After the shout out from my husband on his blog post, I feel motivated to write something. He prefaced an excruciatingly gut-wrenching post by saying that I am better at expressing emotions than he is. So I’ll just have to say: whatever the general truth may be, it will not be so in this specific case. Because nothing that I am going through right now – and don’t get me wrong, I hate lots of it – nothing is as hard as where he is. And complaining about any of it seems superfluous. Does this suck? Hell yeah. He’s sick, I’m exhausted, he can’t keep food down, I can’t stop comfort eating – we both feel like our own personal brand of shit. Sorry. Sometimes you just gotta call a spade a spade. And our kids are stressed too. They do understand what is going on, but have even less emotional framework in place to deal with it than we do. Everyone is melting down and we are constantly waiting for the next round of whatever – chemo, emotional breakdown, overwhelming fatigue, refusal to cooperate – you name, we’re dealing with it.
And I could say that we’re okay because we are dealing with it. That would be true. It just doesn’t touch the middle of the night crazies that we are both feeling these days. I’m trying to Banish the Banshee. I was doing well until Adam lost his dinner in spectacular fashion…all over the living room floor. At the same moment, I realized that the children had been wasteful. Cause, you know, CARDINAL SIN…. That was it. I lost it. I did manage to do the majority of my wail outside. In fact, every dog in the neighborhood – and at the Puppy Palace down the street – joined my lament. They must have thought it was a moon call. So tomorrow I start again…again. Like everyone else does. Because none of this is fun or easy, but where else is there to go? This is the life to which I was called and I love it. This is the specific life God has for me. That is no more nor less true in the midst of the hell on earth that is cancer. And God will handle it and me. And my kids are and will be so much more than the sum of the results of my parenting successes and failures…thank GOD for that. So…tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…. Whether it creeps in a petty pace, or the sun’ll come out, or it’s another day…we will stay the course. Because there is nothing else to do. And there is hope in that.
We are almost done with school for this year and the end can’t come soon enough for Ethan. I must confess that I am also looking forward to a reprieve from the tyranny of the alarm clock! But with the end of our daily commitment to school, we are left with days to fill with something other than tv and video games. We need to get our pool set up – that will be a first for us this year – and Kara will be doing swim team. I hope Ethan will too, but it’s not looking good so far. The kids will have some time with grandparents and we are even trying to come up with a way to take a little family trip that won’t overly tax Adam because…oh yeah…he’ll still be doing chemo every other week. Usually we have camps and trips and visits and activities planned to punctuate our lazy summer days, but this year I can’t get those plans done. The kids – especially Ethan – are too stressed right now to add anything else to their plates – even summer camps that they would enjoy. They simply don’t have any capacity to cope left. Most trips obviously aren’t going to happen…aside from the afore-mentioned short one. Even that is a new development and is more a testimony to Adam’s need to get away than to his ability to plan right now. So summer vacation is here…and it is going to be weird…just like everything else since the end of February. Because Adam is fighting for his life and that fight is putting life on hold. And I haven’t even gotten to the point where I can look at the phrase about Adam fighting for his life without having a visceral rebellion to the idea. So. The new normal. Still don’t like it. But I am incredibly glad that I can turn the alarm off in only six more days! Baby steps, I guess….
There are times when I wish that I had an anonymous blog where I could post all the truly profane things that I want to say. And yes, I am wishing that now. I am also refraining from making said anonymous blog so that I have some degree of accountability and motivation to treat people who anger me with grace. I want to go all Julia Sugarbaker on some people whose bad behavior caused many people, Adam included, to lose sleep last night and to spend a large portion of today putting out proverbial fires. Adam was in the middle of his third chemo cycle and needed to sleep. Instead, he worried, prayed, typed, and oh yeah – threw up. I don’t want to be gracious to the people who are now gloating about the bad behavior. I want to verbally excoriate them. I want to rip them a new one. I want them to see the banshee in all her fury. I want them to hurt. Because we all hurt. But grace isn’t about not having a temper tantrum when we are pleased with someone. Grace is about choosing to show love to those who deserve our displeasure. It is about seeking to confront humbly, to reconcile and restore relationships. It is about refusing to indulge in self-satisfied rants, even when our attempts at reconciliation are rebuffed. It is HARD. And I haven’t succeeded. I have ranted to a few chosen friends, for whom I am soooo grateful, by the way. I have been profane. But by God’s grace, I have prayed too. For restoration, for grace, for patience, for forgiveness. For an end to the conflict and the gossip about it. And for a change of heart for all of the offenders – every one of us. Because grace would be so much easier if we weren’t all such complete…well, you know.
