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Blink of an Eye

For my birthday Sean bought tickets to the Hollywood Bowl. 10 years in LA and I’ve never been. Every year I say, “You know what I really want to do this year? Go to the Hollywood Bowl” and every year we never quite get around to it. Life’s like that. Best intentions and all that. This year though Sean took that extra step and actually bought the tickets to John Williams conducting the LA Philharmonic and I was so excited. Maestro Williams conducting a collection of his greatest movie scores – Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Superman, etc. – a tribute to Henry Mancini and Blake Edwards and the evening hosted by Mary Poppin’s herself  (Mr. Edward’s widow), Dame Julie Andrews. It was a marvelous. We had our picnic basket, our wine & cheese, our squares of after dinner chocolate. The night was gorgeous and warm and Sean and I were able to relax and reconnect in a way you can’t do at a traditional movie or dinner. It was magical and, as the music swelled and images swirled on the screens, my hand interlocked with my husband’s, I looked up to the heavens (and I say that without dramatics because there is a lot of sky at the Bowl just begging to be spoken to) and said a silent prayer to God for how happy and lucky I was.

The Bowl really does look like this shot from alumniconnections.com

The Bowl really does look like this shot from alumniconnections.com

Near the end of the concert, while the light saber wielding crowd delighted to the multiple scores from Star Wars, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Sean told me to hurry or I’d miss it, so I scooted out of our seats and hustled to the closest washroom which, because we were technically in a theatre built into a cliff, turned out to be up an extremely steep hill. As I arrived at my location I was instantly aware I’d made a terrible error in judgement. I found myself hopelessly out of breath. Like, really out of breath. Once in the stall I put my head between my legs hoping to counterbalance my lightheadedness but it didn’t work. I couldn’t get a full breath and I couldn’t think my way out of it. No matter how hard I tried to calm down and breath normally I couldn’t will myself better, and it quickly became clear I was going to pass out. I knew I had to get out of the stall or people would simply ignore me thinking I was just some drunk girl who’d passed out while the timpani banged out Darth Vader’s theme. I crawled out of the stall on my hands and knees and just before I lost consciousness I saw one pair of shoes in a stall down the way. She’d find and help me right? With that I let go and fell from my hands and knees to my shoulder and face.  When I came to I was lying on the bathroom floor (the bathroom floor!!! Gross! My poor skin!), my head was killing me and those shoes hadn’t moved at all. I lay there looking at those sensible, beige pumps while my breath normalized and by the time she came out I was sitting up leaning against the wall.

I left this cuteness to go pass out in the bathroom. What a fool I am!

I left this cuteness to pass out in the bathroom. What a fool I am!

Not surprisingly she ignored me. I’m not sure what she thought I was doing. If I was 10 years older I’m sure she would have asked if I was ok, but being younger I think she couldn’t help but silently judge me. I look too healthy to have anything really wrong with me right? She left and I said nothing. When I finally had the energy to stand up I washed my hands, splashed water on my face and slowly made my way back down to Sean. He looked at me when I got back as if to say “Where have you been?” and I burst into tears. I felt completely traumatized. Just thinking about it replayed in detail how awful it had been to be unable to breathe, to know I couldn’t help myself and to be reminded that no matter how happy I was, I was also really sick. That, combined with the fact my head was absolutely throbbing where I’d hit it, caused me to silently sob through the second encore while Sean packed up our stuff.

My bump. It hurt for a week. I even needed a brain scan to rule out a bleed. Post concussive syndrome!

My bump. It hurt for a week. I even needed a brain scan to rule out a bleed. Post concussive syndrome!

