So yeah, it is perfectly normal for kids to think that their dad is big and strong and even scary (at least when he’s angry), and I guess it’s okay for my kids too…except that their dad is ADAM SCOTT TISDALE. Seriously, people. I may be wonderful and fabulous and amazing (ahem, you should be nodding and cheering here), but no one – not even my own mother – thinks that I am nicer that my husband. Well…no one except my children, that is. It boggles my mind, and even makes me giggle with slightly malicious glee at times…which just goes to show…. But the truth is: he’s a dad and he is a little scary and angry and impatient. I mean, so am I, but apparently that is no big deal. Daddy is the scary one who is hard to talk to. That’s right. One of my children came right out and said that he is hard to talk to. I was dumb-founded. Kids are weird. Parenting is hard. Spring Break is no fun if you have no big plans. And, tee hee, Adam is meaner than I am!!!!
Today is one of those days when I really need to stay away from Facebook. It is not just the obvious time-suck that I am trying to avoid (rather unsuccessfully, at that), but the engendering of the proverbial green-eyed monster. Yep. Everyone whose kid is being good, loving to write/read/obey/not act like any kid who lives in my house, everyone who is going on a fabulous trip, and everyone who is in general happy with his or her life is making me crazy at the moment. This is, of course, ridiculous. For one thing, I am not having a bad day, week, month, or even year. Finally. I simply seem to lack the basic human capacity to be happy for anyone today. Yes. I know. This is entirely my problem. See? Staying away from Facebook….
Unfortunately, my envy-monster is not the only one I’m seeing evidence of on social media today – or yesterday, either. The other two monsters kept me on the verge of tears yesterday – for strangers, no less, and I am afraid I’m too tired to do it again today. You see, one of the bad guys is cancer – in this case a stage IV brain tumor in a four-year-old. This is not my story, and I couldn’t speak to what the family is feeling or going through, even if I wanted to. I just hate the monster. HATE it. And yet I can’t leave it alone. I can’t just ignore the posts that are showing up on my news feed from disparate friends from Virginia Beach to Jacksonville. So I cry and pray – really eloquent prayers like: “Oh God, oh God, oh God. Be with them and thank you and oh God, oh God, oh God.” Our own cancer battle was a horror to us – and it still is a lot of the time…and it was a GOOD NEWS cancer diagnosis – with clean scans and remission and all that. And it was and is the single worst thing in this world that has happened to our family. I hurt for me and for them and for everyone, and I am having a hard time with happy. Because there be monsters here.
The other monster I’m struggling with today was perhaps best described by a certain Elizabethan playwright as outrageous fortune. We sometimes call it bad luck, Murphy’s law, or the effects of a fallen world – generally depending on our spiritual background. It is the bad things that happen…like massive, fatal car accidents that take children and devastate families. It is another horror that I cannot pretend to understand or explain, but that I cannot ignore. So I hug my loved ones, live my life in the best way I know how, and pray for all the hurting people out there – even if those prayers are wordless groans for pain I cannot fathom and fear in depths of my heart that I didn’t know I had until they started hurting. “Oh God, oh God, oh God….”
So there be monsters here. Petty ones and nasty ones and horrific ones and probably stupid ones. I hate them, but they give me words that I never found before I knew them. Maybe owning that reality will be the thing that allows me to enjoy the good things again. We are fighting to celebrate victories rather than to fear possible defeats, and seeing that facing the monsters works better than pretending they don’t exist might be a step toward that. I am also trying to come to terms with the reality that sadness and anger resonate with me more than hope does. (Cue worried phone calls from parents…I’m fine – don’t worry!) It is real to acknowledge that I miss my friend who was taken by cancer and that I don’t want to lose anyone else, and it is true that I don’t want anyone to have to bury a child or a spouse and that I hurt for them when they do. “Oh God, oh God, oh God….”
Are you fighting your own kind of monsters? Are they real or are you afraid they’re only in your head? Does that actually make them any less real?
I wrote the above, and then realized that it is mostly about me. Which is normal, I guess – I’m the one I know best. But it feels wrong to only share my reaction to something without giving you the chance to see the real stories if you want to. It feels selfish. “Oh God, oh God, oh God, help me love others and not just indulge my vicarious pain; let me remember that how I feel isn’t the main story here!”
A dear friend who has been fighting a monstrous grief of her own for the last year reminded all of us that a simple, practical, financial kindness to a grieving family is of more help than you might think. “There is nothing that anyone can say to ease the pain…nothing. But this tangible act of giving can keep a family from having to think about or worry about financial matters. Because sometimes, it takes all you have to just breathe.” Here are links, if you want the stories to touch your heart too…it may not be easy, but it is life in the trenches – and I think that is where we are supposed to be. So maybe Facebook isn’t so bad, after all….
