Chapter 27: Falling into the Pit
Nothing much changed at first after Charlie’s funeral. On the contrary, things actually looked like they were improving for a while there. For starters, I was offered a promotion at my job. This promotion would allow me to work full-time hours, and although I wasn’t sure yet what the pay was going to be, I figured it had to be enough to get my own place and finally move out of my mom’s house. After a year living with my mom, I was ready for my life to be mine again. Upon hearing the news of the promotion, I called Reagan and planned another celebratory weekend in our favorite getaway town of Eureka Springs. This time I invited a couple of gals I had met in Arkansas along for the ride. I wanted to get everyone together for some fun. I was finally going to have my life back, and that definitely called for a celebration. I had found a luxury log cabin near the lake, and if each of the gals pitched in a hundred dollars, this cabin would be ours for a couple days. The plan was to swim, kayak, grill out, and drink beer of course. I couldn’t have been happier with the plans. Everything was finally coming together in my life. I was finally living away from my hometown like I had always dreamed about, and now I had a full-time job as well. Things felt like they were finally going my way. Riding the high of the good news, I couldn’t see the dark clouds appearing on the horizon, which is usually how it goes.
The day before I headed up to the cabin, I received the official email for my new job. This was the email that listed my new salary. I opened the email, and my eyes began to widen in panic as I saw the amount was far less than I had imagined. Back in Tulsa, I had made twice the amount this new full-time job was offering me. I suddenly felt an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I began to wonder how on earth I was going to afford to move out. I tried not to panic, but I was inwardly reeling. Trying to stay calm, I quickly reasoned that I could look for a roomate…yes I could make this work I thought. However, I was almost 40 years old then..and the thought of finding a stranger to be my roommate didn’t really appeal to me anymore.
It was right then that I began to feel the old familiar rage bubbling up inside me. How could I still be stuck with my mom? How could this job pay so little when it required a Bachelor’s degree? I wondered. I was livid, but I had to calm down. I would figure out something. I decided to forget about it, and just enjoy the weekend. Money would just have to be tomorrow’s problem.
Thankfully, I was able to put all my concerns on the back burner and enjoy the time with my friends. We had a blast, and it turned out to be one of the best weekends I had experienced since moving to Arkansas. We went kayaking in the river and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I was warm and happy. I mean, the simple fact that I could be outside in the heat at all seemed like a gift from God–what with all the heat strokes I’d sustained. Arkansas weather was a bit cooler than my hometown, and being in a higher elevation helped as well. Overall, the weekend was a carefree break from all the stress I had been through recently.
I didn’t know it then, but this was the last time I would ever be the fun, bohemian, fabulous party friend these girls had known and loved. This was also the last time I would see Reagan in person as well. Jesus was about to change everything in my life, and lift the veil of spiritual blindness.
When the lighthearted weekend was over, I knew I had to face the heavy, disappointing situation with my new job. Bracing myself, I began to mentally prepare for the new employee training I was set to attend the next day. It was an all-day training, and I would have to take a test afterwards to become fully certified as a Mental Health Paraprofessional. I did great in college, so I wasn’t too nervous, but I couldn’t shake the bad feeling I had about the whole thing. However, I had to power though. All my friends and I had already toasted to my new job, so I had to keep the momentum. This was my ‘big break’ after all, and I didn’t want to blow it. As it turned out, the training and certification test was indeed grueling. It was all computerized, and it was focused on privacy and confidentiality laws for medical professions– something I had zero experience in before that day. Most of my colleagues had a background in psychology, but instead my background was in non-profit work. I felt like a fish out of water that day, and because of this I started to have even more serious doubts about this new job. As it turned out, I passed the exam, but I was one of the last ones to finish. I was used to feeling accomplished and successful, but this training felt like a torturous event designed to highlight all my weaknesses. I somehow got through the day, but the whole event colored my thinking on the new job even more than before.
Eventually the first day on the job rolled around, and I was relieved to see that it wasn’t quite as bad as I had originally thought. However, I learned the new job would entail a fair amount of commuting back and forth to rural schools. Getting lost on backroads without a GPS, all in the heat of the summer…well the thought of this was starting to get me anxious all over again. Again, I had a very uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach…but I pressed on. I had no other choice at this point.
After the first day was over, I had the weekend to rest up so I was thankful for that. However, when Sunday evening rolled around I was already painfully dreading returning to this job. I had horrible anxiety just thinking about it, so in efforts to soothe myself I headed over to the grocery store across the street to get some ice-cream.
I didn’t know it at the time, but everything was about to change that day. God was about to start the process of allowing the old ‘Me’ to crumble. He was about to answer my prayer and rebuild me into the woman He had intended for me to be.