The next day my head was a sight to behold. It looked as if I’d had a derma implant with a golf ball. My shoulder was aching and I was so overwhelmingly tired that my parenting consisted of allowing Loch watch TV all day. As a side note, he told me it was “THE BEST DAY EVER!!!” Around 4:30 I texted Sean, who had left our house at 6am for work in the desert, to come home. My text read: When do you think you might be home? I don’t mean to alarm you but I think I have a slight concussion. As I lay in my bed waiting for his answer, the sounds of Phinnus & Ferb drifting into the room, I started to think about how quickly things can change. Here I was moments before saying my silent prayer to God about how wonderful my life was and then, without warning my disease, physically and metaphorically, knocked me me on my a*#. Or in this case, my head.

Things have a way of changing instantaneously. For the good and the bad. I knew on our first date I’d marry Sean. The world just shifted. I walked out of the restaurant with a different life than when I’d walked in. I grew a baby in my body for almost 10 months but was the same girl until the night I went from being just Leigh to Loch’s Mom. I went to the doctor 6 months later thinking I’d developed asthma and 4 hours later was told I had 2-3 years to live. It can all change in the blink of an eye. Everything can shift in a heartbeat and that knowledge should act as a reminder not just to appreciate every great moment, but also not to get too mired down in the dismal ones. What do they say? The only constant in life is change?

I'm writing a memoir myself. The strength and bravery it must have taken for Matthew to have written this one is inspiring.

I’m writing a memoir myself. The strength and bravery it must have taken for Matthew to have written this one is inspiring.

I was recently at Target cooling my heels while Loch entertained himself in the toy aisles and I picked up a book called Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Matthew Logelin. It was the story of a husband who lost his wife to a random brain embolism the day their daughter was born. Written from his perspective I was pulled into the immediacy of the chapter of when it all went down. He vividly expresses the confusion he felt when his wife collapsed walking the halls of the hospital. How helpless and angry he was as the doctors buzzed around while the code alarm blared through the halls. How surreal it felt making calls to people expecting the happy “we just had the baby” song to the “you better get down here they don’t think she’s going to make it” terror. When his wife dies he describes the floor opening up, the fury he felt towards the placating grief councilor, the horror of the realization that he was now completely alone with their newborn, his devastation knowing his new daughter would never know her spectacular mom and the utter confusion that drowned him trying to rectify how his perfectly healthy wife could just be gone. I found myself moved to tears right there in the superhero aisle.

I know what it’s like to have your life open under you. To feel as if you’re drowning in your own reality. Reading Matthew’s words however, I was also reminded of how lucky I am. How different my story could have gone – could still go – and how very much I must try to appreciate every day. People are always saying, “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow”  and though you probably won’t, metaphorically the possibility is there. Things change and things can change quickly. Whenever I’m feeling upset I often think back to the days I was told I wasn’t going to live and my perspective immediately shifts. I do this when I’m mad at people too. How would I feel if they were gone? If I could no longer speak to them? It’s hard to stay mad when you consider the alternative and count your blessings. photo copy 2 That being said however, I think it’s too much to ask of ourselves to appreciate every day, to always be in the moment, to live only in the present and to appreciate everyone all the time. I believe it’s a noble thing to attempt and something we can all hopefully accomplish at various moments in our life, but I don’t think we should put pressure on ourselves to be zen in every instance. When we do that it just becomes yet another thing to get down on ourselves for, to feel we’re failing at.  I think the big picture is simple awareness and the acknowledgement that nothing ever remains static. If your life is good, be grateful. If your life is tough, be hopeful. Try not to dwell. Keep moving and growing. Appreciate and celebrate the moments and people that bring you joy. Tell people you love them. Be kind to others. Create memories and relationships that will live on after you’re gone. Make the most of your life because you’re not getting another one and it can all change on a dime.

Passing out on the floor of a bathroom reminded me to take stock of all I have to be grateful for. That no matter where I’d like my future to go, I must appreciate my current reality and truly saver my moments because I don’t know how this is going to play out. Passing out forced me to stop and acknowledge my reality and, for better or worse, embrace it. I may dream of a bright future but I have to care for myself in my present so I’m around to enjoy it.

