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  Sunday January 25th, 2015    

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Where was I when my world left me stranded? (08/14/2011)
By Janet Lewis Burns
My soul is as weightless as the flutter of a baby’s breath against a new mother’s breast. When my legs can no longer support my weakened body I will bend with soothing winds and dance through deep shadows to a radiant clearing promised…fragrant with peace. -J.B.

As March arrived this year, with its ever dependable promise of spring, my body clock seemed to be stuck on hibernation and its oblivious stupor. I apologize to my readers that I couldn’t find the words to explain why I abruptly stopped submitting my articles to the Winona Post.

We seldom realize how contented and secure we are within our own space, in a comfortable world that has been nurtured by loved ones and retirement’s freedom to pursue personal ambitions and passions, until something unexpectedly disrupts the flow of positive energy and drains your very essence.

My fingers and thoughts froze over an empty computer screen with each attempt to describe what had rudely interrupted my life. I didn’t put pen to paper for weeks, except to ponder over a grocery list for Pat. As I attempted to converse calmly and rationally how my life was turned inside out and upside down, fear and distress tied my words in a knot that no will could untangle.

For ten years I had lived comfortably with Parkinson’s disease. The medication worked! I felt I had conquered the beast within myself. Our bodies sometimes have a harsh way of letting us know that medical attention is needed…ASAP! During those dark days of transition, my Parkinson’s medications’ doses and pain relievers weren’t doing their magic any longer.

My entire being seemed to be coming apart beyond my control. I couldn’t concentrate to read or, worse yet, to write. I felt that I had “lost myself,” that I was robbed of my identity and my very purpose in life, convinced that “the heart of the county” had uttered its final heart song. (It’s called “depression.”)

I came to realize that we can’t run away from reality. There isn’t a magic pill or a master plan to fix every setback that bursts our bubble of self-satisfied complacency. As I read this poem by Sara Teasdale, her words speak my experience eloquently:

“It was a spring that never came,

But we have lived long enough to know

That what we never have remains;

It is the things we have that go.”

Pat’s urgent search to find adequate medical treatment led us to Gundersen Lutheran Clinic’s exceptional Parkinson’s “team” of specialists, for extensive, personalized care. Through regular, buoyant visits, exams, and evaluation updates at Gundersen, and with Pat’s support and TLC, I’ve become determined not to allow Parkinson’s Disease to zap my spunk or to squelch the energy to realize a renewed purpose in my life.

Married for 45 years, and working together in our Burns Builders office, likely paved the way for Pat and me to carry on as congenial partners in our retirement, taking care of household duties together and meeting the challenges of aging bodies, loss of independence, overcoming depression, and making the best of every moment of each new day.

As May ushered Pat and me back to our camper up north at Chetek, I was still melancholy, mourning all the more the physical limitations that kept me from hiking, wandering forest paths, and strolling along the narrow, weathered wood pier at sunset.

I began to use the golf cart Pat had brought for me to roam the area. Eventually, I was, once again, arranging breathtaking bouquets of wildflowers. I listened for the early morning bird chorus, and visited at ease with fellow campers as we came together for another season.

As the verdant, sun-drenched weeks rolled on, I began jotting down uplifting reflections. Although random and fragmented, something was awakening within. Wisdom and understanding are not freely given to us; one grows and perceives through personal experience. Change isn’t always a bad thing. As Pat often says, “We’re doing just fine!”

I’ve found my way back to the heart of the county. It feels like “home.”



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