“There is no way…I mean like one chance in a billion…a billion to one possibility…that I am ever going to ask for help.” So saith my son…he’s a little bit independent. This lovely and encouraging quotation came at the end of what can only be called a verbal altercation between the two of us; an altercation that started when I told him not to slide off the couch and land on the dog…which he did anyway. Because he couldn’t stop himself once he had started. Though he tried not to land fully on the much beleaguered (and always underfoot) dog. We will skip the part where I failed to calmly and firmly correct the disobedience and instead turned into a raving lunatic banshee and get straight to the part where we talked out what each of us should have done differently. First and foremost: he has to obey whether or not he wants to or thinks what we have instructed is the best course. In fact, once he realized that he could not recover from his slide off the couch, he could have asked for help. (That’s where the above quotation fits in, by the way.) We ended the moment taking turns looking up words in the dictionary – hyperbolize, for one. I assured him that I love him…and that if he cannot obey, he will be punished. He was calm and chastened…and I left the room feeling like a failure because of the whole return of the banshee thing. Ah parenting. So rewarding.
But what really struck me was his reaction to the idea of letting someone help him fix his problems. I’m not sure that anyone could have captured that aspect of Ethan any better that his own statement did – and I’m not even sure it is hyperbole…. There really is only a one in a billion chance that he’ll ask for help. I mean, I’ve known him for ten years, and it hasn’t happened yet…. Even on the few occasions when it has happened (because, you know, I’ve been known to hyperbolize a time or two myself), he doesn’t actually accept the help that is offered. The sheer dogged determination that he was born with is exhausting…and often overwhelming for all of us. If he can harness it and point it in a worthwhile direction, he will accomplish so much…if I don’t squash him in a fit of pique in the meantime. But how do I make our family be about something other than the overwhelmingness that is Ethan? Or that is me, since many of you are smirking and thinking that anyway…. Or that is chemo, for that matter. How do the comparatively calm and laid back members of the family make themselves heard? Well, in our case, the get really sweet – you know, kind of annoyingly sweet – right in the midst of storm and then wait till everything is calm to stage their own nutty. It’s awesome. We take turns, see? So there is always some sort of insanity going on. Parenting. So rewarding.
Oh shit. Now it occurs to me that I am going to offend someone because I am not appropriately thankful for the opportunity to parent. I mean, I knew the banshee thing might be offensive and worrisome – it worries me – but I almost forgot the offense of not being grateful. And yes, my tongue is in my cheek…sort of…because I’m also being serious. It is offensive to see someone take their blessings for granted…even when the blessings come with difficulties. My kids told me the other day that I should let them have something they wanted because it was easy. I told them that “easy” went away forever the day we decided to have children. Kara, horrified, said, “You mean you didn’t want us?” Of course not! I said “decided” – children are a blessing and I love them and cherish the responsibility to them…but it is hard. Everyday, something is difficult. Maybe it’s the fact that I have to say no even though it would be more fun to say yes, or it’s that they are in a cussed mood and nothing satisfies them…or that I am. Maybe it is that they are having a hard time academically, socially or emotionally. Maybe it is that someone is sick and my plans get torpedoed. Then there are the little irritations of the sheer number of lost, broken, scattered, and ruined things all over the house. We were organized once upon a time…. But now we have two more people in the house with us. And there is nothing I like more than people. Even when they make me crazy. Because when I step back, they are so much more precious than any thing I can think of. So yes. Parenting. So rewarding.
But please God…banish the banshee…amen.