For now that means more unique dates with my husband and not walking up hills at speed.

Duh.

xo leigh

photo copy 3

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Keili #

    Oy vey L. A. E. M.! X’ing and O’ing you and your noggin!!!

    September 10, 2013
  2. So very, very grateful it was just a knock on the noggin, Leigh. The world is a better place with you in it. Peace be with you – Kelly

    September 10, 2013
    • Thank you Kelly. I really appreciate that! xo leigh

      September 11, 2013
  3. Mo #

    We should all think this wisely. Stay well.

    September 10, 2013
  4. momoran #

    You are most certainly loved!!! I miss you and wish I had been there with you… one stall over so I could have caught you.

    September 10, 2013
  5. Leigh,

    In January I lost my beloved mother. She was 90. She lived a great life. Still, I remember the day my brother walked into my neighborhood Starbucks to inform me she’d been taken to the hospital. I’d seen mom just an hour before, I’d come home to check on her, dad, and my sister Yvette. I’d purchased an Italian sub for my sister. My brother David was also there, mom was in the living room looking restless – as was normal when the kitchen got noisy.

    I remember clearly directing mom into the den to sit down as I’d done hundreds of times before. An hour later, she suffered a major stroke. I often replay this scenario endlessly mostly out of guilt because I was anxious to get back to surfing the net and Facebooking…
    What I remember about that night was hold coldness seemed to permeate everything – the cold wind penetrating the layers of clothes as I walked from the parking lot into the hospital emergency room, the cold rush of air as I entered through the sliding glass doors of the hospital, the coldness of the life shattering news, the coldness of death in that hospital, the coldness of life itself.

    I lost mom shortly thereafter, but she was surrounded by the warmth of me and my two sisters. She didn’t die alone. She crossed with me holding her hand…

    Everything since her passing has been seen through the lens of mom’s loss. Graduation last June a little less joyous, the laughter a little less loud and unrestrained… Sorrow’s grip has also lessened, but sometimes – without warning – she stops to check in on me, then leaves just as quickly.

    Her passing has reminded me that things we think so important pale in comparison. Facebook drama and petty arguments are rendered inconsequential. Nothing can hurt as deep as the loss of the loved one. To this drama and the people who bring it I say: “ My mom died. I KNOW THE PAIN OF LOSS INTIMATELY. You will NEVER EVER hurt me as deeply.”
    But also, mom’s last lesson: To LIVE. Fully. For in so doing, I honor her. In her passing I reconnected to my writing voice. I’m exploring that gift again. I take nothing for granted.
    Nothing.

    Thank you Leigh.

    September 10, 2013
    • Thank you anomalouis. I so appreciate your candor. You know of which I speak.

      All the best,
      Leigh

      September 11, 2013
  6. I hope your head is OK. I’m just a reader (and mother) who enjoys your blog, but a couple of years ago someone I love was diagnosed with a disease that isn’t going to get better. I draw a lot of hope from your posts, and I’m grateful. Life is so delicate and so precious, especially those moments with loved ones. (Although some moments are less precious than others, sorry to hear about the bathroom floor — ew!)

    September 11, 2013
    • Totally ew tupchurch! Thank you for reaching out and reading. It means the world to me. All the very best to your loved one who is dealing with their own illness and all that comes with it.
      xo leigh

      September 11, 2013
  7. Betty DeGeneres #

    I can’t believe that young woman didn’t at least say, “Are you okay?” But we won’t waste time on her. Thanks for your incredible strength, Leigh – and thanks for the Buddha statement.

    September 15, 2013
    • Thank you for continuing to read Betty. Your support means a lot. xo Leigh

      September 16, 2013
  8. You enrich my day, every time I read the words that are your life Leigh. Thank you for giving of yourself in this way.

    Namaste

    September 16, 2013
    • Thank you Nodak92. That means a lot to me. xo leigh

      September 16, 2013

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