12 October 2016

Roly-Poly Mode

Last month, I decided to go into "Roly-Poly Mode."

"Roly-polies" are those little grey multi-legged bugs, found in dirt and under leaves, that demonstrate a fascinating mechanism for protection.  Put pressure on a roly-poly's back while it is moving and this little bug will immediately curl itself into a perfectly round tiny ball: it's most vulnerable parts, it's head and legs, tightly protected inside. 

Feeling overwhelmed by Bennett's upcoming 5th dilation procedure for a intestinal stricture and 7th hospitalization for the year, I decided to close the door, turn off the lights and shut the blinds.  I postponed Bennett's procedure, found my most vulnerable parts and pulled them close.

Recognizing the waves of stress Cystic Fibrosis was causing, compounded by the normal demands of part-time work and motherhood, I decided to find a way to conserve my energy, rather than trying to do it all on increasingly low batteries.  Life, in general, but especially CF, is a marathon, not a sprint.  So, I needed to figure out how to manage all the pressure I was feeling.

I stopped blogging.  I went silent on social media.  I stopped watching the news.  I stopped participating in activities that weren't absolutely necessary.  I temporarily cut back Bennett's CF regimen to include only that which is critical to his health.  I ignored the piles on my desk and emails in my inbox.  I simply began working to block out all the noise.

It's scary to do that - to abandon that which I am convinced I must control.  I wonder if the roly-poly ever feels that way.  When pulled into a ball away from the world, he can't go anywhere or do anything.  It can be a scary place to be.

But I didn't just simply close up, I chose to pull inward.

I pulled towards my kids.  I actively sought out my friendships.  I gravitated towards things that make me feel peaceful: calming music, pumpkin-scented candles, being outdoors.  I made myself watch TV shows that make me laugh.  I picked up a book - and read it.  I went to bed early.  I began choosing foods to eat for no other reason than they made me feel good.  I stopped paying attention to where I was going and started paying attention to where I was.

Just like the roly-poly who is scrunched into itself - his antenna, belly and legs all forced into touching each other - when I cut out the exterior noise and pulled inward, that's where I found myself most.

I refused to put a time-limit on my re-engagement. "Stay here until you feel safe again," I told myself.  I believed the world would understand.  The world did seem to understand, even if nobody noticed anything about me was different.  

The beauty of "roly-poly mode" is that I have found it works.  Just like the roly-poly who eventually feels safe and decides to open back up and carry on its way once again, I am finding myself ready to do the same.

This blog post is the very evidence of my emergence from my roly-poly ball.  I'm re-engaging in the periphery of my life and finding myself interested in hearing noise again.  

Brian and I have begun conversations about when Bennett will have his next procedure.  We still don't know yet when it will be but we have a CF appointment next month so we will decide soon.  For now, Bennett seems content with where we are and we are too.

There's something empowering about being able to shut down and say: no more.  It is by recognizing I can do this that helps me make the choice to open up again.  The roly-poly can get back to its work because it knows that it has the ability to flip into a ball as many times as is necessary to keep him safe.  It's what God has given him to help defend himself from things that might threaten his well-being.  I am recognizing God has given me a similar protective mechanism, as well.

On Monday, I randomly met a man whose job is to coach CEOs who have been given 6 months or less to turn their company around or be fired.  After a few minutes of getting to know one another, I lamented that his job sounded like a particularly challenging job, having to coach people who are facing such despair.  "How do you do it??" I inquired with a sense of admiration.

The man causally said to me "oh, you could be a coach.  Your child has a terminal disease.  You get it.  You know what's important in life.  You know what matters.  Many of the people I work with are 50 years old and never faced a crisis."  He said, "my 29-year old eldest son has Stage 4 cancer.  I've learned very well how to deal with hard things."

I walked away from this brief conversation with a total stranger with a newfound respect for our battle with Cystic Fibrosis. CF is a constant reminder to live in the moment as it teaches me well that today is all we have.  Ironically, though, CF is also the very pressure that reminds me that closing up and shutting down for a time is not only necessary but healthy. 

Maybe I should see my time hunkered down in "roly-poly mode", not as a sign of human weakness, but a sign of human strength.

I think I just learned what I need to be resilient.


  1. Oh this is good and just what I needed to read today...I'm currently in a one year Celebrate Recovery step study program to learn to do exactly what you're doing - to stop the striving, perfecting, controlling, people pleasing...that rule so much of my time and thoughts. It's been so so freeing and refreshing. Good to see you "pulling inward" friend. Love you!

  2. I love this. Wisdom in the most beautiful form!

  3. Dear Breck,your writings are always so profound, I pray for Bennett, you and your family everyday. I believe that this time you are writing about are those moments when you are in complete surrender to God. It is the time when every human emotion is spent, when your mind cannot conceive of what to do next, and our human reason fails us; it is then that we crawl into the womb of God and let him who is almighty sustain us. He is our Ruah,the breathe that fills us and carries us in its wake.


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