02 November 2010

Looking Back

I've been thinking about the past a lot lately, about the time that John was sick. A coworker's grandson has leukemia and is getting ready to start chemo. Another friend has had surgery to remove a tumor on his kidney. Another is preparing for surgery as the first step in treatment for breast cancer. When I hear about these things, my stomach flips and I can smell the hospital, hear the beeping of the IV machines, feel the adrenaline that powered me through those crazy 2.5 years course through my veins.

I was selfish back then. Maybe I'm still selfish now, but I was certainly selfish back then. John got his diagnosis three weeks after we got married. We'd only really known each other for sixteen months before that. Most everyone else in his life had known him longer, some I'm sure loved him as deeply if not deeper than I did. When he got his diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by emotions, one of the main ones being jealousy of everyone who had known John longer than I had. Everyone who had had the chance to spend more time with him when he was healthy and vibrant. Many, likely most, of them appreciated that time when they had it, just as I appreciated the time John and I had, healthy or well. But so many people got so much more than me, and I was envious and angry about it.

That jealousy made me selfish. Since I had not gotten that time in the past, I was going to get as much of it as I could until he died. Not that it was my decision; I respected John's wishes, of course, and I think we worked together to find a balance of time for each other and time with family and friends. Lots of people loved John. There was much about him to love, that's for sure.

Part of moving on in grief is getting the perspective of the passing of time. I can look back now and see just how blindered I was by our situation, how completely immersed I was in our cancer world. Once the twins came along, it was the cancer and parenting world. And then it was the grief and parenting world. It was all so much to bear. I wanted to be grateful to everyone who helped me through those times, and I thought I did a decent job of it. But I can see now that I often had the energy to think only about John, Maddie, Riley, and myself.

The conversations I've had relatively recently about things being all about me, all the time, have had me thinking about all this. Both of those conversations were with people I respect and love, and so they have stuck with me and I've been working them over in the back of my mind more than I even knew I was. I see where both were coming from, I do. At the same time, I also know that I did the best I could—that I've been doing the best I can—in situations that have ranged from Completely Shitty to Pretty Good, but Still Damn Hard. At times, my best has been lower than my own standards, and often it's been lower than the standards of others. But it's been the imperfect best I can do.

Maddie and Riley and I rode our three bike through the darkness tonight to the ATM so that I could get money to pay the three people who have been caring for them this week. It was a short ride, just a quick after-dinner jaunt that centered me and brought me some moments of calm and of knowing that I'm doing the right things. I'm taking care of Maddie and Riley. I'm taking care of myself. I'm trying to do better at those things when my emotional and physical resources allow. I write this post over and over, a broken record, the same refrain, the need to say it enough that it is real.


Sami said...

Sometimes all we can do is our best and move forward from that... hang in there.

Jen said...

I'm having some of the same thoughts myself -- I'm just not a great friend or sister or daughter anymore, sometimes not even a good one. Two and a half years out, it feels like I should be able to do better. But we all do the best we can with what we have, and know that our loved ones are trying their best to understand us.

Sunny said...

But some things are SUPPOSED to be all about you. And those who have not been through what you've been through are not in a position to judge you. As my mom would have said.."You did the best you could with what you had available to do it with at the time that you were doing it."

todd said...

everybody is selfish. the most selfish are those who complain that others are too selfish to pay them the attention they deserve; the least selfish are those who worry if they are too selfish.

you are too hard on yourself.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Good grief, Snick. Literally. Grief. It would be impossible not to be inwardly focused during the most sorrowful and joyful events of your life, especially when they are concurrent. Go easy on yourself, dear friend. You have lived through a tsunami of events, and no matter what you think practically, it was still so, so recent.
I love you.

Jay Cosnett said...

Snick, try not to beat yourself up too much. You are living an amazing life and you're being an amazing and wonderful parent to two wonderful (and demanding) children. You're not perfect. Thank GAWD! But I don't think your selfish, at least not in a pejorative way. Pendulums swing back and forth--being a grieving solo parent of two infants/toddlers/preschoolers is not a period in your life where being "selfish" is any thing but what you gotta do to get 'er done!


