I rarely utter the thoughts, much less the words, “I can’t do it.” I usually say, “not today,” or “maybe some other time.”
But one night in July I was standing on the bottom step of the 3 steps that led into the camper where I was to sleep for the second night. My husband was inside trying to arrange the foam cushions and make it as comfortable as possible for me.
I jokingly say, “If I get in there I don’t know if I will be able to get out!” and smile. But then, I tell him to let me try out the bed first before he arranges the next cushion. I grasp the large handle by the door.
I think to myself “now pull up.” The body doesn’t move. “Now pull up.” I am in so much pain I cannot even fathom it.
I can’t do it. It really isn’t possible, I think to myself. Trying harder isn’t going to change the impossible.
“Honey, be careful,” my mom says. “Is it your knee?”
“It my knee and my back and my shoulder and my ankle and my hip and my wrist!” I snap back.
She steps away. I’ve hurt her.
I give it one more try. My brain tells my body to pull-ll-ll. Nothing happens.
“I can’t do it,” I say out loud. “I just can’t do it.” And then the tears start to fall. “I can’t do it!” I say through the tears. I lean against the camper door frame and cry. My husband runs over to me from inside the camper. My mom runs over beside me on the step. My son’s cousins try to pretend their aunt is not having a little breakdown.
I am going to bawl over this. I can’t believe it.
I step down, blinded by tears, and start to walk toward the side of the camper where I can cry alone, and I fall right over the top of the old metal Coleman cooler that is nearly as old as I am. I do an acrobatic dance in the air, limbs flailing, and I hear my husband and mom cry out, “Oh, God!” –both as a prayer and a plea.
I feel my arms and legs going in all directions. I come close to the water pipe. I must look like a spider being electrocuted.
And then somehow, miraculously, I land on two feet. A very bruised, throbbing knee, but two feet.
My husband meets me by the side of the camper and puts his arms around me. My mom comes to comfort me.
“I can’t do it,” I tell him, still surprised that I could do it last night, but not tonight. An admission. A surprise.
“I know,” he says. “What can I do?”
“I need a room. Call motels, anything. I need a bed.”
Ninety minutes later I am in a small quaint old motel up the street from the campground. I have stood in the shower, so hot that I can no longer feel my body. I have my husband cover my shoulders and neck with pain patches, he tucks me in, and goes back to the campground.
He wanted to stay, but my son was upset by the whole ordeal, and having Daddy with him in the tent tonight was was reassurance I wanted him to have. And I needed to just sleep. . . on a bed. . . And I will admit, without snores beside me.
Oddly, I never felt defeated. All day, driving through the coastal towns, I had glanced at motels and thought, “I wonder if they have any rooms tonight?”
But part of me didn’t want anyone to think I was being a prima donna. “Lisa can’t go one night without a shower and a bed!” They would never say that, but I still wanted to prove something.
Why? I am not sure. You wanted your son to remember camping with the whole family, not mom heading off to the motel. . . Yes. That is part of it. And I wanted to prove it to myself.
Prove what? Maybe just that I still control my life. My illness does not control me. I may not be able to go on the dune buggy ride or walk on the beach, but I can sit around the fire and sleep in the camper and eat campsite grit in my hot dog without complaining.
Hiking to the bathroom, balancing around the campsite on broken down feet, sleeping on hard foam. . . those days have passed.
It’s okay. I have lovely memories of years passed. And next time–I will plan on the motel room, and then join everyone at the campfire for marshmallows.
The next morning my husband and son came and got me. I was refreshed, happy, in less pain, not a zombie from lack of sleep. Oh, how I would have enjoyed the day before so much more if I’d done this the first night!
Live and learn. . . and keep laughing through it all.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop.