Ahh yes, Independence Day. In 2014 I wrote this post about Independence Day calling it a “celebration of having taken “the Road Less Traveled”. This day in 2018, I know I did not consider this new independence as a possibility.
I have come to realize over the last month that I have an opportunity through my own blog lifeoffbalance.com to share my experiences when the patient (my Wife, Best Friend and Partner, Deb) doesn’t beat the odds. Perhaps I can contribute to someone else’s future or present with my observations or challenges. Maybe there are takeaways that may assist others in some way. Life doesn’t come with a manual, so if my sharing is insightful for you – awesome. I’m not a counselor, but, I tend to figure out processes that allow me to learn as I go. Since my current circumstance carries a good deal of emotionally charged experiences right now, I’m in particularly uncharted territory.
After I drove home on that last day, Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend and the next Holiday Monday, I have no idea what transpired. I do recall that I had dinner each night with friends, mostly because I put the events in my calendar. The Tuesday, a work day, I did not go to work and I took care of what I deemed to be time sensitive closures. I was very fortunate to be able to wrap up the 3 or 4 issues I identified all in one day. Wednesday I did not work and otherwise have no recollection of the day.
On Wednesday, I was already learning. Empty time becomes filled with the images of the previous month at the hospital, the first stay from which Deb would not return (you only get one). In order to relieve myself of these generally difficult memories, I decided I need to stay occupied. The next day then, I went back to work. People asked me if I was alright to work and did I need more time. I said, staying home by myself, lost in my thoughts doesn’t seem particularly enjoyable, so I worked. Practical lesson #1 (of some endless number I’m sure), stay busy.
My work is people and communication based, so to do it at the level I choose to do it, I had to compartmentalize my efforts in order to be sharp and effective. Consciously doing that, I still found myself looking at my cell phone on my desk all day looking for texts from my Partner in a habit developed over the prior year of which I was unaware. Each glance interrupted my forward momentum. Each time I need a moment of recovery to get “back to it”.
At home, my mornings were immediately demoralizing. Deb always awoke after me and would start my day with some sort of upbeat, happy greeting. Every day it brought a smile to my face. I had spent a lot of time in 2018 with mornings I was alone, but, always, it was temporary. This was different. By the end of the first week, I had decided that my morning workout/stretching routine was going to need to be daily, not periodic. I needed the routine to push me forward every day, not just “when I felt like it”. I no longer had my morning infusion of irrepressible positivity.
The structure of my work coupled with the morning routine set a foundation on which the emotional components, whenever they arose, could be handled in a framework. The emotions still arose, but, they were immediately followed by the next effort in the queue. I had created a place for random emotional moments in a defined space so that each breakdown could be followed by a deep breath and moving forward again. Unexpectedly, by putting effort into the health of my body, I slept well and have actually appreciated that I don’t have the aches and pains that I have had over the last few months spent as a caregiver.
This was all to the plus of a larger issue. The future beyond treatment that Deb and I had actually begun to discuss in late April when she appeared to be winning, was gone. Through Deb’s previous cancers and this entire experience, a 50/50 chance, seemed an intellectual hope, but, an emotional plan. It was now never going to be. The word never has never been a part of my vocabulary. I have often challenged others when they use the words never or always cavalierly. Yet here it was a new reality for me. The finality of never having another experience of any kind with my Partner has diminished only very slowly over the 5 weeks thus far.
Interestingly, my intellectual side comes around more steadily to this new reality. My emotional side not so much. The most random thought or object may catch my breath at any moment. And by contrast, I may see something innocuous that I just have to move (read hide) to avoid seeing it. And so it goes.
I will share more of the “how am I doing story” over the upcoming days/weeks. I want to continue the legacy that Deb began through the Caring Bridge platform and the blog that Deb named Life Off Balance. Little could she or I have imagined when she chose the name prior to our leaving Grass Valley just how Off Balance our life would become, and now, how my life is. But, we always both agreed that the challenge of life is to always be working to find balance. It’s out there for me somewhere, sometime. In the meantime, I keep the routine going and staying engaged with people. I’ll keep observing and reporting. Let’s see how it goes, together. BTW, if you unsubscribe, there is no judgment. I can’t commit to always uplifting. I can only commit to always genuine.
And that’s my Independence Day 2018.