Recently, I started thinking that almost 2 years ago I had a life changing surgery. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was actually almost 3 years. I couldn’t believe that time had just slipped by so quickly. So, on March 1st 2016 it will be 3 years since I was released from a living hell of a crippling illness. Everyone knows HOPE is everything, but sometimes no matter how you look at it, HOPE seems to be nowhere. After having lower back surgery, I inexplicably began to have trouble walking. I had a severely dropped foot, constant nerve pain, and a partially paralyzed leg. HOPE began to slip away after exhausting all tests and follow up MRIs, even 2nd opinions, only to be told, “We just don’t understand what is wrong with you. We have never seen something like this before.” Each morning I would awake with hope that a miracle happened and somehow I was getting better. But as soon as the realization came that nothing had changed and I was even worse, an incredible despair and hopelessness would engulf me. There were so many days that I wanted to just give up but I kept saying, “Maybe things will be better tomorrow. If you are thinking of offing yourself, put it off until tomorrow and see.” By employing that tactic, I managed to stay in this world to see a miracle happen. I have no doubt that this miracle was from my persistence and constantly not taking NO for an answer, a doctor who actually sat down to think about my symptoms, and God. I don’t think I would have gotten better if all of these factors were not aligned. By God’s grace my doctor ordered another MRI and found the culprit, a benign spinal tumor compressing a portion of my thoracic spine. Faith is a beautiful thing and when life is going well, it is easy to have it. The true test of faith is when life is life—when you feel that all hope is gone and you cannot see your way out. So many people are waiting for a white light and burning bush to prove the existence of God, when He is there all along. I believe my horrendous experience was necessary to bring me to my knees and start believing. I do not think this was an accident and that there are no coincidences in God’s world. God was working in my life for a long time before I noticed it, even meeting Joyce and Bill, who introduced me to their church. If my son had not had the breakdown, I never would’ve met them. I think God was patiently waiting for me, only I needed the experiences I endured to discover Him. I still pray and pray for my boy, and sometimes, when I am in a bad space, I wonder if God is really listening. Then I remember I must have faith, which equals hope, which equals life. I do not know what the future holds, and I must remember that I am not in charge. It is when I turn things over to Him that I achieve that elusive gift of peace and serenity that I am constantly seeking.
A while back, I was at my hairdresser’s and I was complaining about the way drivers in Augusta take 15 minutes to make a turn into a driveway. We were laughing and then I said, I was going to write an article entitled, “Fifty Things I Hate about the South.” That was an exaggeration, and I do not hate the South. But, as a transplanted Northerner, it has sometimes been challenging fitting in.
How did a nice Jewish girl from the NY/NJ area end up (not a good choice of words) in Augusta, GA you might ask? Well, through a series of fateful events I moved here. I had been working at the WTC, and a year after the 9/11 attacks, I was laid off along with hundreds of others. After wracking my brains about how I would survive, it came to me; I’ll move down South. So, I up and sold my Townhouse and bought one here.
I was familiar with the area since I had been visiting my friend’s family for 8 years on vacation. But visiting and actually living here was a totally different story. With all the uncertainty in my life, the initial reason I moved here was financial; let’s face it, it is cheaper to live in Augusta. Since moving here, I have taken risks and reinvented myself many times over but it has still been a rocky ride at times. In the beginning, I wondered if I made a mistake because I missed my family terribly and some of the differences were very stark to me. As a liberal Northerner, it is sometimes hard to swallow some of the political leanings of this area. I missed the day-trips to Camelback, PA to go skiing too. I cannot escape the question of “where do you come from” (as if I’m an alien from another planet) due to my New York accent. I also cannot fathom why, when asked my name at Starbucks, my coffee comes with the name “Maryland” on the cup. Even when I tell people my name, they still say, “Maryland?” I get junk mail addressed to “Maryland Botta.” Maybe I should change my name to Washington, DC. The names down here are different too. I discovered that Melvis is an actual name, which took me by surprise because that was a made up name my brother and I used for my cousin Melvin and his wife Phyllis. You also don’t find the variety of ethnic restaurants here that you find up North, and I miss that sometimes. The first time I was asked what Church I belonged to, I was taken aback; that would be considered rude up North, and nobody’s business. But in the South, it is commonplace and acceptable. Living in Augusta often means that everybody knows everybody (a la Peyton Place)—you always run into people you know, or people that know who you know; that’s life in a small town. But when all is said and done, despite all these differences, the South has grown on me, even when I wasn’t even aware of it. Here’s the thing—for years every time someone would ask me if I like it in Augusta, I would say, “Eh, it’s OK.” I could not make up my mind, but one day, while driving down the street on a really lovely spring day, it suddenly occurred to me that Augusta has become my home. I have made some friendships, and have established a life of sorts here. I have come to appreciate the South, even though it is not perfection (but no place is). So, the next time someone asks me if I like it down South, I will say, “Yes, I do and I think I’ll stay.”