(Guest Post) 3 Lessons I Learned from a Catheter

This post is my father, John Riley‘s, words. If you’ve heard him speak you will be able to hear him within these writings. I hope he will continue talking about the lessons he’s learning through his personal journey into grief that began in the Fall of 2015 after the sudden death of his brother, Buddy. As long as he keeps telling stories, I’ll keep typing. 

Our hope is that these raw renderings will provide some much-needed relief and hope to those who are new to pain and loss. The ones among us who suffer silently while wishing for the person who understands to share their experience so they can say, “Really? Me too!”

I would encourage you to listen to the newly added audio with dad reading the post. Hearing a story read by its author gives it the ability to come alive. It will also give you a glimpse into why he is such a gifted communicator.

CatheterWhen someone in a white lab coat with the letters M.D. on the end of their name that’s stitched on the pocket, starts talking about you and a catheter in the same sentence, it’s sobering.

Once you get to thinkin’ about the reality of the proposed solution for what you hope is a temporary problem, it can really getcha down.

So… you have conversations… with said catheter and you get real honest.
It may sound something like this, “You and I are not going to be friends but, we’ll put up with each other as long as we have to and then we’re through!”

For me, it was only a month.
For many, it can be the rest of their lives.

Now y’all, that’s serious.

I don’t mean this to be too light hearted. It’s just that, trying to learn from it was better than cryin’ and cussin’ and carryin’ on… I suppose.

So, here are three things I learned from my catheter.
Excuse me, THE catheter.
I never wanted to own the thing.

1.- Pain can have benefits… if you let it.

Well, shoot! It’s hard to say what the benefits are because I can’t really think of many, but mainly you appreciate times of no pain.

After two weeks when I was told by my doctor (who is absolutely fantastic), “Sorry, we have to wait another week and another test.” I was upset. I had to process it.
It was only then that I could be thankful for this thing, discomfort and all, making it possible for me to heal inside.

So, I was extremely grateful that I was improving and that the greater percentage of my body was pretty healthy.

I also found gratitude for whoever invented the catheter. (That sounds weirder than I thought it would.) But seriously, I got really thankful for all the lives this person saved, including mine. Without this dang catheter, I would have already exploded five times over! Now, that’s enough to make even me grateful.

2.- Compassion has been defined as entering into the sorrows of another person and thereby showing mercy. I think that’s the way it goes?

How could I possibly enter into someone’s sorrow when I had never had the same sorrow?

I have been through the deaths of… well… everybody in my family older than I am, but this was my first time with a catheter. Now I can really feel for someone who has to have this great invention for a day, or for life.

Also, it teaches me that even though I don’t know personally what someone else is going through, I can know that it’s hard… even though I’ve not experienced the same thing. I thought I understood what it meant to be empathetic, but I’m not sure I ever truly have… before this. I hope that I will never again be unconcerned about another person’s problem.

3.- Make adjustments

By this, I don’t just mean which leg to put the bag on… but everything… well almost everything, you’ve done for many years.

Here are just a few that I have learned… fast… ’cause I didn’t have a choice.

Sleeping – don’t move around much. Get accustomed to sleeping on your back and your side. It’s not bad… except for sometimes… when it is.

Shower – unplug, clean, replug, dry… always makes ya feel better.

Dress – got me a whole new set of underwear, relaxed and unrestricted.
I didn’t realize boxers could be so comfortable! Wear ’em all the time now.

I have some that look like shorts, but the other day at my little community bank I go to, my friend the loan officer told me he could tell they were underwear. Oh well…

Loose pants are my friend. Especially sweat pants. But on days when the temperature in Alabama is 85 degrees, it looks kinda weird. So… I just stayed at home a lot.

Walking – was sometimes pretty easy, annnnd sometimes not.
Most of the time it felt like I was walkin’ with my legs spread like I just got off a horse. Nobody seemed to really notice except for one friend who did say to me, “Why are you walkin’ so funny?!”
“It’s a long story!” I thought to myself. I have lots of conversations in my own head these days. Know what I mean?

Exercise – wasn’t on the agenda. Every day made me look forward to the time I could really start back exercising and made me feel a deep concern for those who never can.

So, the catheter has taught me to be open to learning new ways of doing things. As I get real close to being 70 years of age, it makes me realize I want to keep growing.

Considering these three things, I hadn’t really thought of it, but maybe the catheter was my friend? However, I’m not gonna have it framed and hang it on the wall. (Can you imagine?! Yuck!)

What are you going through that people can’t necessarily see, but is making a huge impact in your everyday? Has it taught you a kind of gratitude that you never knew you wanted to learn?

