Emily made an elephant coffee cup when she went with a friend to a local pottery painting place late this summer. She had a blast and could make anything for herself, but she chose to make a coffee cup. For me. At almost ten she already knows the joy of giving is better than receiving, even though it’s difficult for her to practice she did it. I valued the surprise and all it encompassed. I cherished it. I was afraid to use it. I wanted to protect it. I would use it on occasion and cringe as I poured coffee into it. I would fill it with milk and let Emily enjoy drinking from it.
This morning with what I am fighting inside of me, I reached into the cabinet and thought it would be the best cup to use. While Emily readied for school I prepared my coffee. When we were at the front door and Daisy’s leash had been placed, I unlocked the door and heard the bus pulling up. I sent Emily out the door in a rush. I followed carrying an elephant and holding Daisy’s leash. I tried not to run as I have been instructed not to. But I wanted to make sure she looked both ways and that I got to wave goodbye per our morning departure routine. “Look both ways,” I yell as she sprinted off. “Be kind!”
Sunday night after work I parked my cruiser at the end of the driveway where I rarely park it. As I passed it I thought to set the elephant down on the trunk of the cruiser. It was dark. It was wet. It slid off the truck and shattered into pieces. I knew beyond a shadow of doubt to never be repaired. But I didn’t have time. She was already across the road. I went into a brisk walk to the opening at the end of the driveway. She was on. The bus driver had illuminated the inside of the bus. She had grabbed her seat on the side of the bus that faces me. She smiles and waves, eager to get to talking with her friends, but per usual takes the time to wave goodbye to Mimi. I wave and smile and in my heart, I want to cry. But I wave and smile to see her off to school and pray she is kind to those around her. As she rides off turning to the other children I can see they are chatting already.
Walking back up the driveway, the shattered elephant cup screams at me. “Look what you did, Donna! Look what you allowed to happen!”
Suddenly the elephant in the room is not the elephant that is shattered at my cruiser trunk.
There are times in my life that I have held myself responsible for the ill that took place. I have struggled with the idea that bad things just happen. I have struggled with the concept that no matter how well I’ve tried to handle a situation I cannot control the outcome. No matter how strong I present.
I have had one of those chapters in my life resurface lately as it does periodically. I’ve tried to encourage myself to remember bad things happen. To encourage myself that it is not a sign of weakness. Showing up and doing what needs to be done to get to the other side is a sign of strength. You cannot stop bad things from happening.
And then Sunday came. And with all it brought I tried to hide again. As much as I could to hide the fact that I was weak again. That I allowed a bad thing to happen, again. That I should have done better. It’s been four days since Sunday and with the elephant cup this morning the “glass was shattered.”
My eyes were open, despite not having my first cup of morning coffee.
Sunday, just before I was supposed to get off early I was dispatched to a disorder call. I won’t go into the details but will tell you in the process of working that call before backup had arrived my head was bounced off the concrete twice. I honestly thought for a split second I was going to die at the hands of a meth user. Split second. Things worked out. Back up arrived and I carried on as if bouncing my head off the concrete was my fault and I had to just fight through it, so I wouldn’t be perceived as weak. I didn’t go to the hospital because in my mine my injuries were not as bad as other officers had experienced. I could hear myself talking, it was like I was outside of myself listening. I knew I was loopy but would not allow myself to succumb to what my mind said was being weak. I worked another 4.5 hours on the case and went home parking my cruiser at the end of the driveway where I rarely park it.
I planned the next day to go straight back to work. I struggled with walking. My head pounded. My right eye was seeing blurry. My wrist hurt. My knee hurt. BUT I was going back to work. Until… I talked to an officer who knows me well. He texted with me about being hard headed and advised I was to go be seen… I even argued with the doctor…and then fought through what another officer who had experienced a concussion was telling me. I was so tired.
Tuesday night, I began to connect with healthier thoughts: “not being able to control the bad things that happened to me as not being a sign of weakness--- that taking care of myself is not a sign of weakness.” I started looking for positive signs from the overwhelming past to give me courage to stand up for myself. I was reminded of a hawk that swooped in and went after a squirrel during a huge battle I was experiencing. What it represented at the time. I received strength from that memory. Just as I now have received strength from the shattered elephant experience this morning as I ponder it.
We are human.
We are not in control of everything.
We do feel pain.
We do have needs.
We can only suit up, show up and do what we can in this out of control world.
We can fight the best we can and know deep in our being that God is our strength.
God is our peace and yes, He can take shattered elephants and use them.