There are times in every life when we’re soul weary, exhausted and all that’s
left in us is to run on
faith. And then, when we’re positive things can’t get any worse, they do, and
we’re reduced to
running on fumes of faith.
A while back, I went through a fumes-of-faith situation. Actually, at the time,
it seemed like I was
down to my last fume. You’ve likely been there and know exactly what I mean.
It’s the time when
you’re stuck in a situation and feel like you’re living that old saying about
having one nerve left, it
being frayed, and someone or something is strumming on it like it’s a banjo.
For me, the nature of that time took the form of a lot of eye surgeries (tough
for a writer to write
when she can’t see a thing), lots of pain and feeling awful (not exactly
conducive conditions for
creativity). Being unable to move much (I had to sit with my eyes closed day
after day), I couldn’t read,
watch TV, and had to have an escort to move around even inside the house.
Doesn’t that time sound
like fumes to you? It certainly felt like fumes to me.
But I was wrong; it wasn’t. Things got worse. More worrisome medical issues
situation. (I’m fine, by the way.) But then, in that place, I ask you, who in
her right mind would expect
to later recall being there as a great time that fostered major changes in her
life and in her work?
I sure didn’t expect I would, but I did endure it and I do recall it as a great
time, and it did change my
life and my work. To be more precise, the actual fume situation changed many
It started out with a visit to the doc for, I thought, bronchitis. In short,
two scary somethings showed
up on an x-ray. What, the doc couldn’t say without further tests, but it
appeared the scary
“somethings” were in my chest and on my thyroid gland. The first thing you
think of is cancer and that
scares the socks off us all. Things didn’t look so good.
Further tests were done, and weeks crawled by before I learned the results.
Those were tough weeks,
but productive ones. I thought a lot about life and death and specifially about
what I’d done with my
life. Like everyone, I had a few regrets, but I recalled many joyful things,
too. When I’d sorted
through everything, I found my bottom line. I’d loved well and been loved well.
Real life doesn’t get
much better than that.
Finally, I returned to the doc for the test results and, I thought, for the
“this is how long you’ve got”
kind of news. In the car on the way, I prayed, which is common for me though
I’d done a lot more of
it, working through this potential news. “Let this pass and I’ll focus on
doing what You want me to
do.” That was the gist of it. Some would consider that bargaining. I didn’t
see it that way because I’d
found peace in my bottom line, accepting of however things turned out.
A few blocks from the doc’s office an oddity occurred to me that should have
been noted immediately
but in all those weeks hadn’t once crossed my mind. You don’t have a thyroid
gland anymore. How
can something be on it when you don’t have one? “Wait a minute,” I thought. “I
don’t have one—or
Knowing isn’t as simple as you might think. See, at 25, my thyroid was
surgically removed. Only it
grew back. Then they radiated it. But three months later, the remnants of it
began functioning again.
I’d been put on replacement therapy back then (which means I take a pill a day)
but the thing’s
fluctuated ever since. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it
worked a lot, and
other times a little. So who knew whether or not I had a gland? (Now you see
why it didn’t occur to
me right away!)
For the previous few years, I’d been stable. As in, it wasn’t working, and that
was great because it’s
easier to get the right dosage of replacement when you’re in that position. So,
I wondered. Had the
thing grown back again and started functioning again, or what?
When I got into the doc’s office, that question was burning in my mind. So I
asked. He went a little
pale and double-checked the original test—the one that showed the scary
somethings. The results
weren’t mine. The name was one letter off. One letter.
My heart broke for the test’s owner. I well knew what she’d be going through.
It was a clerical error,
and those things do happen, and when they do, it’s never easy, but to be fair we
must weigh them in
context of the million things that have gone right.
Naturally, I was relieved. The situation had passed from me. And while I
initially said getting the
initial wrong results was an error, I’m not convinced it really was. Because of
the incident, I did a lot
of thinking about things that when we’re comfortable and rocking along in life
we don’t stop to think
about. We don’t question ourselves, our choices, or what we’re doing, we coast.
Often while coasting
we miss out on the best life has to offer us. We don’t see the best not because
it isn’t there but
because we’re not looking. This “error” gave me an opportunity to look and the
incentive to actually
do it. As a result, I made significant changes in my life, in my attitudes, and
in my writing.
Have the changes all been easy? No. Have there been times when I slip and
stumble? Sure. But I
always have, so that’s just normal. (If I’m not slipping and stumbling, I
worry, because it means I’ve
planted myself in a safe comfort zone and I’m not stretching. That’s stagnant,
and stagnant anything
[physical, emotional or spiritual] withers and dies.) But those changes have
I can’t say everyone has appreciated them. Some, even some who really adore
you, want you to stay
the same so you don’t tread on their comfort zones. But those who most matter
embraced it and
others come into your life and are accepting. That’s a normal thing—a culling
and sloughing of what’s
supposed to be in your life at a certain time. Some are in your life all your
life and others are with you
for a season—because you have something to give and/or receive from each other
that you both need.
