I’ve been struggling lately trying to find the words to explain myself. To myself. Has that ever happened to you? You get so stressed out, so many things piled on top of your already too-full plate, and you just can’t even process it all with yourself? And then someone asks how you are doing, and you just don’t know where to begin? That’s where I’m at right now. I have endured extreme amounts of stress in the last several months, the whole last year pretty much, and I’m just at a point where I don’t know how to process it all. There are some nights that I just lay in bed, trying desperately to just turn off my brain and go to sleep, but instead I just stare at the ceiling for hours, thinking about everything. It’s exhausting.
Life is hard. I’m not trying to whine or complain, just a simple observation that has been handed to me quite rudely and unexpectedly lately. Being an adult is hard. Parenting is hard. Being a good wife is hard work, too. So many bad things have happened this past year, rude wake up calls to tell me to get my head out of the clouds, quit wasting my life away and just get my shit together, already!
We found out at the beginning of last year that my father in law had a mass in his brain, and it wasn’t looking to good. Results came back and he was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, the doctors gave him about 18 months to live. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a highly malignant form of cancer that can be very difficult to treat because it contains so many different types of cells, and is pretty much a fatal diagnosis. Radiation and oral chemotherapy was started, and we saw some great shrinkage of the tumor. Life felt like it was getting better, and he had responded so well to the treatment, hardly any side effects! Towards the end of last year, the scan revealed that the tumor was no longer ‘under arrest’ and IV chemo was started shortly after. But great news! The IV chemo had kicked some major tumor butt, and the doctors considered his cancer to be in a type of “remission”. We had a fabulous Christmas, and we so enjoyed our time together, but right before New Year’s, he began to feel not so well, lightheaded and dizzy, slightly nauseous, and fell at home. We took him to the ER to get checked out, they determined everything was fine, his heart rate was fine, labs came back all within normal limits, so we were sent home. A week later, the same symptoms popped up again, but this time it was serious. An ambulance was sent out to the house, but it was too late. He suffered a major cardiac event, a massive heart attack, and was gone before the ambulance even got there. It was all just so unexpected, because he had responded so well to the IV chemo, and the tumor had been deemed “under arrest” again. But the problem had been with where the tumor was located. It had been pressing on his brain stem for so long, his heart had to work harder to pump enough blood up to his brain, and it simply couldn’t do it anymore. He put up a brave fight, was always in a cheerful mood when we saw him, and was always just so happy to have us around, despite everything he was going through. It was a tough way to start the New Year, and it’s been rough ever since. The world lost one of the greatest men I have ever known that day, and there will forever be a empty space in our hearts and lives that he once filled. That was probably one of the hardest things we’ve been through lately.
I know that everyone always says this, when someone passes unexpectedly, but it really does remind you about how short life is. If only we could remember that on a daily basis, and always be aware how fleeting life is. To spend more quality time with your loved ones, not just because you recently lost someone, but just because. Because you enjoy their company, because they mean the world to you, because they may be going through something and they might just need you to sit with them for a while, even if you don’t say a word. To be more present in our loved ones’ lives. That’s been my struggle lately.
Back in November, I had an accident and broke my jaw. It didn’t really hurt that bad, but having your jaw wired shut for 7 weeks and not being able to EAT anything kind of sucks. I mean yeah, being on a liquid diet helped me drop a few more pounds a little bit quicker, but it sucked. I mean, there were nights that I would literally CRY while making dinner for the fam, because I knew that they would be eating this delicious meal, and I would be stuck drinking potato soup. Water thin potato soup. It’s basically what I lived on for those 7 weeks, potato soup, protein shakes, and unhealthy amounts of coffee. Obviously, I wasn’t able to work during that time, it’s kind of hard to talk to your patients (most of which have trouble hearing anyways) or have to give CPR to someone when you have to talk through your teeth. But I ended up actually enjoying my time at home. I know what you’re thinking, most people would love to have a reason to not go to work, but I’ve never really been one of those people. I started working when I was 15, and I worked full time hours while finishing high school. I’ve always wanted to be a mom (and my sweet baby boy helped me get there) but I never thought I could handle being a stay at home mom. But after Mason got used to the fact that I talked through my teeth all the time (with my jaw wired shut, not all the time 🙂 ) and that I wasn’t mad at him every time I said something, we started to actually enjoy our days, instead of dreading each morning and wondering what kind of day today was going to be. Sure, there were days that we were stir crazy from being cooped up inside all day and we started to get on each others’ nerves, but we were having so. much. fun. together.
