A couple weeks ago, on a Saturday afternoon, I went to wake my 3-month old foster son to feed him his bottle and found him not breathing. His face was yellow and his body limp, arms dangling as I held him in my arms and anxiously studied his body, trying to see if he was taking any breaths at all. A slow fear swelled within me. It wasn’t panic, but it was the realization that this moment just became one of the most serious of my life.
It was the first time I’ve ever called 911. I performed CPR on him for about 6 minutes until the paramedics got there. Inside those minutes, time slowed. I was scared but focused on every chest pump and breath. It was surreal. He started taking gasps of air, but they were so spread out. When the paramedics got there, they hooked him up and got him breathing within a few minutes.Things became a blur — 20 people were suddenly in my living room and driveway. Lots of questions and commotion. Two of my daughters, 7 and 9 years old, stood there and watched the entire scene play out in front of them.
I rushed to the ER (my wife was a bridesmaid in a wedding that afternoon and had to leave right before the ceremony. She sat in the ER waiting room in her bridesmaid dress, crying and afraid). He was transported to Children’s Hospital in Omaha that evening and ended up spending 8 days there as they ran all sorts of tests. My wife spent almost every day and night in the hospital with him as I managed our other 5 kids at home. Thankfully, many kind friends helped with meals and kids and prayers. We had just moved into a new house and were in the middle of some remodeling. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life.
But I had to work. When you’re solo, or a small team, the show can’t stop or my livelihood stops. Clients are waiting, projects need to be delivered, emails responded to. So I’d try to wake early in the mornings and work late in the evenings just to keep things afloat. I’d drive to hospital, stay a couple hours, then pick my kids up and bring them home for dinner and bed. Then work.
I had to cancel meetings and events. I was supposed to present at Adobe Jam, was supposed to attend an important focus group meeting, was supposed to shoot a video for my company. But most of what I pushed off wasn’t going away, it would just pile up for the coming weeks.
My clients were gracious. I used the term, “medical emergency” a lot because I didn’t know how much to share. Vague but serious. I’m grateful for their understanding and patience with me.
It was physically exhausting, emotionally draining and spiritually testing. My work suffered for it, which means my clients suffered for it. It’s hard to be creative for a living when the last thing you feel is creative. I hated everything I did, felt frustrated with myself, my clients, my email, everything.
Sometimes what’s put on your plate doesn’t fit — it spills over and overwhelms. But in those times, something bigger is at work in us producing something within we would never volunteer for but will ultimately be for our good. Perseverance produces character.
A couple weeks later I feel like I’m finally getting caught up and re-finding the rhythm to both work and life. The little man is OK. Turns out he had a virus that hit his (premie) lungs hard. Our story goes on.
But in these past few trying weeks I’ve become more aware of how the weight of life will come crashing down on all of us at one time or another — most often unexpectedly. There will be days, weeks or months where we feel entirely overwhelmed, and the last thing we want to do is work or interact with the people around us.
And yet we press on, being the resilient creatures we are. Lord willing, we come out the other side stronger and wiser for it.
To suffer is human. My struggle reminded me that every person I interact with — clients, employees, friends, vendors, everyone — has or is fighting a battle that is heavy and, most often, invisible.
There’s no such thing as B2B or B2C — it’s all H2H, Human to Human. And being a human is hard.
So the next time I feel annoyed or frustrated, I hope to remind myself that invisible battles rage within each one of our chests, and no matter how hard we try we can’t segment our lives into neat little boxes like work, home and play. We’re whole persons, influenced by an amalgamation of internal and external forces at work on our hearts and minds.
So as I received grace, I hope to give grace. Because we’re all just broken people trying to find our way through life. And no matter how messy things may get, we need each other.