(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?

When I’m Famous

Tiny tiaraA question from a beautiful young friend sent my thoughts into overdrive. The question was this… “Why don’t more people follow me on Twitter?
My answer was robotic,
“Well, is your account public or do people have to ask to follow you?”
“Do you post 1-3 times per day or just occasionally?”
“Do you complain a lot?”
“Are you saying things that interest, inspire and/or encourage the people reading?”

I then realized, as she stared blankly back at me, she didn’t want a generic answer from a marketing perspective. She wanted me to reassure her that she is worth following. To look at her and say, “You are worthy of being heard and seen. You are worthy of acceptance.”

Has it really come to this? Do we measure our worth by how many people follow or unfollow us each day? Do we evaluate the meaning of our experience by how many “likes” it receives? Are we grading our worth by how many views our creativity brings? I look at my stats multiple times per day. Views on my blog, likes on my Facebook posts, followers in my Twitter feed, repins on Pinterest.

I’m an affirmation junkie! I would bathe in affirmation. I would eat it for breakfast, take deep breaths of it during meditation and swallow two pills of it before bed.

I’ve said it before…my insane thirst for approval is one of my most glaring character defects. It’s a monster disguised as sincerity. It’s sneaky and cunning. It says, “I want you to like me even if I don’t like you.” Because that somehow makes me feel as if I matter.

How many followers are enough? If I become famous and all of you know my name, is it enough? If my face is plastered on magazines and talk shows as “the next big thing” is it enough? If the richest, most well-known people on the planet call me their friend, am I satisfied?

No darlings. I’m not satisfied. I want more. My appetite only grows bigger and more insatiable. What a hideous thought!

So what’s the solution?

A daily reprieve. That’s right! Each day, returning to grace. In the morning, before the day begins, saying, “Today, I will not measure my value by the numbers in my feed. Tomorrow, I may. Yesterday, I struggled. But today…Today, I am measured by the One who created me with great purpose. (You knew I couldn’t finish this without playing the God card!)”

Is it hard? Yes! Will I fail? Yes! I’m the worst offender at this. I wish I couldn’t even see how many of you read my blog today. However, there is no better way to combat my internal monster than to acknowledge and confront it.

So, here is my declaration. For the next 30 days, I will focus on promoting others more than myself. It will be difficult when fear says that without self-promotion I will fail to achieve. Here’s the cool part, truth says, “All that matters is what my heavenly father says.” And He adores me. So you’ll have to excuse my lack of concern for your approval. I’m focused on emanating a light that long outshines that of worldly fame and recognition.

Don’t know where to start? I’ll help.
Read “Love Does” by Bob Goff. Download the audible version (it’s read by the author whose enthusiasm is contagious.)
Help end exploitation of others by joining the efforts of organizations like Wellspring Living.
Experience redemption and grace in action with POTSC.
Support efforts to reach those who need it most with Sole Hope.

I would love it if you came back here and told us about your experience, but that is not a requirement. The important part is that we do it. We get outside of ourselves and our numbers, discovering more than we ever would have otherwise.

What are you waiting for? Start now. Begin anywhere. Blessings and light go with you.

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?