There are a few cliché statements that I have heard numerous times over the past few weeks:
“When it rains, it pours.”
“God only gives us what we can handle.”
“Experiences like this build character.”
“When this is all over, you’ll look back on this time…”
Let me tell you, I will never look back on this time with any kind of positive memory or important lesson on which to reflect. Currently, I am very satisfied with the amount of character that I have and I don’t feel that I need to build on it at this time. I also don’t know what God, or any other existential being believes I can handle, but certainly it is not this torrential downpour. In fact, it has been pouring rain for such a while now that it is encroaching on Arc building territory… and if I was supposed to build an Arc, I absolutely missed that memo.
I have, again, flaked out on my attempt to blog about gratefulness every day leading up to my exam. As much as I’d like to believe that blogging about everything I’m grateful for would help me get through this difficult time, it is more like a bonus if I can get to it every day.
Exactly seven days ago (and 12 days before the biggest exam of my life), we got a message from my Brother-in-law that my Mother-in-law (MIL) was being taken to the hospital and was not doing well. Rewind back 6 months to when we learned that my MIL was found to have brain mets from her already recurrent stage IV cancer. At the time, I did some “research” in some medical databases and learned that this gave my MIL about 4-6 months to live. I said to my husband and a few close friends that with my luck, she would be in the throes of her dying days right when I will be writing my exams.
This, of course, was not something I said to be insensitive to my sick and dying MIL. Rather, it was to imply that I am the the person with the kind of luck that would place me in such a difficult position.
To make this situation more difficult, my MIL never liked to talk about her diagnosis and has always remained in complete denial that she was ever going to die from her disease. Because of her denial and our decision to respect her denial, we have never been able to talk about or plan for this inevitable event.
Back to the present, with less than 2 weeks to my exam, I found myself packing myself, my children, and all my study material into our minivan to drive 3.5 hours to the city where our family lives, to prepare for my MIL’s final days. Let me just emphasize that studying for such a big and consequential exam in itself is difficult. Dealing with the emotional burden and uncertainty of a family member dying from a terminal illness is also extreme to difficult. Explaining dying, death, and it’s permanence with your children who up until now didn’t really know that their grandma was sick is, yet another, difficult challenge. Putting all three of those together makes a situation that is quite literally too much for one person to handle.
So this is the reason I have not been blogging.
As it stands, we are back home and I am back to studying as best as I can. My MIL is still alive but slowly deteriorating daily. My husband is coping well and continues to move forward with planning our cross country move. And I, of course and just trying to keep it all together.
I’m not sure I’m doing a great job… a few days ago I’m pretty sure I had a massive anxiety attack that resulted in some kind of somatic stress response. The entire right side of my body felt weak and numb and is only now beginning to few more normal. I have also consumed an exorbitant amount of Easter chocolate – especially Mini Eggs – along with wine to help me through this time in my life. I’ve also come to realize that if I only cry once a day, I’m winning.
I’m sure you’re probably wondering how this could possibly be a post about gratitude… Well here is the twist:
I am still here. I am still plugging along… waking up each morning, mothering my children, opening my books, doing what I can to get through this time. Talk about perseverance.
And that is it. All I can do is persevere and I am grateful for my ability to do that so well (okay, maybe not so well, but well enough). Next week will come and my written exam will be past. Eventually, we will finally say goodbye to my MIL and we can move forward from that too. Life will go on and I will be on the other side of this water-filled chasm(even without the Arc I was apparently supposed to build).
So, today I am grateful for perseverance and for all the people, things, and events in my life that make is possible for me to push forward: My supportive family and friends who go above and beyond (like giving me pre-made dinners or other extras), surprise flower deliveries from a friend across the country, my much overdue Botox injections for my headaches, my children, and the unexpected…
Stay tuned for (hopefully) tomorrow when I will explain my gratitude for this “unexpected” little push.