I have a friend who used to punctuate all of our outings by sending a post-mortem apology email. Most of the time there would be anywhere from two to six stay-at-home moms who had gotten together and talked non-stop to the first adults we’d seen in days. We had a lot to say, and this one friend always worried (after the fact) that she’d been offensive in some way. She hadn’t, but she always issued a preemptive apology anyway. We still laugh at her about this…and then say we hope we haven’t offended anyone by laughing…. She actually starts most conversations by issuing a blanket disclaimer, so we’re good now! And that is how I wanted to start this post – by apologizing for not being more diligent in updating my blog. I don’t actually expect anyone who reads it to be angry about my lack of writing. In fact, the argument can certainly be made that I hurt no one but myself in my procrastination. But then I thought of the apology issued by the meteorologist in the Birmingham, Alabama area who issued a mea culpa yesterday regarding the failure of the weather center to correctly predict where the snow would fall. Contrast that with all the officials in Atlanta who have been blame-shifting. The weather people said nothing, so the news people blamed the city, who blamed…the people of Atlanta for going to work and school and for not knowing how to drive in the snow. One early apology in Alabama let everyone focus on those who still needed help, while most Atlantans are just pissed off. They are helping too…because that is what is needed. We southerners may not be experienced at driving in the snow, but we do take community emergencies just as seriously as do our neighbors to the north. It was the same weather, y’all! It was exactly the same storm at about the same time and meteorologists from both states missed the forecast. Two different cities made similar mistakes and had similar traffic problems. (Because, not for nothing, weather is hard to forecast correctly!) The difference is the reaction of the people in charge in the aftermath. Claiming fault and apologizing is hard, but we teach our kids to do it for a reason: it’s the right thing to do and it often really helps.
So, am I apologizing for not writing more? Sure. Because I’m sorry that I’ve been doing other things when this is what I actually love, and my laziness is no good to anyone. And the part I didn’t mention about my uber-apologizing friend? She infected the rest of us. We all do it. We all love to talk and we love our adult time, even though several of us are no longer at home with kiddos all the time, but we also want to be careful that we are understood and not offensive. We want to communicate well, and even when we are snarky, we don’t want to hurt each other. It’s not a bad thing to be careful of. And it’s fun to laugh at all the apologizing too….
I don’t always like being a mess, and I really don’t like others to worry about me when I’m a mess…but I don’t really mind at all that people see my messiness. It does make me sad that some of my friends and loved ones don’t like that I show those less than together bits…but I am constantly reminded that there are other friends and loved ones out there that love those bits best. Maybe because they identify with them, or because they are reminded to pray for me and others, or because it makes me seem accessible. I can’t really know all the whys and wherefores, but I have been told several times in the last few days that my honesty is refreshing and that it is appreciated. So I’m glad. In turn, I feel refreshed after a good trip with the kids to see some of my family and friends in Athens, Georgia. (Which is, by the way, the BEST college town in the country – if not the world.) It was so good to see and be encouraged by our loved ones there, but even more importantly, it was a great time with my kids. We’ve had some good times this summer, but most of them have been so hard. This wasn’t without it’s difficulties, but everyone was trying to love each other well. Okay, maybe the kids weren’t trying very hard with each other, but with everyone else, they were good. And I successfully navigated a couple of emotional minefields with each of them. Especially with Ethan, who has been a warhead ready to explode for weeks or months. It was such a relief.
Then Kara lied to me this morning. Because showing her messiness and being honest isn’t really in her 9 year-old wheelhouse, at least not yet. So here we go again. Teaching a lesson that has been taught and learned before. About obedience. Honesty. Integrity. But that is okay. Those are still the lessons that I’m relearning too. And it is nice to be facing them from a position of hope rather than from the depths of woe.
Cancer still sucks and I still wish all of this was over. I know the depths may come back and reclaim me for a time – it may happen lots of times. But for now, I will enjoy the the hope. Because I know, even in the depths, that hope is what is true: hope in Christ that all of this will pass away. And it is also true that there is real beauty amidst the horror in anything. Even cancer. The beauty of the love and support of those around us. And the depth of joy that comes when real woe is banished – even if only temporarily – is something I would never have known without cancer. So, like the goblin king in the movie Labyrinth, it has no power over me. And poof. The nightmare ends. Sort of. For today at least.
