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.