Thursday, July 13, 2017

What Are You Waiting For?

How often do you find yourself thinking or saying, "....when my life settles down."

That has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. John, my sweet, patient husband, has spent more than 30 years trying to coax me to live in the moment. I've always considered my focus, planning, and goal setting to be assets, so it has been an uphill battle for him. As is true with many character traits, our assets can also be our undoing. For example, confidence can also be arrogance, perseverance can also be stubbornness. The key is when does the character trait serve you, or when are you serving the trait?

Is it planning, or wishing your life away?

As a young mom, busy with two active children, one with significant special needs, and also a full time teaching job, I often thought about when my life would "settle down." Experienced moms already know that my life never did settle down, the chaos of my life just morphed into something new and different.

Family stresses, work stresses, life stresses all ebb and flow.

Joy and excitement and new opportunities add to the mix, but don't decrease the "busy-ness" or chaos of everyday life.

Cancer has been working hard to teach me lessons about my life. I've been learning about strength and resilience and I have been learning to live in the moment. Despite this, I still find myself harboring that idea of "when life settles down."

This idea isn't serving me well. My mother, who passed away just a year ago, lived her whole life waiting for things to "settle down" and looking at the next thing. In many ways, it was a strength. It enabled her to overcome an often traumatic childhood, to raise five children, to complete a bachelor's and master's degree while working full time and raising those five children, to build a life of 47 years with my father, and to help him deal with Parkinson's and the cancer that eventually took his life. It also left my mother with a sense of discontent that she carried until the end of her life. She couldn't look back on her marriage without feeling the constant sting of widowhood. She railed against her aging mind and body, always wishing for something to be different. She was never content with what "was," always looking for what "should be."

That's a tough mirror to look into.

Even with everything I have learned in the past two and a half years that Alex has had cancer, one of my first thoughts when we learned of his latest remission in March, was that life was going to "settle down." I had visions of what that would mean for my summer break from teaching - all the plans I would make, now that we had a break from cancer.

Life has a funny way of filling the void. Alex is doing great, and we have done some wonderful things, but new obstacles have popped into the picture. John had back surgery the morning after we returned from our family trip to Disney. I broke my toe on July 4, and will have surgery July 19 that has a six week recovery period. I'll just be able to make it back to the start of the school year. I won't be on bed rest, but I will be limited in what I am able to do physically for the rest of my summer.

My dog, Tucker, taking care of my after I broke my big toe on the Fourth of July.

I'm disappointed, but am trying to stay positive. John's helping me with that. I recently made some comment about the two of us being "broken" this summer. He said, "we're taking time to heal."

We both appreciate that our medical problems are fixable, which is no small consideration. Once cancer enters your life, it helps you gain perspective on other medical issues.

I'll "miss" the rest of my summer, but I won't have to miss any of my school year.

I can think about the things I cannot do, or I can appreciate that I have a good reason to sleep in, read books, and let my husband wait on me. (I took my turn after his back surgery.)

Even though John's back needed surgery, he was able to go with us to Disney. He curtailed his physical activity, but he did what he could. He kept a positive attitude.

Alex still got his break from the doctors this summer. We have spent this time living in blissful ignorance about his cancer. He is in remission, and his next PET scan is coming up in a few weeks. We don't know what the scan will show, but for now, we're just pretending everything is fine. He feels well. He is active and busy at his group home, so our surgeries don't need to have a big impact on him.

There is no "when life settles down." Alex is getting a break from his cancer treatment. He is enjoying his remission, feeling well, and being active. John and I are busy dealing with our own health issues, thankful that we have the time to do so while Alex is not in treatment at the same time.

I realize that the time will come in the not to distant future that I will be buried deep in school work and will wonder bitterly why I was upset that I had to take it easy after my surgery.

One of the things I'll be working on during my recovery from surgery is to banish those words, "when life settles down," from my thoughts and words.

My life won't settle down, and I'm learning to be okay with that.