Sunday, December 25, 2011

The post that almost didn't happen

I am generally a go-into-my-cave-and-lick-my-wounds-privately kind of gal. A pass-the-ammo type of woman. So this post almost didn’t happen. It’s not a happy post, it’s not about knitting, it’s not clever, or funny. In a strange dark way it is about hope. Hope that –if I’m honest – my words will help someone else in their struggles. At the same time, it’s selfish and about loss, about pain.

When my children died, I lost my future. Somewhere in the last year, I lost myself. I’m living with a stranger. Who the hell is this woman living my life? Doctors & books tell you so much, but they forget to tell you that the person who leaves that OR may not be the one who entered.

Another year of misspent youth has flown by. A year that was filled with tears. I’ve cried more this year than since I was a child & used to cry myself to sleep every night.

Oddly, the tears weren’t about the inexorable diagnosis, the tears were caused by people. People who hurt me, disappointed me, broke my heart –willfully or accidentally. Doctors stress the importance of a support system, they fail to mention the people who will turn away, the people who will reject you because of your illness, the people who act like you are contagious, or who don’t want to spend time with you because you can’t be happy & they don’t want to think about anything that isn’t happy. They don’t prepare you for the people who begrudge you a bad day; a day you don’t feel good, a day you are tired/worn down/short tempered. There’s no app for your phone to sort people. To warn you who will just expect you to carry on every day, to pretend nothing has changed, because their life hasn’t changed & they don’t want you to force change upon it.

No one warns you that rather than simply say “I don’t know what to say;” people will say nothing, leaving you isolated and alone. Not because they mean to, but because they don’t know any better. They don’t realize that puts you in an impossible position of trying to gauge timing & a correct level of sharing. Instead, clich├ęs and platitudes roll forth, well meant but worthless. People will say “If you want to talk.” And when you try to, they will turn away, they will reject your words – but it will feel as if they are rejecting you; and so…there will be no more words. And the longer it goes on, the more impossible to bridge the gap. And one day you’ll find that somehow, all the blame has been placed on you. Then, rather than let them continue to prick you in a thousand small ways, you’ll cut deep into your soul and shut them out before they can hurt you again.

You’ll discover – on a day you call in sick – that surprising people, people you thought were on the periphery of your life will call to check on you, but that people you work with daily will do nothing.

You’ll find yourself lashing out at people – because you hurt so much, because they continue to hurt you. And then be embarrassed, ashamed that you acted that way. But not be able to apologize because there isn’t a way to say that your action was a REaction; unless you’re willing to point out their behavior. Which you won’t do because, at this point, how do you divide the blame? And because you, secretly, want it all to be healed, for a miracle to happen, for them to make even one move toward peace – a real peace, not just peace on their terms.

Not only will you get a crash course in neurochemistry, time management, and insurance bureaucracy; you’ll get an undergrad in human behavior. You’ll be forced to learn to accept the situations; or become bitter and crazy. You’ll have personal growth forced upon you. You’ll find yourself forgiving someone a grievous error because their intention was good, but not someone else’s small mistake because it was self-absorbed; and then find yourself abusing yourself because you’ve let go of the one thing but not the other.

Now…before you decide that this is all too bleak and the solution is to go play in the freeway traffic…

There WILL be people who make you cry for other reasons. Good reasons. People with strength, courage, and chutzpah. You’ll discover your Real Friends have been sorted out from the crowd. And that is where you have to demonstrate courage too. That is where you have to speak up, speak out, reach out, ask for help, share and receive.

These are the people who realize that, just because you didn’t need help yesterday, doesn’t mean you don’t need it today. The people who not only have time for you at lunch, but have time for you at 2 am when you’re wishing you would just wake up dead. The people that are afraid for you, and say so, but don’t run away from their fear – or yours.

These are the people, who when you’re sobbing uncontrollably will say “well shit” and you’ll know – know that they don’t have words, but that they Know what you can’t say. And it will be enough.

They will understand that some days they’ll get answers to questions and that some days you have no words, because you have no control & words would just make you shatter into a thousand pieces.

Yet, they’ll ask again in the future.

They’ll admit that they don’t understand and listen while you try to explain something you don’t understand either. They’ll take the time to look up your diagnosis, in an attempt to get a better understanding; and let expert words apologize for some of your behavior.

They won’t just say “I don’t understand how you hold it together. I would fall apart.” And then go on their merry way. They look at you, and see the cracks, then pass the glue and fish little pieces out from under the sofa. At the same time, they’ll be honest when you’ve lost your damn mind.

Interestingly, it isn’t that you take a lot of time from their life; you don’t become a project to work on. You don’t become helpless, or dependent. You actually become stronger because they let you be weaker. I’m certain physics would say that’s impossible; but, whoever you are, I hope you remember those words if you ever need them.

Hopefully, next year’s birthday post will be about knitting.