25 April 2014

A sacred struggle

Words fail to adequately express my thoughts so often, and this is one of those times. But I promised Phil that I would write this post. So for my mom and Phil who want to know what it was like for me to endure 3 performances in one weekend with a broken leg and coccyx, here are the nitty gritty details. For the rest of you, the pictures are at the end. ;)

Whoever decided that the phrase "Break a leg!" should be the stagey way of wishing someone a great performance obviously never broke their leg, let alone tried to perform with one. As one might expect, I got that a lot last weekend as I participated in all 3 performances of Rob Gardner's Lamb of God

It was an incredibly humbling, edifying, and refining experience to be both in excruciating pain and immense joy as I pushed my body to its limits just a week after surgery. But I apparently have a need to be seen as strong, brave, resilient to pain... basically your typical superwoman complex. haha In actuality I'm more independent, stubborn, and slightly insane than anything else. Either way, I'd already sacrificed too much time, energy, effort, and money for my participation in the show to not follow through. The weekend I'd been looking forward to for MONTHS was finally here and I refused to allow something as trite as a broken leg and coccyx to keep me home. And I'm so very glad that I didn't! The weekend did not go as I'd imagined it would over the last 6 months... It was much harder, more painful than I would've hoped. But I did it. And it was nothing short of a personal miracle.

Friday proved to be the hardest bit of the weekend, as I was already exhausted and in a lot of pain by the time we arrived in Watford. However, everyone was so kind in offering to help in any way that the day was full of love and tender mercies. I really hated being *that person* that needed constant help or attention--made all the more disagreeable by the fact that I hate asking for help or being the center of attention. With this in mind, I usually always started off doing things by myself, but within minutes someone would be there (usually my friend, Kynna, bless her!) offering to help. It was incredibly humbling, not just the needing and receiving help, but also the incredible love and kindness which I felt from others as they offered it. Truly it was an answer to prayer for so many to anticipate my needing help without me ever asking, or helping me even when I told them I could do it on my own (Because the humbling reality was--and unfortunately still is--that I currently CAN'T do it all on my own). And so I felt an outpouring of His love as well.

Oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was during Friday's second technical rehearsal, which I skipped. I'd had my leg down for far too long and my brave face was crumbling. So I went to the back of the hall and laid on a pew in the chapel with my leg propped up on pillows. An ice pack, ear plugs, and eye mask helped complete my ensemble of total slacker. I didn't sleep, but I did get some much needed rest. But that wasn't the part I liked best. haha My favorite part was the opportunity to hear the choir and orchestra from the very back of the hall. They sounded absolutely incredible. Truly breathtaking. And I'm not just saying that. Really, it moved me to tears. Especially as they rehearsed "Fill My Soul with Peace," which was our encore number. It was as if the words were taken directly from my soul into a prayer and then put to music. The other part that particularly resonated with me was the choir part from "Gethsemane," where we sing in Aramaic a part of the Savior's plea to not have to endure so much pain. In that moment the Spirit testified to my heart yet again that any and all pain I experience is known and understood personally and perfectly by my Savior. I've never doubted that, but Heavenly Father is merciful, and He knew that was exactly the peace and encouragement I needed to help me get through the rest of the day, let alone the weekend and the next few months of my recovery.

About an hour before our pre-performance warm-up, my friend Jon organized a group to read the Easter story in Matthew. Even though we didn't have time to discuss what we were reading, that helped me so much in mentally and spiritually preparing for the performance. Once again that bit of the story in Gethsemane touched my soul as the Spirit reminded me of the peace and strength which I'd received earlier.

Because I had to go up some stairs onto the stage, I headed up a few minutes early--sitting on a chair backstage by myself before the rest of the choir came up. These few minutes to myself became another favorite part of my "performance routine" (if you can call 3 performances a routine... haha). It  provided the perfect opportunity to pray and reflect upon my testimony which I was about to bear through song to another audience. It also was a private moment of inviting the Spirit to bear His own sacred witness to me throughout the performance. In this way, each performance became both a testimony received and a testimony borne, continuing to strengthen and solidify what I've known since before I can remember: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World. He set a perfect example for me, clearly showing the only path that leads me back to live with my Heavenly Father again. He took upon Himself all Sin, Pain, Grief, Sickness, etc. so that I might never have to walk that path alone. He broke the bands of death so that my family can be together forever. He rose again so that I might be more than conqueror, even perfected in Him. Truly there is no greater hope, no deeper love than this.