Our daily reality doesn’t match our eternal one very well. I guess it never does, but that is more evident to us right now. It is difficult to put into words something that covers the two disparate, but equally accurate, truths. I have hope and am not defeated, but must fight dirty to stay that way. How can we already be conquerors and also need to prepare to fight? How can Monday be so hard when the weekend was so good? Why are my kids right back to where they were…because now the other one is fighting me too. Why did it take long enough to write this that the situation changed? Sigh. Because this is life. And in truth, it’s messy and broken. But it’s not the only thing we know to be truth. So here I go.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I write, or even anything I write. You are entitled to believe me petty, immature, misinformed, foolish, and any manner of other things that I frankly strive not to be. But I’m not going to leave comments to that effect on my blog. The opinions expressed here are mine and divergent ones are allowed…but mean or disrespectful comments will be deleted. Even if I made them…maybe especially if I made them. To that point, if you are female and don’t mind being called a girl, that’s cool…for you. It hit me wrong the other day, and no amount of aforementioned stewing changed that for me. This is not a moral issue – of that I am well aware – it is a preference issue, and I explained the reason for my preferences to the best of my ability. If that makes me an immature brat, so be it. Maybe I’ll grow out of someday.
But as for the idea that offending someone, especially when the offense was innocently and unintentionally offered, being the offendee’s problem: I’m not sure I agree. I hate accidentally hurting people, but I know that I do it. It most often happens because I say too much. Looking for the right words means going through many of the wrong ones first. My instinctive reaction is to lash out at the one I’ve offended, presumably in an innate “the best defense is a strong offense” sort of way. I didn’t intend to hurt anyone, so I am angry at them for having the temerity to be offended…. But why am I so bothered by the need to guard what I say (or write, for that matter)? If you can forgive me when I say things that bother you, I can strive not to do it. Why is that so hard? Why is loving people in a way that is meaningful to them, even when it is foreign to me, offensive? Why would my desire to share a way in which people could love me better be offensive to others? Why is it offensive to learn that I don’t like to be equated a child? Or that a word means something to me that it doesn’t mean to you? I call myself a bitch when I am one. That seems much more likely to offend….
So. To be clear: I am not angry at anyone. The overheard comment was not aimed at me specifically, but was used to make a statistical observation. The population in general was adult, not juvenile. The males were referred to as “guys,” not “boys.” Our word usage is often based on cultural context – there is something in mine that makes “girl” mean – at least in part – young, inexperienced, or innocent. I’m not those things. Sorry. In my cultural context, there is no equivalent word for “females of indeterminate age.” My preference, when it is clear that children are not being referred to, is to default to “women” instead of “girls.” Preference. That is all.
This has nothing to do with some sort of life-experience pissing contest. I am no better (or worse) a person because of the situations that I have experienced, nor will the fullness of years that God sees fit to grant me change my innate value. It follows that no person, young or old, can be thus judged. We are all younger than some and older than others – “I am older than I once was/And younger than I’ll be/That’s not unusual…” (thank you Paul Simon). We all still have real feelings, real opinions, real beliefs and are still worthy of respect. Even when others disagree with us. This isn’t, for me, about measuring my…maturity…it is about sharing myself.
It is so much easier to write when I am sad or angry or frustrated than it is when I am happy. There is a corresponding preponderance of somewhat negative posts on here. I have found that I am also loath to write when I am emotionally exhausted from the ravages that chemo wreaks on our family. On the treatment days, all I manage are the bare necessities: getting to the cancer center, helping Adam with whatever he needs, feeding the children, and enforcing a very lax bedtime routine. Other than that, I spend my time zoned out and wasted. Who needs mind altering substances? Watching someone I love go through physical and mental torture is quite enough to take me out of my head. But then I have a hangover. I spend the first few days after treatment trying to get back into my head. So no, those aren’t days where I’m likely to write positive posts either. But I’m tired of writing laments. I want to feel better. I want to…I don’t even know what I want. I feel like crying out much as my 10 year old has: “I want life to be normal again…I don’t want everything to be bad anymore!” I don’t even think that everything is bad…but I can’t quite work myself out of the funk today. I am sort of disappointed in myself and it is making it hard for me to greet anything with any reaction other than grief, fear or anger. I am so mad and sad and the end seems so far away. And my husband is getting weaker and more tired every time. And my kids are acting out and needy. And I have nothing left to give. I am so tired. And yet, tomorrow comes. Every tomorrow comes and they bring little comfort and less rest. And I know that my hope and comfort and rest are in Christ…I know it. I just wish they felt a little more hopeful, comfortable, and restful. An infinite God promises an infinite peace…but I live in a finite world that is not there yet. Which is why so many comfort themselves and others with the hope of peace in heaven. And I know that heaven will bring just that. But to get there, I have to leave here…and leave some behind. And somehow, that is no peace at all to me right now. GI Joe might be right: knowing may indeed be half the battle…but half a battle is no kind of victory. At least not tonight. Tonight is a night for mourning…again. So here’s to remembering that weeping endures through the night, but joy comes in the morning. (That’s a paraphrase of Psalm 30:5 which I actually know because of Anne of Green Gables….)
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.