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Embrace Wednesday Writings

Embracing Chronic Illness, Part 3

In Part 1, I shared what God has been teaching me about embracing my health limitations and living my life to the fullest. Part 2 continued the theme with a challenge to, like God, value the journey just as much as–if not more than–the destination.

Both parts mentioned letting go of the map we’ve designed for our lives and letting God take us His way instead. Part 3 illustrates this idea with a short story.

“Where are we going?” 

I frown out the passenger side window as the car veers off the highway onto the exit ramp. 

My driver doesn’t even glance over at me, half-smiling beneath his sunglasses. “This way.”

I roll my eyes. “I know that, I mean, why are we going this way?” I hold up the printed directions I’ve been keeping in my lap. “We’re supposed to stay on the highway for another twenty miles. We don’t get off until Exit 46.”

“Is that what the directions say?” He flips the turn signal on as we roll to a stop at an intersection.

“Yeah, I double-checked last night before I printed them.” Straight across the intersection, on the other side of the county road running north-south, a sign points toward another ramp. “Look, that ramp will put us back on the highway. Go straight and then–“

The light turns green. He turns right. 

“No, we’re going the wrong way. The highway’s back there.” I lean forward, pointing past him to the Dunkin Donuts approaching on the left. “Pull in there, you can make a U-turn and then—”

He drives right past.

“Wait, you missed—you missed it.” I look down at my papers, but they’re only a list of directions, not a map. Panic closes in. “Turn around, we have to find another place to turn around, or I’ll find the next place we can get back on the highway—”

His hand rests on my knee. “Relax, cariño. I know what I’m doing, trust me.”

I hold up the papers in my fist. “But you’re not following the directions.”

“There’s more than one way to where we’re going. I’m taking you on a detour.” He grins, as if he’s just announced he’s taking me to the zoo.

I sigh and lean back in the seat. Pretty sure I look like a five-year-old pouting in her carseat, but I don’t care. I worked too hard to put together my list of directions for our day’s travel. “But a detour will take longer.” Pretty sure I sound like a five-year-old too now. 

“We’re not in a hurry.”

We’re not? He may not be in a hurry, but I calculated our trip to the exact minute to get us to our destination as soon as possible, with plenty of time to unwind after our arrival. 

He glances over at me, almost amused. “Just let me drive, cariño. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Put some music on, eat some snacks. Enjoy the scenery.”

Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

I don’t eat some snacks or put some music on. I reach for the atlas inside the car door and open it across my side of the car, who cares if I’m hiding behind it like a grumpy kid behind cereal boxes at the breakfast table.

He doesn’t bother me as I try to find our location on the atlas. I trace the thick gray line of the highway we just left, and I think I touch the general area of the exit we took, but I can’t find the exact road we’re on. Either the atlas is outdated or we’ve left the county road for a smaller, unmarked road.

After several minutes of sour silence, paper crunches and flaps in a magnificent show of bad grace as I fold the atlas and drop it onto my lap. “I can’t find it. I don’t know where we are.” There. I finally admit defeat.

“I do, don’t worry.”

Did I expect him to help?

I pick up my directions again, two pages of carefully listed instructions of where to turn, how far to go, even when to stop for breaks. “Should I even hold onto these or chuck them out the window?”

“Don’t throw them out the window, that’s littering.”

I give him my I’m-not-laughing look. “You know what I mean. Are you going to follow any of this?”

He has that half-smile again. “Maybe.”

“You’re obnoxious.”

“You’re stubborn.”

He’s still smiling, but I’m still not laughing. “I just thought I would help you out so we could have a nice trip together, and then you completely abandon it all.”

He pretends to be offended. “You’re saying I can’t take you on a nice trip?”

“No.”

“I thought you liked back country roads.”

“I do.” I look out the window as we pass a speed limit sign: 45 mph. “I also like to go fast.”

He shakes his head. “You Americans, always so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey.”

“Hey now, I resemble that remark.” He’s partly teasing, and I’m partly teasing, but we both recognize the grain–or maybe the mountain–of truth in our words.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“Besides.” He reaches for my hand. “Don’t you want to spend a little extra time with the man who loves you?”