Each of the three performances were incredible, the Spirit palpably filling the hall each time. I cried during all of them, but at different parts in each. My favorite song changes depending on my mood or circumstances, but without a doubt a constant favorite is the orchestral part during "At the Sea of Tiberias," when Peter realizes it is the Savior on shore so he jumps in and swims to Him. I developed a special relationship with Peter when I lived in Israel a few years ago, and this story became one of my favorites then because I relate to Peter's feelings so deeply. The way Rob Gardner wrote that orchestral crescendo is a perfect musical depiction of how I envisage that moment--not just for Peter, but for me, too.

The weekend may not have gone how I'd imagined, but in some ways I'm so glad it didn't. I had to rely on my Heavenly Father, my Savior, my friends, and perfect strangers to make it through the weekend in a way that made the redeeming,hope-filled message of Easter so much more personal. I was constantly needing to be lifted up, both physically and mentally, which became a uniquely edifying and refining process. So perhaps performing with a broken leg can be good luck after all.

I promise I'm up there. I'm just sitting down and in the dark, so I was only visible during one song of the performance... which was fine by me because then I could cry most any time I wanted. haha
Told you I was there! This is the only part the audience got a good look at my cast, but hopefully it wasn't too distracting.
My eyes aren't closed, promise. I'm just looking down because the spotlight was shining directly into my eyes and I didn't want to make a weird squinty face during the only time I'm visible. haha

Phil Siu, one of the producers, and our conductor... just one of the many individuals who helped make this whole thing happen and happen right. Thanks for everything, Phil!
Cast shot, just to prove that I really *DO* have one.
Girls from my ward who were all involved in the show. Sarah, in the center, is one of my housemates. Kynna, on the far right, was my "Go-for" girl this weekend--aka an angel straight from heaven. 
The Birmingham bunch who participated. From left to right: Sarah (violin), Chris (bass), Jon (bass, solo as "False Witness"), Tina (1st alto), Lucy (cello, solo), Sarah (2nd soprano), me (1st alto), and Kynna (tenor alto). Not pictured: Camie (2nd soprano). 

15 April 2014

"Let us prove them now herewith."

It's been a ridiculously busy 2 months, which is why I haven't posted in so long. But since now I'm being bombarded with messages about my recent dip into acrobatics, I decided a blogpost would be the best way to share what happened and then those who care can get all the info they want, straight from me. It's been like a bad but very entertaining game of 'Telephone' hearing all the stories that people have heard. So without further adieu:

I got home Wednesday morning from my trip to Idaho. I WAS SUPER TIRED. Unpacked a bit, took a 4hr nap, and went to bed around 11pm. I had my alarm set for 10:30am, but when it went off I was still too tired to move, so I slept until noon. I don’t even remember the last time I slept that many hours in 3 nights let alone in 1. I knew that once March was over my body was going to collapse for a few days, but I had been banking on my time in Idaho being a good place to recoup. Although that trip is a post for another day, let's just say that it wasn't the relaxing vacation I'd been expecting. So I just figured that my body was playing catch up for all the sleep I'd been missing throughout March on top of my jet lag.

Anyway, about 1:30 pm I ate some food. Eggs and hot chocolate, since I hadn't gotten groceries yet. But I was still feeling much too tired to do anything, so I decided I’d just relax and not worry about being ‘productive’. So I watched some West Wing. While I was watching I would have waves of lightheadedness and dizziness come over me, but I just thought it was the jet lag/exhaustion... and who knows, maybe it was?

