Sunday, May 1, 2011
A new month. The calendar feels like an enemy. The clock is always ticking. I often sense what hasn’t been done after each day, each week and especially as I turn the page of a calendar. This attitude is purely a confluence of personality quirks – high expectations on myself, independent, list maker, analyzer. I try to concentrate on what is really important in the moments (and for the most part I do) but somewhere, at sometime in any given week the “should” creeps in. I should have gotten to the store today, I should have finished that task, I should have brought Dave this, I should have remembered, I should have, and even a few I shouldn’t have. Regardless, these are pressures I put on myself and are mostly based on worries about our, and singularly my, future.
I wonder how long I can sustain, day in and day out, all of my roles – wife, caregiver, mother, friend, business woman, me. I’m good for about three or four days, then the pendulum swings and my mood changes. Or Dave experiences changes and my mood changes. This swings in both directions – I can be at a positive outlook from on top of my world to the feeling of sadness that I must climb out of my hole. I may have lots of energy one day, only to be worn out the next. At least I know that even my down mood will change quickly. Tears are a good indicator of change. Either I cry seemingly out of nowhere to break the silence of grief internalized, or I realize I haven’t cried in days and take comfort in momentary stability (usually to find a good cry awaiting!). Ah, tears are truly drowned sorrows. Writing, and a new post, is a good indicator of moving through the mood cycle these days, too.
The only constant is change I remind myself.
Cliches work only for so long. The inspirational quotes on Facebook posted for SFH are often a direct response to conversations and internal voices. What gratitude can I find today amidst the quiet brew of losses? The losses are slow, sometimes subtle. Dave and I both experience them together and differently. Conscious dying, which is what you have when a terminal illness is present, picks away at life. The losses accumulate. Dave’s activities move from the column of life to the column of death:
Getting out – coffee with colleagues
Routine – Sunday breakfast, washing dishes
Weight – the old self
Food and the associated pleasures of cooking, eating
Physical capabilities – strength, movement
Planning for future, retirement, dreams
We fear those yet to come. Some of these losses have been ongoing for years because of Dave’s health challenges. But when death becomes conscious as it is now, (I’m not sure it does for every family because of denial or overreaching hope) there can be some very important additions to life:
Communication with honesty
Death means going from physical being to the metaphysical. We are saying goodbye over and over again. Is good-bye not a statement of loss itself? Unfortunately, what has been gained in understanding must also be lost again for a second wave of grief to come. By nature of acknowledging our relationships and identifying their value in our lives today, we risk facing the loss of these same qualities tomorrow, perhaps with a payoff of the risk for integrating them back unto ourselves. “ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
These days –however many we may have to see, feel and live together– time has become the enemy as well as the gift. Each day I struggle to set my priority and manage my expectations, not for elusive perfection, but for conscious and realistic living. It is the time pendulum that represents the changes, the contrasts and yen/yang of life and death. Through death we experience life; from sorrow there is joy; from darkness light appears. We really cannot know one without the other.
When Dave and I wrote our marriage vows, we took our pledge to each other from the sentiments of Kahlil Gibran:
Love one another, but not make a bond of love;
Let it be rather a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from the one cup.
Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each keeping.
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
We pledged “a sharing of beauty, joy, excitement, and the pleasures of life”… with an understanding “that to know and share the most of beauty, you may also have to share ugliness; to know the highest of joys, you may have to share sadness; to know the greatest excitement, you may have to share apathy; and to know the fullest pleasure you may have to share pain.”
The gift we have today is having more than 30 years across time to experience life not in each other’s shadow, but together. I am overwhelmingly happy, for in these memories not even death can do us part.