“Not when I don’t know where we’re going.” It’s what I want to say, but the words would hurt, and they’re not entirely true anyway. I let him take my hand but don’t squeeze back. “I suppose.” 

“Why don’t you put on some music?” 

I reach for my phone. “What do you want to listen to?” I grumble the words, asking more out of duty than real interest.

He shakes his head. “You pick.” 

Still scowling a little, I plug in my phone and open one of my favorite Pandora stations. The delicate notes of a piano reach out of the speakers.

He looks over at me. “I love you.” 

I want to roll my eyes again. He says that too much, as if the three words are a band-aid that can fix any problem I have. “I love you too.”

I shove the atlas back in the door pocket, but the directions stay on my lap. Maybe–just maybe–this detour will eventually put us back on the main route and we can finish the journey as I’d planned. 

I glance at the digital clock on the dashboard. Supposedly another four hours until we arrive. Who knows how long now? 

I sit in silence, glaring at my discarded directions, until he points out the farm over there. Then the foliage on that side, and the cool bridge ahead, and the historic houses in the little town we pass through.

Image by Don White from Pixabay

After an hour or so we slow down in one of those little towns, and he pulls into the parking lot of a small diner. 

“Hungry?”

I unbuckle my seatbelt. “Perfect timing. I was just going to ask for a bathroom break too.”

He winks and opens his door. “I figured.” We start across the parking lot, and he puts his arm around my shoulders. “If we’d stayed on the highway, there wouldn’t be a good rest stop for another half-hour, at least.”

“Rub it in, will you?”

By the time we return to the car, carrying two paper bags of burgers and fries and two milkshakes, the sun is hovering over the hills in the west.

“I’m glad we stopped here.” I put our milkshakes into the cupholders. “The girl gave me her number, and I told her I’d text her tomorrow.” I started chatting with the cashier while waiting for our order, and in just a few exchanges we found several common interests and a surprisingly similar background. 

He’s grinning as he slides behind the wheel. “See? You never know when you’re going to make a new friend.”

At least I never know.

My directions are lying on the armrest where I left them. I have to pick them up in order to put the bags of food down where we both can reach them.

I glance over the words and symbols, and this time I’m not disappointed that we haven’t finished the route I worked so hard on. His detour has been worth any extra time–much more pleasant than the six-lane highway with its trucks and medians and concrete walls–and who’s to say we wouldn’t be stuck in rush-hour traffic right now anyway?

He really does know how to take me on a nice trip.

And it’s not even over yet.

My pride half-hopes he won’t notice as I quietly fold the papers and slip them into the door pocket with the atlas. 

“Look out your window, cariño.”

I turn as we crest the top of the hill and curve to the left. The trees fall away from my side of the car, opening up a broad expanse of rolling farm fields in the warm glow of the sunset. The sky flares with rich hues of orange and gold. 

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I press my forehead against the glass. “Whoa.” I know my phone won’t do the scene justice, so I don’t even reach for it. “What a beautiful sunset.”

“For sure.” He sounds pleased, and maybe a little proud.

I don’t look over at him, not yet. “You knew this would be here, didn’t you?”

The grin is back in his voice. “Maybe.”

We drive in silence until the trees rise again and the road curves away and down into dusk. I sort through all the words I want to say, trying to find the right ones. “I’m sorry I stressed out earlier.”

“I forgive you.”

I still feel like more needs to be said. The words don’t want to come out, but they’re true, and I want him to hear them. “For the record?” I stuff my pride away with the directions and put my hand on the armrest between us, palm up. “I’m glad you’re driving.”

His large, warm fingers fit between mine. “I’m glad you’re with me.”

He’s smiling at me again, and this time I smile back. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

2 replies on “Embracing Chronic Illness, Part 3”

you so hit it on the head…that could be a true scenario in my marriage and in my spiritual life. It is sssooooo hard to give up control but such a good lesson. I have to pray so often and ask God to forgive my pride of thinking my way is best. I need to let go and relax so I can enjoy what God has planned. Thanks for sharing and encouraging.

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