Sometimes I think I’ll take her up on her challenge, other times I wish I had never called her. At last the week ends and I pack up the car, ready to go home. I start the car, then sit there with the engine running. After ten minutes I turn the key and silence surrounds me. I pulled my notebook out of my backpack and chew on my pen for a minute before beginning to write:
People change a lot between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. That’s how long I was sick. As much as I wanted to be better, being sick was now my comfort zone, I knew how to deal with it. I knew how to work around it. I knew how to make the most of it. Being healthy though… While that was what I longed for, I no longer could imagine it. I didn’t know what it felt like. I wasn’t even sure what my personality was like any more, because Lyme disease had made me somewhat of a loner… Or could that be my music? That was the way it was in so many different areas. I had no way of knowing. Plus, once I felt better, I knew I would realize again how much I’d missed out on during the years of being sick, and that was really hard on me.
And then of course I felt stupid, guilty and ashamed of being scared to get better. So it was a horrible cycle. I hated it. I dreaded knowing that I would once again be overwhelmed and feel powerless to shut out the mocking voices that assailed me.
I had to make a choice. A choice to get better. To re-program my mind for health. To remind myself of all the reasons I needed to be healthy. Getting healthy wasn’t easy. It meant months of vitamins. Months of strict diets. It meant a lot of work on my part, bodily, emotionally and spiritually.
The Bible tells us: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8) That is one of the things I had to keep reminding myself, and still do to this day.
With all those thoughts swirling around in my head though, I knew I needed to get away and go through all my Lyme disease years in my head. A second trip to the doctor in April showed us that I was indeed on the track to health. “Why am I so tired though?” I asked. The doctor responded that it was because I’ve been pushing myself too hard and doing so much. I was like “Huh?” It wasn’t until I went through my year at the cabin that I realized despite not feeling well, I really have been doing a good amount of stuff.
If you’re wondering: I still don’t feel the best. I still have a very limited amount of energy. I also know I’m on the right track and I’m no longer scared of being perfectly healed. Freaked out by some of the things? Yes. Scared? No. I’m on a pretty strict diet/lifestyle that I’m thoroughly enjoying. I’m thrilled to be where I am in life right now. Have the last three and a half years been hard? Yes. Have they helped shape me into the person I am now? Yes. Would I change the last three years into perfectly healthy ones if I could? No, because they really have helped me learn so much. Would I totally freak out if I had to go through three more years? By all means yes! Yet I would still believe that God could use them for His good.
So, what exactly did I do during my week? Other than getting extremely homesick at night, I went through things in my head. I read old journals and letters I had written during the time I had been sick. One of the side effects of my Lyme disease was a messed up sleep schedule where I would be awake until late (or early) just about every night, and then take naps during the day. That gave me a lot of quiet time to write down my feelings during the last three years.
I let myself remember how it hurt to be misunderstood, so that I could forgive. So that I could get over it. I let myself remember the deep, tear inducing feelings of aloneness when I had one of my best friends visiting and yet I felt so bad I just laid up in my bed in pain, crying. I let myself remember what it was like to feel an unbelievable magnitude of guilt and have no clue where it came from. (We later figured out that my thyroid would randomly skip from hypo to hyper and the effect would produce the same feeling I would get when I was guilty from something.) Those were some of the hardest moments. I let myself remember what it was like to long to go somewhere, to do something, yet not have energy. I let myself remember what it was like to feel like just existing was more work than I could manage.
I also allowed myself to remember the undying care of my family. The way people stood by me. The way I had learned to trust in God in a deeper way than ever before. The way I had cried out to God during those times when I felt like I had been forgotten.
And I played music. I played like never before. As I felt the hurt pouring out, I felt healing pouring in. Not physically, that had been coming for a while, but emotionally. I knew I needed the week to successfully close the chapter in my life, and goodness, with God’s help, I am going to close it.
When I was done writing the letter I took my violin off of the seat next to me and slowly began playing the letter out in hushed tones. I closed my eyes and swayed to the music, letting myself go on a journey and find closure. I played the final chord and as the vibrations ended, the last page to that chapter in my life slid shut.