To the Oldies, the Newbies and Those Inbetween

thank you I want to take a minute to say, “Thank you.”
To those of you who have shared my writings all over social media,
To those who have read and commented,
To those who are receiving notifications of new posts,
To those who aren’t afraid to disagree with me,
To those who I’ve never even met, but consistently send me encouragement,
To those who email me with desperate pleas for help with addiction, eating disorders or something else you know I have walked through,
To those who find community here…
It is such a privilege to share this space with you.

I love that we have comments from all over the world complimenting our stories. It’s incredible to read of the laughter and tears shed (sometimes in the same sitting) while reading posts and comments on these pages.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I’m a egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Some days my feet never touch the ground, while other days my face never leaves the dirt. I am my own worst critic with an inner cheerleader. I fluctuate between feeling like a goddess and an ogre. I am either the happiest, most optimistic person in the room or the anxiety ridden pessimist who draws the blinds and sits in the dark.

Through all of the emotions, I have written. The one constant in my physical life has been the ability to verbally vomit when needed and find healing in the chaos. Through the journey of starting my own business, grieving the loss of someone close to me and walking into incredibly fragile situations with families I had never met, to document the last few moments of their baby’s life, I know I can come here, to this page and process.

I have been completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by the response to many of the things I write. Astounded that anything I have to say would resonate with anyone else and move them to positive action. Elated to find that I am not alone in any struggle.

I am so grateful to you for using what I know to be valuable, precious time, to be with me for a few moments. It’s a gift and one that I do not take for granted.

The days ahead are full. And though I can’t come visit with you as much as I would like, please know that I think of you, my beautiful readers, all the time. I pray for you and I thank God for you.

Thank you for investing in my story.

Love and Light,
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My Beautiful Readers…

I’ve missed this community so much. I hope you are able to hear the sincerity in my written voice.
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The last time we talked I said that I would be sharing the exciting changes that are happening. I never came back and did that. The truth is, I got busy. Really, really busy. And now, well, I’m not so busy and here I am. That sounds much like you are getting my leftovers. I realize how not cool that is.

This year, my faithful friends, I vow to meet you here more often than “every now and then.” This place, here with you, is the energy drink when reality wears me down. Selfishly I want this to be a place where I can expose my wounds in hopes of finding a comfort. That’s what my ego wants anyway, but I will not be getting away with that. The winds of change are stirring, leaving me unsettled and excited.

What is God up to?

He is changing my heart. This is not the first time. It isn’t comfortable. It goes against every ounce of my human nature. It is, however, necessary in order to fulfill His plan for my life. He is drawing me away from the place of comfort and towards the place of risk.

He is providing everything I need at the exact time I need it, not a moment too soon nor ever too late. When this happens… when He makes it so blatantly obvious that He alone provides for and sustains me, it shows me how faithful he truly is. It makes me feel closer than ever before to His plan and purpose for my life. It helps me trust His design.

This year, I want to care more about how many people know love, compassion and Jesus than how many followers I have or don’t have on Twitter. I want to be quick to help without caring who gets the credit. I want to mean it when I pray, “Thy will be done.” even when it’s hard. I don’t want to be embarrassed or hesitant when people ask me about my faith.

So what does this mean?

I’m not totally sure? I have an idea. Some things are already in the works. Things that require time, energy and resources. Things that have no monetary gain. I know God will provide. He is my Great Provider and all I have to do is look at His track record to remember His faithfulness.

I also know that I am one of the few who has been given the opportunity to pursue my passion. It’s quite sobering to think about how much Chris has sacrificed so that I can chase this dream of mine. I also know, were he not in full support it would not be possible for me to follow the path of what I believe to be my destiny.

I guess what I’m saying is, “More will be revealed.” I miss sharing my story, I miss this community, and I’m going to do better.

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Five Minute Friday: Story

Everyone has a story. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not makes it no less real.

For some of us it’s raw and x-rated. For others it’s seemingly simple and without consequence. I believe all are intertwined. It’s messy and at times unattractive. But there are those moments of undeniable beauty. The ones where the world stops moving under our feet and we hear our heart pumping life as our lungs fill with air. If only for a moment, we feel utterly euphoric at the awareness of our oneness with the Creator.

Jim Palmer posted this picture the other day with the caption, “Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” Frank Warren.  You know my name

Isn’t this so true?!

I have a story. It is always evolving, developing and revealing the purpose behind much of my pain.

I recently shared my story with a banquet room full of women and God showed up in a big way. It was absolutely incredible and completely not of me.

It wasn’t until I invited God into the story that things began to change. Nothing was ever hidden from him anyway, but he wanted my willingness to receive.

