“If you want something done, ask a busy woman.” ~ Anonymous

That’s an old saying I’ve found to be true over and over again. I’ve met too many people who spend more time making excuses for why they can’t do something than it actually takes to complete it. And so many people with a dozen balls in the air already – what difference does one more make? I was never one to back down from a challenge. In fact, I thought I did my best work when the pressure was on. Then I faced a challenge I couldn’t overcome – but had no idea how to admit defeat.

I worked in constant pain for two years. I worked full time, usually more than forty hours a week, at a job where decisions I made could mean the difference between life and death for my patients. I tried not to take the narcotic pain medications my doctors had prescribed, or the muscle relaxers – both made me groggy, and the very thought of being a nurse working under the influence of medications like those was against all I’d been taught. But the pain itself was just as disabling as the drugs. It was bad enough to have me running to the restroom to vomit many times, and twice I passed out from the pain. But I was under the care of doctors, I was at some sort of treatment or therapy nearly every day. How could I not work? I was the primary breadwinner, I carried the all-important health insurance.

But after my fourth surgery, when the pain was still no better, I didn’t return to work. I felt guilty, felt like a failure, but I kept trying to get better. Eventually a nurse practitioner sat me down and explained that I would never get better – that my disease was progressive and the best I could hope for was to slow it down a bit.  I was forty-six.

Since then my challenges have changed. Taking a shower is challenging. Drying my hair is impossible. Travelling an hour is a challenge. Travelling eight hours is impossible. Running a couple of errands is a challenge. Doing a full grocery trip (even with a handicapped placard and a teen to do the heavy lifting) is impossible. Spending thirty minutes at the computer is a challenge. Spending an hour there will put me in bed the rest of the day.

It’s been difficult, but I’ve adapted to my new challenges. In the future I’m sure I’ll have to adapt to more. Challenges are good, and the feeling of meeting a challenge is heady. But not every challenge can or should be met. We each have our own race to run, and it’s not a competition with anyone else. Just ourselves.


I’m linking up to Mama Kat’s Writers’ Workshop, a great place to find a list of writing prompts every week – one of which is sure to speak to you!

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8 thoughts on “Challenges”

  1. I too wrote on this prompt this week. You certainly have a lot of challenges that you are currently facing. I’m glad that you have a very positive attitude in facing them. All the best.

  2. You summed it up perfectly at the end of your post… “We each have our own race to run, and it’s not a competition with anyone else. Just ourselves.”

  3. I am so sorry you have to live with constant pain. I can’t imagine the challenges you face trying to find a new way to do little things like wash your hair, especially when they are things that once were easy for you, things you never really thought about twice before. Take care of you.

  4. This really resonated with me.
    I too am a nurse. I destroyed my lower back dragging an unresponsive patient from the parking lot into the hospital when I was 23. At 34, my spine is crumbling like dominoes. I just had a procedure done last night because be damned if they are going to go back in and fuse three levels and add a rod. While my pain is not anywhere near compared to yours, it is a challenge both physically and mentally. It’s hard letting go of my career and a lot of the things that I used to do independently. The emotions sometimes hurt far worse than the physical pain.
    Gentle hugs to you.

    1. Ah, yes, the “domino effect” that no one tells you about until after surgery. Grr. Don’t underestimate your pain. As nurses, we tend to do that. We push through and are proud of ourselves for being strong, and then one day wake up to realize we’ve used up everything we have physically AND emotionally. Take care of yourself and know you’re in my prayers!!

  5. Blessings to you. My mom suffered an inhalation injury at work several years ago and she has lots of difficulties . Watching her struggle these last few years has given me a great deal of empathy for people who suffer with chronic illness.

  6. That must have been such a humbling moment for you with that nurse. I can relate as a person who naturally wants to take on as much as possible in “go go go” mode.

    Even though you seem to have a positive attitude about letting go of what you used to accomplish everyday, I’m kind of relieved you no longer have to pressure yourself with those expectations. I wish I could change it for you.

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