The guy on the phone says "So what's your long term goal?". I of course laugh - I try not to think about long term goals too much - there's so much that can happen - I respond "This is the best way I can put this, my long term goal is to be at the grocery store and be able to buy the Tide Laundry Detergent for $7.99 rather than the Sun Laundry Detergent for $1.99 - because Tide really does clean better". He laughs. I say "I don't have lofty goals - I just want to be able to take my kids to the movies once a month, eat a burger at Red Robin once a month, get the oil changed in my car when its supposed to be done - not when the odometer is 10,000 miles since the last change - I want to buy myself a new bra if I need it instead of wearing one until it frays and the underwire breaks". He doesn't say a word. There's a long pause. He knows all about her condition - we had that talk at the beginning of the conversation once I was finished telling him all the details of our financial situation. I laugh. "Ma'am, Danielle, Mrs. Edges, I don't know exactly what to say to you - you have nothing, you have no assets, other than a car which you need to get to work and school and to take care of your daughter, you already spend less than the average American household on everything - your family is in a very difficult situation, yet, (long pause) you laugh. I am honestly baffled. How do you laugh?" Of course I laughed. Partly to cover up the horrendous truth he spoke but also because this is life with a medically complex child. What else can I do? I've shed enough tears over her condition, over the financial ramifications of everything, of my own inability to seem to get along with others - it's enough to fill Crater Lake in Oregon (I heard Crater Lake is super pretty - so I want to compare my tears to it). What else can you do? What after everything that has happened in the past 8 years has stayed with me (besides my Savior Jesus Christ)?
MY SENSE OF HUMOR. It's that simple.
I reply to this super sweet dude at the debt consolidation company "How do I laugh? Why do I laugh? It's all I've got left. I've got no money, a thankless worthless job, a daughter who I will bury sooner or later, another daughter who still sucks her thumb at age 7 because she has abandonment issues cause she thinks her Momma loves her sister more than her cause I have to travel to take care of her sister...". And then I stopped. I just stopped talking. "Ma'am?" I hear him say. I laugh - I just turned 36 and it almost feels good to be called ma'am - "Oh yeah sorry. Anyways I've got a lot to look forward to - I'll graduate with my Associates in elementary education in May (in my head I'm thinking barring any insane plot the Universe has to bring me to my knees), and at least the 4 of us are still breathing...". "Mrs. Edges my advice to you is to continue to do what you can. Pay what you can. If they send you to collections, so be it. You are doing work that is way above monetary funds. Honestly, off the record, your reward is in Heaven.". I let one little tear drop from my eyes. "Thanks Reese. I am sorry I kinda unloaded on you like that". "Don't be sorry ma'am. You have extraordinary circumstances. You are raising a child who shouldn't be with us anymore. I think you are doing amazing. I wish I could do something for you, but your income is just not enough until you are done with school. But you can't give that up right now. Keep going."
We said another few thank you's and wish you wells and I hung up the phone. 2.5 hours of the most intense phone call I have had since they called me and said she has an "abnormal looking heart". When I hung up I laughed more. Maybe because my life is so filled with intense emotion and hardship that it's like a novel. (Haha secretly as a kid I wanted my life to be like something out of a Danielle Steel novel - now there's irony for ya) And yeah you could say I brought it on myself. But nothing - NOTHING - prepares you for a kid with a rare defect combined with a totally broken and half a heart. I didn't cause that to happen.
Heterotaxy and congenital heart defects along with liver abnormalities have brought me to my knees time and time again. I've lost parts of myself that I can remember implicitly but can't put them into physical action. I have learned to be at the mercy of Murphy's Law.
But no matter what - I never lost my joy. I never lost my laughter even as I helped a nurse pull impacted stool out of my daughter post Fontan surgery. I never stopped laughing for the sheer sake of the insanity of it all.
And I won't. So whatever has brought you to the place you feel worthless, unhappy, unable to see any good in anything - remember your ability to laugh. Even through the tears. Just laugh - I guarantee the heartache will end quicker. Now some people may think you belong in a padded cell - but all the best of us are a little crazy. Come to the side who knows how to party through the pain.