At about 5:30 I decided I had been as lazy as I could stand and needed to take a shower. So I got my stuff together and headed downstairs to the bathroom with my towels in hand. I got really dizzy and slipped on the stairs. But it felt like someone shoved me down really hard so I just landed directly on one step, then slid one or two more. Not sure which guardian angel I had helping me not tumble all the way down, but I’m REALLY grateful I didn’t. A broken tailbone is an uncomfortable yet very small price to pay for a whole neck. :)

Well, I was in a LOT of pain from falling on the stairs and I started seeing stars so I got to the kitchen and leaned against the counter for a couple minutes catching my breath and trying to breathe through the pain. That’s when I got really nauseous and realized I might pass out so I thought I should sit down. I should’ve sat down on the kitchen floor but I thought I should get in the shower because the hot water might help with the pain. So I decided to head into the bathroom.

I made it about 2-3 steps and blacked out in the doorway of the bathroom. I kinda came to as I was hitting the floor, and it felt like someone had pulled me down. It was pretty miraculous that I fell in the only position I could've without hitting my head. All I remember is a searing pain shooting up my left leg and thinking that something was wrong bc I was SO dizzy and couldn’t quite pull myself together. I managed to yell for Sarah (my housemate), and good thing that she was home. I have no idea what I would’ve done without her!

I couldn’t stand, which I was too dizzy to do anyway, so I crawled to the couch in the living room, a couple feet away from me. It was a lot harder than I thought it’d be. I thought I may have dislocated my ankle bc it really felt like it needed to pop and my knee felt jarred pretty good. Sarah wasn't sure what to do, nor was I. I still couldn't focus or think clearly. The only thing I could think was "Call the Woolseys." So I had Sarah call Elder and Sister Woolsey, who are the missionary couple serving with the Young Single Adults at church. They were on their way back from Wales, but they called a member of the ward who is a doctor. He and his son came a while later to give me a blessing, and then he looked at my foot. He thought I may have broken one of my metatarsals because I had an unusual hard bump on it. 

So he convinced me to go to the emergency room, and he dropped me and sarah off there around 7:30. After about 4 hrs and lots of tests and X-rays, the dr came in and said I had a spiral fracture to my fibula and that my tibia and fibula had both shifted over the ankle joint. So after a couple more hours, the orthopedic dr came in and said I’d have to have surgery to reset the joint and put a metal plate in to set the fracture. So I sent Sarah and the Woolseys (who had shown up a few hours before) home and I was whisked away to Ward 410 where they kept me for the next 4 days.

I had surgery Friday morning, which was pretty miraculous for them to have an opening so soon. I had 3 roommates... average age of about 90, all who had fallen and broken their hips. It seemed a bit ironic that I was put into the ward with all the elderly people... haha I got a good kick out of that. I did not, however, enjoy the snoring, the sleep talking, the hearing aid singing melodies that were supposed to be my bedtime lullabies. So I’m VERY grateful to be home!

Sarah set up a nice little sick bay in our living room for me before she left for home this weekend. I had to miss the final Lamb of God rehearsal, but I'm going to the performances this next weekend come hell or high-water. I refuse to let this little bump in the road derail all my plans. I reject all pity parties and anyone trying to feel sorry for me. It's a broken leg. I'm aware how lucky I am that it's *just* a broken leg, too. So while empathy, visits, and even gifts are welcome (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), the phrase "Poor Dana" will get you kicked out of Poole House. Deal? Ok. Glad we got that cleared up.

Call it stubbornness, willpower, sheer grit or whatever you want. But I'm looking at it as a gift of the Spirit, faith, grace, confidence, humble pride. It is the only thing helping me maintain any semblance of my sanity. I am completely confident that I can handle this, because I know if I couldn't Heavenly Father would've spared me. And honestly, since I'm living my dream life, I feel like a broken leg is a relatively small challenge that warrants zero complaining. I've had a pretty smooth ride the last few months, so it was probably time God gave me a challenge. So Bring It On. Come What May and LOVE IT

So if you ever hear me complaining, just remind me that I can do hard things. Because I know I can. And I can certainly do this one. I'm still working out all the details of how to move forward with school, dissertation, and regular life, but that will take some time. There are going to be some hard moments and maybe even some hard days over the next few months of recovery. It will be frustrating, humbling, refining, uplifting-- But never impossible.

I just might need you to remind me of that sometimes.