Permanent Difficulties are Difficulties of Every Moment

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.

I did take some time to take some more pictures over the weekend. Guess this guy was resting his back leg.

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Permanent Difficulties are Difficulties of Every Moment

  1. Thank you for writing this post. You put into words so well what it’s like to go through life with something that can kick your legs out from underneath you at any given moment, and usually when it is most inconvenient. A chronic illness comes with chronic processing. When the body more or less functions I find it tempting to push it away, deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist so that I don’t feel like a failure. The question I still struggle with is why does it make me feel like a failure? And who am I failing anyway? Acceptance is the hardest thing.

    I can’t go back to the job I was in and it is hard not to get worried about money and how we are going to cope in the future, but of course the worry itself can bring about a flare up of illness, so I am trying to let it go and enjoy the small things that make life wonderful. Things money can’t buy.

  2. There is a lot of free floating fear and anger in this world right now and it manifests itself in a lack of civility and a government that’s stuck. I used to have a bumper sticker on my old Buick that said, “Just Be Nice” and I really need to get one for my Tahoe. I want to thwap most folks with that thought right upside the head. Not a very nice thought of mine, I suppose, but dang, we need more civility in this world.

    Civility really isn’t your topic though, is it? To sum it up in a cliche, it’s about taking time to smell the roses, which we too often don’t do until we’re forced by life’s unpleasant turns to sit back and take notice that the roses, which were just part of the background before, really are gorgeous and smell wonderful. Yet there’s that niggling worry all along that we’re falling behind, losing ground, missing opportunities, which we are. Balance is what’s needed, but when the world tilts so much that the opportunities missed seem out of reach, then worry sets in. I think we’re programmed to worry, for the cave woman who worried avoided the saber tooth tiger and lived to see another day, while the one that didn’t got eaten. Worry is in our genes.

    I don’t see how people who don’t have animals make it through this world. Our animals live in the moment and constantly remind me that I should be, too. Omar Khayam said, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” This past 15 months have been one of tremendous change and fear in my life (divorce will do that to you, even if you’re the one who’s the plaintiff) and when I was ready to crawl out of my skin and cry, I would try and ground myself in the moment. Lots of them are bad, uncomfortable, upsetting, frustrating, and terrifying moments and I am processing them moment by moment and trying to cherish the really good ones that are now unexpectedly popping up and thankfully more frequently. My horses and my dog are incredible black holes for my money, yet they bring me such joy and remind me that it will get better. The difficulties don’t go away, but I’ve learned to cope, to process, to live in the moment and yet see the big picture. Good luck to HM in working through his moments, and to you and the boys for living with them too. Thank goodness for horses, and time to process. One thing I did right this year was find a really good therapist on my insurance plan and talk. A lot. A lot a lot. If you have that option, it’s a good choice to make.

  3. funder

    I love your blog. It’s so thoughtful that I usually can’t find the right thing to say. This time maybe I have something!

    My favorite maxim is “This too shall pass.” It cheers me up when things suck (and oddly doesn’t depress me when times are good). Hang in there. This too shall pass.

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