My name is Amanda Warren. My sisters call me Annie. The last few years have been a bit of a mess. I’m smarter and stronger, and I hesitate to say- more at peace, now for it.
In early 2018, my dad died- rather unexpectedly. In all honestly, that rest of that year is blurry.
What I learned was that it’s ok to be sad. That you can’t control how things play out. God is in control of circumstances, the people I love, and me. And He doesn’t make mistakes. My dad, no matter how much I wish he was still here with us, is better than as he’s ever been- right where he is. That thought makes me happy.
I had to do some emotional growing up in 2018.
In 2019, my sister, Liz, moved out of my house (which was always the plan) but I did NOT handle it gracefully. I worried about her. Mama continued to decline with Lewy Body dementia. I worried about her. My other sister, Heather, was my mom’s primary caregiver and she was constantly overwhelmed and stressed. I worried about her. 2019 was the year I let my brain get really gunky. Changes in medication, a great therapist, and an AMAZING family let me toward the next year- an awesome one.
What I learned was that by nature, humans are selfish. I, unfortunately, am human. I learned that tantrums and guilt trips are unbecoming of me. And they were outright torture for my sister.
I learned that my mental health needed to be tended to. I had let it get too out of control and I was the only one who could rein it back in. I learned that it takes strength to admit my weaknesses. I needed to be reminded to take my own advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help. People want to help.
So I did.
Did my symptoms of anxiety and depression just stop? No. Did I learn how to deal with it in a healthier way? I did. My sisters, my husband, my son, everyone in my life benefitted from my ridding my brain of the gunk that is hopelessness, guilt, grief, and worry. That thought makes me happy.
2020. I could stop writing there and you’d get the gist. I was primed for a stellar year, coming out of the blackness I allowed myself to get swallowed into. I guess it started with Lucas’ senior year winding down and the realization that my only child would soon be moving out of the house. And then there was COVID. In the summer, I was diagnosed with endometrial carcinoma, or uterine cancer. The treatment was a radical hysterectomy. Not pleasant, but a heck of a lot better than radiation and chemotherapy, though those weren’t off the table completely. That fall, Lucas moved out and I had surgery. Surprisingly, I handled all of this better that I handled Taco Bell getting my order wrong in 2019.
What I learned was that I still had growing to do: mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally- all of it.
Not to make light of 2020 because so many people lost so much last year, but 2020 was a good year for me. Let me explain:
First- Covid. The world was crippled, literally crippled. There was so much unknown. People were losing jobs, houses, cars and worse- their loved ones. They were isolated, quarantined. What has come out of Covid has been nothing short of a miracle. We learned to work together. We learned new ways of communicating. New ways to teach in the schools. New ways to have business meetings and attend church. We were humbled by the fact that we had no control. That the disease did not discriminate; old, young, heathy, unhealthy- it didn’t matter. We learned to really care about other people. We had to really LOOK at people, focus beyond the “mask”. Respect, teamwork, thoughtfulness, hope and love came from Covid. And that thought makes me happy.
CANCER. I still have a hard time processing that it even happened. The hardest part for me was people looking at me with sympathy in their eyes. Vulnerable was never a word I would have used to describe myself, but here I was. I learned that I need people. Doctors, nurses, my family, MY HUSBAND- I neeeeded them. I saw these people in ways I hadn’t before. Selfless, caring, and loving healers every one of them. Recovery time gave me plenty of time to contemplate life and all the beauty in it. It was as if someone had set a giant rest button for my body and my brain, one that I didn’t even know I needed. What I gained through and after cancer: perspective. It’s so much easier to be grateful for what you have with perspective. I learned I have a whole lot. I am happy.
Lucas moved into the dorm at the university of Arkansas just days before my surgery. The timing of this was 100% God’s doing. I had fretted and cried and panicked over his moving out for over a year. And when the time came, I had no time to worry. I when I was clear headed and on my way to a full recovery, I realized that my baby was fine; thriving even. That thought made me so very happy.
Now it’s 2021. Mama passed away earlier this year. I’m still processing that.
What I’ve learned so far is that while ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, it takes an even bigger village to escort someone you love into their eternity. I learned that my sisters are some of the strongest women I have ever known. I learned that the bond we share is rare and precious and priceless.
My mama’s death, while sad, was one of the most beautiful moments of my life (a blog for another time). What she gave us in this life is immeasurable. She is where she always wanted to be: beside her King, her Lord, her first and most faithful love. Jesus. She is healthy, happy, and enjoying all the things she worked her whole life to earn. The thought of her in heaven makes me ridiculously happy.
Perspective is the angle or direction in which a person looks at an object. Perspective can change at any given time. And the only person who can change it- the person looking. Me. You.
In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ (who, coincidently, also had Lewy Body Dementia) character, John Keating says this after jumping up on his desk, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
I LOVE that quote. I say it to myself daily, sometimes multiple times. Whenever things seem hopeless. When things are exhausting. When I am frustrated, anxious, sad, mad, have something to solve, or just need to find inspiration for something- I stand on my desk. Sometimes I have to stand on my desk to prompt myself to stand on my desk!
My point is, as I think it often is in the blog, choose it. It being JOY.