People love stories. Bad or good, they want to here about the experience of others in hopes of finding strength they didn’t know they had.

I am looking so forward to sharing, with you, what is happening in my story and the exciting direction I am going. I can’t write it all down yet, but I will, soon.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to, reading and sharing my story. I am grateful for each and every one of you.

I love the prompt this week. Wanna play along? Click HERE to join in with the #FMF community of writers.

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

Among the weedsI was discussing with someone the other day how different my definition of beauty is from just a few years ago. It was a process, Evolving over time.

I wish I could explain the formula, but I can’t because honestly, it had little to do with me and much to do with God.

As a photographer I have prayed that God would give me His eyes. That he would show me things that seem average to the human eye, but when seen through his perspective are anything but.

He has done that. Not all at once, a little bit at a time. There are so many examples where,Diamond in the rough I believe, he has granted me access to spiritual sight and it’s absolutely beautiful.

I no longer attempt to define beauty. There is no one definition. Truly, beauty is undefinable. There is one thing I know. Beauty is important to God. He’s the one who created it to begin with. There is no denying it. All you have to do is look around and you will see Him everywhere in everything.

Wanna be a part of Five Minute Friday? Click Here.

When Beauty is a Beast

I am currently mentoring several young women who are entrusting me with their story and a place in their journey. I’m not even sure how it happened, nor do I feel equipped to mentor anyone, but God doesn’t call the equipped, He calls the willing and provides the equipment.

To be honest, it helps hold me accountable for my thoughts and what I’m telling myself. I think God brought these young ladies into my life as much for me as he did for them… maybe more.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food and exercise is less than ideal. For those of you who don’t know, imagine a really nasty divorce from someone who tried to kill you, but you have to live in the same house with them after the separation. That’s a pretty accurate depiction.

I do great most of the time, but when the body image monster sneaks up on me, it does so with a vengeance. I go from being comfortable in my skin to feeling like the reflection in a fun-house mirror. Feelings are constantly changing, so I have to hang on and wait for the change. It’s hard.

The other day I was walking through a department store looking at the clothes. Remembering when I fit in sizes much smaller than the ones I wear now. I felt myself getting negative the further down skinny lane I strolled. Years of excuses flooded my mind.
I had an eating disorder so I have to be careful about exercise and restricting my food.
I’ve had 3 children with the last one being a c-section. My stomach will never look the way it did before.
I gave up alcohol, I’m not giving up my Starbucks drinks.
If I have to go without chocolate and caffeine, I will not be of any use to anyone.
And so it goes. The mental cyclone.

And then, I think of my girls. The ones who have cut marks into their skin with razors, stuck their finger down their throat to purge the pain, starved their body in hopes of starving the monster within and numbed loneliness with substances. The ones who count on me to speak wisdom from my life experiences into their heart and mind. I think of their faces and their fragile image of self. I think of all the times I talk about being comfortable in my skin. The fact that I have been chosen to speak truth about their incredible worth is confirmation that I cannot go down the road of ego-induced thinking. I have to continually humble myself before the Father and ask Him to speak what is true directly into my mind.

I also have to be vulnerable and honest about the fact that I still struggle. What better way for the evil one to derail our ability to positively influence others than by attacking our self-worth? There is a truth that never changes, “My Creator knows me and He calls me by name.”

I want to combat my extreme tendencies with consistent patterns of self-improvement. It’s difficult and I cannot do it alone. I have armed 3F9B6448myself with women who I know will respond to my irrational thinking with truth and love. Women who will come around me when I need wise counsel. Women who empathize with my circumstances. Do you have a woman like that in your life?

We all need community, Beauties. It can mean the difference between life and death. Mental, emotional and spiritual death, can be far worse than physical death. God did not create us to go through this life alone. Jesus had 12 close friends who went everywhere with him. Isn’t that a community?

I want to encourage you to reach out to a trusted source this week and speak your fears out loud. You will be surprised how much power is relinquished when shared with another. Do you believe me? Try it. It might just change everything.

Five Minute Friday: Song

The following is a song that I have been listening to on repeat for the last several days. When the world gets loud, I want to hear His voice.

Here’s my heart Lord
Speak what is true

Here’s my life Lord
Speak what is true

I am found, I am Yours
I am loved, I’m made pure
I have life, I can breathe
I am healed, I am free

‘Cause You are strong, You are sure
You are life, You endure
You are good, always true
You are light breaking through

You are more than enough
You are here, You are love
You are hope, You are grace
You’re all I have, You’re everything

Click to hear David Crowder singing the album version of “Here’s My Heart” from the Passion CD “Let the Future Begin

What are you telling yourself these days? Are you listening to the world or to the one who knows you best?