So I am exactly a month away from my job starting again–assuming I don’t find another one before then (I am still looking after my unpleasant experience with the state and my employer re unemployment).
I looked at my long ‘to-do before school starts’ list this morning and sternly reminded myself to take things one day at a time.
I was telling a relative of mine that what troubles me the most about our culture right now is all this free-floating fear and anger. Anger about just about anything you can think of: the lack of personal responsibility, the fact that those of us who keep our heads down and do our jobs seem to keep falling further behind. Anger about the destruction of the environment. Anger that regular people have lost their retirement while financial swindlers have made more money than small countries.
And fear. So much fear. Fear that everything is changing underneath our feet. Fear for the future.
I have seen so many friends (and myself) fall into the trap of working so hard and so many hours a week that our personal lives fall apart. In a culture where “worth” is calculated by what’s in your driveway and in your checking account, it’s easy for us to forget that investment in our relationships has a lot more to do with the expenditure of time and attention than money. When you’re “at work” (either physically or in your head), you just aren’t investing in those relationships.
And when you’re worried about money anyway, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on that instead of drawing comfort from the fact that “providing” for a veritable menagerie requires a lot more important things than money.
This is a lesson my family is having to learn again and again. I’ve written a bit about my interstitial cystitis, and how I was finally diagnosed about a week after I bought my first horse. That irony made me cry many times–there I was, finally lucky enough to afford a horse–but diagnosed at practically the same time with an incurable pelvic disease.
Just like so many challenges, though, the disease has had a silver lining. I realized I couldn’t keep up a punishing publishing schedule. I realized that (surprise) the world would not fall off its axis if I needed to go lie down for a while. I realized that giving up spaghetti and pizza and lemon bars would not kill me. I figured out that many, many people have to live with significantly more amounts of pain and sacrifice than I have to.
Being grounded with my horses made me start seeing them in a different way, which actually started helping me see the world in an entirely different way. There have been many times when a few hours at the barn has turned my heart around.
A good thing, too, since Husband-Man is still awaiting diagnosis for a set of problems that’s starting to look more and more like rheumatoid arthritis. RA is another immune-system disease that creates a tremendous array of challenges for the patient (no cure, odd and variable symptoms, lowered quality of life, shortened lifespan). HM has had trouble with everything from his mood to his memory this past year–not to mention the joint pain. He just hasn’t been himself, and he’s on heavy-duty immune-suppressant drugs.
I keep replaying the doctor’s appointment from this spring–specifically the sentence where HM’s rheumatologist said, “Well, your bloodwork doesn’t show clear answers yet, but these things have a way of declaring themselves.” And then I can almost hear the whiny little kid in me shrieking…”But this isn’t fair! We’re too young! He worked too hard–he doesn’t deserve this! We just finally got the boys raised…!”
And probably the most chilling thought of all: “How the heck are we supposed to take care of each other if both of us are sick?”
Even after watching me struggle with IC the past six years, HM is having to learn all the lessons a chronic illness so helpfully leaves at the table. He was brought up to bull through pain and discomfort–which in the past gave him the ability to accomplish incredible things even when he was exhausted. Now, he’s starting to figure out that “bulling through” is actually a dangerous strategy, since even basic management of an immune system problem requires a lot of self-awareness and personal research.
You can’t (no matter how much you’d like to) pretend that it isn’t happening, and that has been very hard for both of us.
My sister-in-law was listening to me rant a few weeks ago, and she pointed out that I was very fortunate to have been laid off this summer. I snorted. “What’s good about it?” I asked. “We finally got out of debt, and now we’re in it again.”
“People need time to process,” she said. “You guys have had a lot to process.”
I ran across a quote today by TS Eliot: “Our difficulties of the moment must always be dealt with somehow, but our permanent difficulties are difficulties of every moment.”
That’s why they take time to process. I have been granted that time, and time with the horses.