Finding Heart and Brain Space

I really like how I feel when I am accomplishing things. As much as it sounds like paradise to be able to sit around and do nothing but read, the reality is that those days leave me feeling cranky and dissatisfied. There is a phrase from Robin McKinley’s book, The Blue Sword, that perfectly captures it: “moral irritability.” As in “she wasn’t exactly tired, she just felt a sort of moral irritability that came from the belief that she should have spent those hours in sleep.” (I don’t actually have the book here with me at the cancer center, so that isn’t exactly right. I’ll correct it when I get home!) So yeah, moral irritability. That uncomfortable feeling of knowing I should have done something, but the reality that I didn’t…and even that I just couldn’t. I am fighting inertia that is bone deep and related not to physical fatigue, but to mental and emotional exhaustion. I miss my husband. I miss relaxation untinged by grief and stress. I miss being able to plan for even the immediate future. I miss sharing the decision-making. And I feel guilty for feeling so negative. Because Adam is still here and we have every reason to hope that he will recover fully. He will be back and so will my so-called normal life. And I am so thankful for that…though I’m often hesitant to count on it. Maybe that is what I miss the most: that sense of certainty as to what the future will hold. So I don’t have the strength of heart or head to plan anything concrete. I am balanced precariously on a beam and cannot see the end clearly, so my equilibrium never quite stabilizes. I know that this feeling won’t last forever, but for now I am fighting paralysis. My big achievements are along the lines of getting the floor swept, the pool treated, the taxes sent to the CPA, and the laundry done. I still stink at getting the dishwasher unloaded, but loading it and doing the hand-washing are doable tasks. You will notice that getting the bed made is not on the list…not an oversight. We can’t even get the trash taken to the road about half the time. Grocery shopping and cooking are also spotty. No one wants to eat. And I hate cooking for an unappreciative audience, even at the best of times. So I keep wondering why I feel so tired at the end of the day. And how it is that I have no energy to write. I don’t even have the attention span to finish reading books half the time.
But. I don’t want to stay here, and I am trying not to give in to the exhaustion. I want to find space in my heart and in my brain to do both those things that I need to do and the things that I simply want to do. The exhaustion-induced inertia and the attendant moral irritability are…exhausting. The cycle is deadly. On the one hand, there are things that are simply going to be true during this time in our lives while Adam is in treatment, and there with be a natural recovery period after it is over where we will address many things. On the other hand, I can’t put everything off until that point and simply hope that it will all get better “later.” I keep thinking of the Brandi Carlile song that says “even a fool can tell you / someday never comes.” But still, someday Adam will have to recover strength, will regain some of the weight he has lost and will overcome chemo brain. Someday, we will take a celebratory family trip to Disney World and he and I will take a belated birthday/anniversary trip somewhere too. None of that can happen until chemo and radiation are done. But how low will I let myself get in the meantime? Will I let myself gain weight through comfort-eating, knowing that I will just have to lose it again? Will I let my kids and myself get lazy, knowing that we will have to relearn a how to live with discipline and rules and chores eventually? Obviously, I can’t remove all the stress form our lives or expect any of us to move through our summer as though nothing weird is going on. But there has to be a happy medium; something in between pretending nothing is wrong and wallowing in the wrongness. So I am writing. And I am spending more time reading my Bible instead of only disappearing into fantastical fiction. I am cleaning the pool, doing the dishes, swiffering the dog hair off the floor and even cooking some of the time. I am even trying to watch what I eat so that I can stop gaining one pound for every three that Adam loses. I need to start exercising because that commercial about depression hurting? It’s true. Whether I am depressed or just stressed or whatever, I hurt and I hope that exercise will help. So just like Adam has to mentally prepare for chemo, I have to mentally and physically prepare to be a single parent for most of one week out of two. And that preparation is finding the end of the beam we are balancing on: having to remember that our focus is on God – an immutable strength outside of ourselves who sustains us and to whom we give all praise. I may prepare, but I am starkly aware that none of the ability comes from me. At least, I can but hope it will work out this way…because all I can see right now is the space right in front of me. I will trust the end of the beam is there and I will continue to look toward where it must be. Because maybe finding heart and brain space is really about having faith that it is there somewhere. Because where else is there to go?

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One thought on “Finding Heart and Brain Space

  1. Marianna says:

    Thanks for writing and sharing your heart. I am praying for you!

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