Worrying comes less now. Compassion comes quickly and runs deeper. And while
always been my albatross—as in, I have too little of it—I have grown more
patient. I believe I’m where
I’m supposed to be doing what I’m supposed to be doing, writing what I’m
supposed to be writing.
That brings a calm that is infinitely easier on a body than the feeling
uncertain or as if you’d be glad
to do whatever you should be doing if only you knew what it was. And it’s
amazingly better than
feeling out of sorts and like you’ve been forgotten in the hall.
No one is actually forgotten in the hall, but we can feel that way at
times—usually when we’re in the
dark and so busy banging our shoulders on the walls we think we’re supposed to
be banging on that
we fail to see all the doors with doorknobs (opportunities) we’re passing by or
the light at the end of
the hallway. Yet the doors, doorknobs and light are there.
Tough times still come, though “tough” doesn’t have the all-consuming power it
once did. It took me
a while to figure out why, but if you’ve read this, then you already know, so I
won’t beat it to death
repeating it. Most days, I’m just grateful. I’m healthy, with my family,
writing books I totally love,
playing secret fairy godmother where I can, blogging on things I think matter,
visiting with friends and
immersed in little things. To some that life might sound boring, but it’s the
one I’ve chosen to build
and it means an awful lot to me. And when I hit a rough patch as I did this
morning . . . well, I’ll share
Before daylight my daughter phoned. Those late night and early morning calls
knot us all up.
Everything ended up fine, but it still took a while for my heart rate to slow
down. Then I walked into
the kitchen and discovered the water pipes were frozen. That was a little less
than pleasant, as was all
the dialogue on whether or not they’d rupture on thawing. It took a couple
hours to find out—the
mercury still hadn’t hit 28 degrees. That made for two mini-traumas before
coffee. I rebelled. “Stop.
Rewind.” I refused to start a new day in a new week on this note. Instead, I
started whispering things
I was grateful for. My daughter, son-in-law and grands were safe. We had heat.
We had bottled
water—I made coffee. Everything seems better and easier when you’ve got your
cup of coffee, doesn’t
I expanded my “I’m grateful for” list. None of them were huge. None were life
changing, but all were
attitude changing (mine), and that is life changing. Much more pleasant.
And then I checked my email and found the first review had come in on FORGET ME NOT. It is the
first book I’ve
written after all the above changes, similar yet different from my other books.
Risky business, most
would agree. I wrote it on faith—in part, on fumes of faith, and I had no idea
how it would be
received. The Publishers Weekly review was now in, and considering my less than
stellar morning thus
far, I wasn’t sure I’d sufficiently bucked up my attitude to risk taking a look.
I gave myself a little lecture and then checked it. Okay, I admit it. I peeked
with one eye and a wince,
read what the reviewer wrote: “Hinze"
has written a masterful, complicated tale of suspense that gains momentum with
each turn of a page.
Her writing flows surely, moving from one character to the next, one setting to
another, with readers
keeping the swift pace . . . Hinze’s plot
may have readers puzzling over how this tangled tale will ever resolve itself,
but that underestimates
the author’s talent for transforming the unlikely into something beautiful.”
I read it twice just to be sure what I thought was there actually was there.
Then came squeals of pure
Who would have thought that a risky work born as a result of an incident
initially so hard and dark and
supported by mere fumes of faith would become the source of such uncomplicated joy?
I wouldn’t have, but it is. And that’s the reason for this post.
There are times when we all feel forgotten and as if we’re wandering aimlessly,
lost or unsure of what
we should do; times when regardless of what we do, nothing seems to work out
right. Times when life
so beats us up or down that all we have left is to run on faith. Then things
get worse, and all that’s
left are fumes of faith.
Yet if we work through it, look for the doors and doorknobs and light at the end
of the hall, stop and
rewind so our perspective doesn’t get skewed by thoughts running wild and our
attitude doesn’t get
so bad it sucks the life right out of us, then fumes of faith can be more than
Fumes can give us the kick we need to dare, to take risks, to dream. And when
we’re really lucky,
those fumes can lead the way to that mustard seed required to discover deeper
contentment and joy.
There are those moments when fumes and errors are just downright perfect.
Finding them, and recognizing them when you do, well, that’s my wish for you.
Thank you, what an inspiration. My faith has kept me going thru thick and thin. You are right sometimes it's just fumes, but it comes back stronger then ever. Good luck to you.
(Theresa Buckholtz 10:20am January 13, 2010)
Many blessings to you, Vicki. Like the reader above, my faith has kept me going when there was nothing else to keep me going. I've often wondered why I had to go through the trials and pain I have, but I came to the conclusion, too, that it was to teach me more compassion for others.
(Sigrun Schulz 4:21pm January 13, 2010)
Thanks for sharing such an inspirational story. I'm glad things are better now.
(Penny Tuttle 9:39pm January 13, 2010)
Vicki, I have always say, "When going gets tough, the tough gets going!" Hang in there! I know how you feel.
(Lisa Glidewell 12:30pm January 14, 2010)
You do find inner strength when tested, but it helps to have a few moments when things are going smoothly. Here's hoping that your ship's come in.
(Alyson Widen 11:46am January 14, 2010)