And then I realized something. I haven’t been present in my child’s life, for the last 3 years. I mean yeah, I was there, but I wasn’t actually present. I started working at the hospital when Mason was about 6 months old. And when I was working full time hours, I was working three 12 hour shifts a week. You may be thinking, but you were only working three days a week, you had the other four days to be home and do whatever! Which is true, but have you ever worked a 12 hour shift? They are long, and exhausting, and did I mention long? Not to mention the fact that I had to be at work at 7 am, so that means had to be up and ready by then. And I am most certainly not a “get up and go” kind of person. I need at least an hour to wake up, and you better not try to talk to me before I get my first cup of coffee down. So I was getting up between 4 and 6 am, to get ready to work a long 12 hour shift, and then I didn’t get home until right before 8 pm. That’s one hell of a day, and then add to that, that sometimes I worked two or three days in a row. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. So, I loved the idea of only working three days a week, and having the other four to be at home with my boy and plan all this fun stuff to do, but that just was not the reality. After working two or three 12 hour shifts in a row, it took me at least one day to recover. I was just so tired. I didn’t feel like doing anything that first day off. And then there was laundry and house keeping that needed to be caught up on, on top of Mason wanting and needing my attention, and not to mention things that I wanted to do and get done, for myself, it just ended up being exhausting being at home, too, sometimes. And I got into this funk. In all honesty, I think it was depression, but I just got into this funk where I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t have the motivation or energy to do anything. The laundry would pile up, and we’d start to run out of clean underwear before I would finally get some tiny little smidgen of motivation to just do it already. And I couldn’t handle Mason’s toddler attitude or the twenty thousand questions he had for me, before I had a chance to even fully wake up. So I would just turn on some cartoons for him, pop him in front of the TV with some apple juice and animal crackers, then go hide in my bed and read. That was all I could do. I was beginning to feel like I was drowning, and I didn’t know why. But now? We do so much more together. We play together, we build forts together, we build Little People towns and get all the cars and trucks out. We do crafts and color and paint and he helps me bake treats and cook dinner. I can actually remember things so much better. I can remember all the funny things he says, all the silly things he does and shows me, especially all his crazy awesome dance moves. I remember all the wonderful creations he has made me out of stickers and legos and paints. I don’t remember that stuff from the last three years. I mean sure, I have pictures to remind myself of the big stuff, important events and a few smaller, sweet moments. But I don’t remember them like I do now. I wasn’t focused on him then, I always had cleaning or laundry or something to do, or I had my face buried in my phone, reading or on facebook or pinterest, or some other useless time-suck, and I didn’t see the awesome somersault he just did. I wasn’t listening when he told me that his belly hurt or that he had a great time at the park with Cynthia, or that he loved me so much. I simply wasn’t present in his life then. I regret that, now. I wish I had paid more attention to the little things when he was first starting to discover his own little world. I wish I would have taken more time out of my day just to talk to him, hear about his day, teach him about things, find the teachable moments, play pretend with him in his room, to have crazy dance parties in the middle of the kitchen, then put socks on a see how far we can slide, or just to sit and color and draw for hours and then hang our masterpieces up on the fridge and be so proud! I wish I would have stopped and helped him when he was angry or frustrated, instead of just getting angry myself, yelling at him, and shoving him in front of the TV some more, just so I could go and hide and not have to deal with it.
And marriage. I never knew a great marriage would take so much hard work. I’m most certainly not going to go into details, but we just sort of started to drift apart. I blame myself for part of that, and I know we are both to blame for not trying hard enough. But it was beginning to feel like we were just roommates, cohabiting and raising a kid together. There were no more intimate conversations, no more sharing of hopes and dreams and struggles. It was just starting to wither away, and neither of us really knew what to do to fix it or where to go from here. There’s definitely more to it, but there are some things that are just meant to be kept private. All that to say? We’ve both recommitted ourselves to this marriage, to make our marriage better, stronger, able to endure whatever may come. And it’s been hard work. We’ve both had some hard truths come our way, and we’ve both been trying to be forgiving and willing to move forward with our partnership. Because that is what marriage is. It’s not a ring on your finger, it’s not a facebook relationship status, it’s a life long partnership. We weren’t joking when we said “until death do us part”. We are in it for the long haul. There was a reason that we got married in the first place, and reason we were both drawn together and felt like we had known each other all our lives. It took a little work, but we’ve realized what that reason is again. We complement each other so well. We understand each other. We’ve gone through some dark times, where we felt like strangers around each other, felt like we didn’t even know or understand the other one anymore, but the dark days are gone, and we are better and stronger than ever before. Have you ever had one of those friends where years could pass in between your meetings, but you can still pick up right where you left off, and feel like not a day has gone by? This is what that feels like for me now. We had this distance between us for so long, but we finally closed the gap and it feels like we were never apart anymore. I mean, we were never physically apart, but it just feels like we are sort of getting a clean slate, all while having so much history behind us. We are working towards bettering our lives together, chasing our dreams together, strengthening our family together, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime than the man I married, my best friend.
Let’s just say I’m going through a quarter-life crisis. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but that’s the best way for me to describe all of this that I’m going through. I’ve struggled lately trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve always known, or thought, I wanted to be a nurse, and a huge part of me still feels that way. But I didn’t get to finish school before getting married and having kids. I had to grow up fast. When all my other friends were out partying, having fun, and finishing up their degrees, I was pregnant and getting married and trying to prepare myself for adult life. I was pregnant at 21, and after the baby was born, there was just no time for fun and games. I had a tiny little human I was responsible for, and a husband that needed me just as much. So now here I am, 25 years old with a three year old, I still don’t have a college degree, and for that matter, I’m not even sure what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been trying to figure it all out, on top of everything else that has been going on, and the feelings of drowning are just intensified. It’s like I’m drowning in a pool of stress, I desperately need to break the surface and take a breath, but I’m struggling. I just can’t swim fast enough, I can’t get to the top, and I’m beginning to feel like I’ll never make it there. I know I was put on this earth for a reason, there is something that I am meant to do, but I sure wish God could have included an instruction manual or a map as to where I am supposed to go and what I am supposed to be doing.
All this to say? Things have been really rough lately and I’m just trying to make sense of which way is up and which way is down. I know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but there are some days that I wonder if God has me mixed up with someone else. There I days where I’ve reached my breaking point and I feel like I simply cannot go on, like I absolutely cannot handle anything else, for fear of being put in a mental institute. But I keep breathing deep, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I know that I will come out stronger in the end, and I have already learned so many valuable lessons along the way. Life is so damn hard. But that’s the joy of it, I suppose, that’s the beauty in having a “good” life. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, and you really do have to work for what you want. But most of all, even amongst all of the struggles and battles, we need to be present. What’s the point in working so hard for something, if we can’t be present in the moments and enjoy it? Go ahead, give it a try. Try to focus a little more on the little things, the simple things. Just try to be a little more present in your life, I think you might be amazed at what you see.