Torturous kidneys, empty hospital rooms, and love

My kidneys don’t like me.

And I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan, either.

Last Thursday, I found myself in the ER yet again for another kidney stone. It was a bad one—at one point, I was crawling on the floor of the waiting room like an infant, then on my knees and keeled over while moaning and writhing loudly, and finally in the fetal position trying not to cry. Yes, we’re in a global pandemic, and I was on the floor of a public place. Judge me all you want. If you’ve never felt the pain that a kidney stone causes, then you can’t understand my behavior. I will apologize zero amount of times.

Not my best day ever

When I finally got to a room and had some morphine and other drugs I don’t recall pumping through my veins, I looked around the very empty and quiet space, and for a brief moment, I felt sad. (I definitely don’t remember all of my thoughts or things I said that day once I was drugged up, but I distinctly remember this.) It wasn’t the first time that I had been in a hospital room all by myself because of my kidneys, but something felt different.

I didn’t call anyone. I eventually texted my sister, and apparently I later posted an Instagram story, but part of me didn’t want to reach out to anyone. I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to offer to be there with me. I didn’t want to feel like I was a burden for anyone. (Plus, with the whole COVID thing, I knew that a hospital is probably the last place anyone would want to be.)

While I know that those thoughts are toxic and that I have enough genuine people in my life who would have been there in a heartbeat for me, it’s simply how I felt in that moment. I didn’t let myself sit in that pity party for long, though, because even if it did hurt my heart a little, one of my life creeds took over.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

I may not have a boyfriend or husband or a date for any Saturday night ever, and I may have met guys who have deceived me and told me lies, but that doesn’t mean that my life is like a lonely hospital room. No one person is going to meet all of our needs, anyway.

And even though I know those things—and I don’t want to be a complainer—it’s not always easy being single. I’m a strong independent woman, and I get really pumped up when I hear Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle preaching the lyrics in “Survivor,” but I completely understand what Selena Gomez means when she reminds us that “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” (I’m aware that I talk about being single a lot, but I was once in a writing class in which the teacher told me to write what I know—and I know a heck of a lot about being single, so I write about it.)

I realize that life is going to be difficult sometimes, and our plans don’t always pan out the way we would prefer that they would. Duh. That solo hospital excursion likely isn’t the last one I’ll have. It’s OK—Destiny’s Child, remember? But I don’t want people to think the same things I thought that day. Your people care about you, and they would be upset if you didn’t reach out to them while you were lying in a hospital bed all by yourself. They love you.

Even when your kidneys don’t.

It’s only halftime of 2020

When Barbara Walters was played on repeat saying “this is 2020” when the clock struck midnight to the new year, I’m not sure that anyone actually knew that this is what 2020 would be.

Needless to say, it’s been a weird year so far.

When our school got out for spring break, I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see my students for the year. I realize that’s an obvious statement and true for pretty much ever teacher everywhere. But still.

At the beginning of the break, COVID-19 had started to make more headlines in the U.S., and I began to wonder if my trip to D.C. was going to be canceled. Two other teachers and I were supposed to take 13 or so students there for a competition, and it suddenly didn’t sound like the greatest idea. I didn’t know much about the coronavirus yet, but I didn’t think going to a popular place for a large gathering was wise, based on what little I knew.

But on the morning of Wednesday, March 11—the same day the NBA decided to suspend its season—we found ourselves on a plane bound for D.C.

FaceTime became the new way to see my fam.

There was a strange feeling in the air as we were walking through the city to get to our hotel and then go to some museums. I can’t explain it well, but everything just felt different. Not too long after we landed, though, the organization hosting the contest notified us that the decision was made to cancel the whole thing. I would have preferred that decision had been made a few days prior, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point, other than figure out when and how we were going to get home.

The next day, we were back on a plane, almost exactly 24 hours after we had arrived. As you already know, life got really weird after that. The word “unprecedented” has been used a countless amount of times in the news, and “normal” isn’t even a thing anymore. There immediately seemed to be quite the mix of feelings and emotions from everyone—confusion, fear, anxiety, skepticism, frustration, anger, sorrow, loneliness, disappointment, distrust, hope. I could keep going, but it’s a really long list.

There are quite a few unknowns about the pandemic, and I think it would be pretty tough to be a leader or scientist or medical professional during all of this. It’s turned life upside down in many ways, and it seems that none of us actually knows what’s going on.

On top of that, a lot of the injustices and racism in our nation have been exposed more lately, and people are standing up for the rights they deserve. It’s heartbreaking that there’s still so much hatred and racism in a country that’s supposed to have freedom for everyone and that people are so often treated differently—and even die, in some cases—because of the color of their skin.

It’s not a time to ignore reality or pretend that things are better than they actually are. It’s not a time to overlook truth and put on blinders. It’s not a time to sit back in silence and watch as Black men and women continue to be treated unfairly and subjected to racist thoughts, words, and actions. It’s not a time for our history to continue to be our present.

It’s time for change.

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media lately talking about how awful this year has been thus far. It’s hard to argue with them. It’s been pretty bad. But I love sports, so I’m going to look at what we’ve gone through up until now as a bad first half. What we need now is a comeback and a kick-a$* second half. It’s going to take much more than an inspirational locker room halftime speech, though.

We’re going to need more love and more heart than we’ve ever seen.

Let’s not write 2020 off just yet and start wishing for 2021 to get here sooner. When the Dallas Mavs won the NBA championship in 2011, they overcame multiple second-half deficits throughout their playoff run. Jason Terry said “if there’s time on that clock, there’s still time for us.”

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.

And even though I hate bringing this up because I really don’t like the New England Patriots, let’s not forget Super Bowl LI. The Patriots were down 28-3 in the second half and then scored 25 unanswered points against the Atlanta Falcons to send the game into overtime before winning the whole thing. Annoying. But respectable.

It’s our turn to be those pesky comeback kids.

There were a lot more teachers and administrators in this pic, but we were all socially distanced.

I don’t think it will be easy by any means. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s certainly going to require a great deal of dedication and persistence. There are some things that we cannot control, but we can control the ways we react and respond to the situations we face. And then there are things we absolutely can control, including the ways we treat people and the ways we love people and the ways we show support and respect for one another. It’s honestly not that difficult to be kind. I promise.

We’re almost halfway through 2020, so let’s go ahead and start that comeback now. The second half likely won’t be perfect, but not much ever is. We can at least try, though. We can fight for justice. We can fight for love. We can stand up for human rights. We can wear masks in public to protect ourselves and those around us. We can learn more about history and truth that weren’t necessarily taught to us. We can change our minds and hearts. We can believe. We can hope. We can trust.

There’s still time on that 2020 clock, people—there’s still time for us.