Susan said...

Wow, I agree with all the comments thus far Snick. I don't comment much but I read your blog faithfully. And when I am reminded of your life path and what you have walked through...as I would say...geez louise girl....I think you are doing great. Like some have already said, we all have bad days, sometimes bad weeks and sometimes bad periods, the point is that you recognize it and you continue to want to do/be better. Keep it up.

OTRgirl said...

I can so relate to your comment about the smell of hospitals. (DISLIKE)

It's interesting, I hear what you're saying and part of me wants to jump in and tell you to not beat yourself up. Grief takes a huge toll in energy and the ability to focus outward. Yet I also respect your self-reflection and your desire to respond well to the challenges brought by those conversations. In the midst of that dynamic tension, I hope for you to learn to be gentle with yourself as you emerge into a phase of life where you're grief and your children aren't as demanding.

On a different note, I'm glad you're going to try for NaBloMo. I've never been so ambitious, but I might follow your lead. We shall see.

Tiffanie said...

I was thinking about you last night. I am a single mom to, but for different reasons. Still though, we know it's not how it should be, but it's how it IS, and so we need to make it the best we know how to.

I think you are doing a fabulous job. Thanks for being real.

Anonymous said...

I know you are speaking your truth, and I get the jealousy piece, but I am sad that the story you are writing about the past features Selfish Snick. I feel like John would want his family offering you no less than complete love and support, not hammering you in your struggle so that you start rewriting history to more closely match their version. You were protecting your family!

Anonymous said...

I think we can all relate to this post -- even those of us who have not lost a spouse or who aren't a single parent to twins. What has been most difficult for me to admit to myself is sometimes my best wasn't good enough -- for me or those I love.

But it's all about learning lessons and moving forward, which is what is sounds like you're starting to do.

Dr. Smak said...

I remember a coworker voicing annoyance at my absence while Henry was sick. He wasn't annoyed with me, he was annoyed with the cancer that took me away from work. And he finished it by saying, "Well, there's sure as hell no one here who wants to trade places with you."

It wasn't the most svelte of deliveries, but the point was that there are many many things that suck about a personal tragedy like John's cancer, and one of those is that you can no longer be the person that you would have been if it hadn't happened.

And while your friends have every right to be annoyed by that, I think it unfair to be annoyed at you by that.

To me, this is akin to you losing a leg in a car accident, and your friend complaining later that you weren't able to keep up shopping anymore, what with that nice new prosthetic leg and all.

Our grief counselor often says, "Be gentle with yourselves." It's very good advice.

Mizasiwa said...

Im going to comment without reading the other comments also pls understand im not anti divorce!
Wee lost my dad two years ago and we sometimes sit around and find out we've lost time inbetween. Its weird and unexplainable but each of us has. The thing i feel the worst about is that unless someone has had this experience they can sympathise not empathise and only to a degree. Only to their own level of acceptance. Grief is a strange animal it took my mom a year before she actually broke down completly the ppl at her work totally did not understand. I think that with so many divorced and single parent homes ppl expect you to just accomodate the change and move on. They dont understand that its much more complicated. divorce and single parenting in a lot of cases is in its own way a choice losing someone through long term or in my dads case sudden death is not!! Leaving my mom pennyless with two pre teen daughters to take care of was not part of his plan but thats what happens and my mom has to deal with that on and in her own way EVERY SINGLE DAY! I think you guys (You my mom and the other widow/widowers) are the strongest ppl i 'know' and i look to you for that special something that is lacking in my life!! Being self centred sometimes in its own way is a coping mechanism anyway and maifest in different ways. my little siter blanks out my brother and middle sister are filled with rage and my mom is lost its hard to deal with but I have to becouse I love them!!

Sandy said...

Thank you for this post, Stacey. I'm touched by your ability to analyze your relationships. Your ability to navigate friendships has always inspired me.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Smak's words -- "And while your friends have every right to be annoyed by that, I think it unfair to be annoyed at you by that."

That's it, that's it absolutely.