Upon arriving at the small country store, I chose a grocery cart. At first, I didn’t notice the cart was any different from the ones I had been accustomed to using. Because this store was a homegrown family owned shop, their carts weren’t as fancy as the ones at Wal-Mart. The carts didn’t have the protective plastic flaps that covered the child seat areas where kids could dangle their legs down while riding with mom or dad. Because of the missing plastic covers, I absentmindedly placed a larger pint sized bottle of Gatorade on the front part of the cart. Not realizing the precarious position of the gatorade bottle, I quickly turned the corner of the grocery aisle with a jerking movement of the cart. When I rounded the corner, the pint of Gatorade haphazardly slid between the gap in the cart and landed directly on my foot with a surprisingly strong thud. I was wearing flip flops that day, so my foot got directly hit with a blunt force blow. When it happened, the whole event seemed to occur in slow motion. It was almost as if I knew it was going to happen, but I couldn’t seem to stop it. Like in a nightmare, I felt paralyzed and unable to fully control my body. What’s more, when the bottle fell on my foot it was perfectly angled to have the most damaging effect upon my foot. Through the whole event, I just sat there and stared at the ground, frozen to the spot in shock.
Through all this stress, I was surprised that I didn’t panic at all. Instead, something unusual happened to me that gave me a quiet confidence about the whole situation. The ‘unusual’ event was actually more like a miraculous occurrence. However, at the time I didn’t quite comprehend what was happening. You see, at the exact moment gatorade fell onto my foot, I heard a reassuring voice inside my head. This voice was very different from the terror I’d previously experienced attacking my mind. This was a different voice, a still-small voice that gave me strength. All the sudden I could hear the whisper.
The voice said:
“It’s going to be okay.”
Looking back many years later, I would realize that this was indeed the Lord’s voice reaching down into the pit to reassure me He was taking care of me even then. However, back then it didn’t immediately register that it was actually God speaking to me because my mind had been so scrambled with the new-age belief in the higher self. Even though I had been raised at church knowing that God talks to his sheep, and his sheep know the sound of his voice, I was still very confused about what I had just heard. At that time, I mistakenly thought my ‘higher self‘ was speaking to me.
After the accident at the store, I went home and iced my foot. It had turned a nice shade of pink, but I was staying calm because I believed my higher self was telling me my foot would be fine. However, I wanted to make extra sure the foot wasn’t broken. So the next day I was able to get seen as a walk-in patient at the University clinic, and even though it was humiliating to be carted around town by my mother I had to see if the foot was truly broken before returning to my new job.
While at the clinic, I was given an X-ray, but it surprisingly didn’t show any sign of a fracture, so the doctor told me I was fine. Normally, this would have been great news but there was something inside me that didn’t fully believe the diagnosis. Since my mother was working for a chiropractor at the time, I was able to get a free X-ray from one of the specialists at the office, and this provided me a second opinion. Interestingly enough, this second X-ray did indeed show a small stress fracture and confirmed my suspicions. As it happened, stress fractures often take a bit of time to appear upon X-rays, so that’s why the initial exam didn’t reveal a bone break. The chiropractor was helpful in many ways, and also informed me that my employer would probably require another X-ray from a recognized medical doctor– being that chiropractors were not seen as fully credible for insurance purposes. The chiropractor also advised me that while I did have the option of wearing a walking boot, that I was better off using the crutches instead to allow for a much quicker recovery time. The chiropractor cautioned me that walking boots can oftentimes delay healing for up to 6 months depending on how much they person is up on their feet. Taking his advice to heart, I chose the crutches. However, I didn’t stop to think about how this choice would affect my new job. I just figured I could still perform all the basic functions, but I was wrong about that too.
The following day, I told my new job about the injury, and they were surprisingly unsympathetic and even a little cold. They responded to my news by informing me that their medical leave policy required me to take a 6 month leave of absence if I couldn’t perform my job duties. I assured them I could still work, but they again informed me that I needed to be fully mobile to keep my position. I could keep my job they said, only I wore a boot cast. I declined based on the medical advice my chiropractor gave me, and I was more than a little stung by the gruff manner in which I had been dealt. Overall, I was shocked at how little sympathy I was shown. I had never been treated like such a statistic before at any job. I took this very personally at the time, and actually consulted a lawyer to see if I had any legal recourse. As it turns out, I didn’t have any ground to stand on at all…both figuratively and literally. The law firm told me that the best thing to do was to let the foot heal, and look for another job. Devastated, I felt as if everything was crumbling around me. I had never felt this powerless and helpless.
I was about to embark upon a very dark time in my life, as Jesus was about to show me my own weaknesses. Sometimes God has to break us down to humble us. When we’ve been too proud, or when we don’t know how to cry out to Him, he will create events that seem horrible…but in reality are the exact events we need for our ultimate spiritual healing. God breaks us to heal us. It’s the paradox that makes serving the Lord such a wild ride, and such a blessing.