The (Bright) View from the Bottom

What a difference a year makes. I’ve started this post several times in the last few months but just couldn’t find it in me to finish it. For whatever reason, and perhaps it’s all just part of the healing process, I feel like it’s finally the right time to share. I need to get this out of my head. And for me, life events never feel fully complete until I put pen to paper. For the purposes of this post, I’m sticking to the high level points but here are the low lights of why my response last year was “it’s been a challenging year” when asked how things are going.

Twelve months ago I was seemingly at an all-time emotional low; which correlated to an all-time physical low as well. A series of events took place that made me question everything in this world.  Very few things were right and I struggled to find the silver linings and to find the patience and clarity needed to navigate the darkness.

Last year I lost three parents in a span of two months. The period of time between April and June was filled with hospital and intensive care stays, rehab and nursing home visits, hospice care, family meetings, uncertainty, difficult decisions, and ultimately funeral planning. While this was happening, our daughter’s marriage was unraveling 3,000 miles away when her wife decided that she no longer liked the life that she signed up for and wanted to move on to something & someone else. We couldn’t fix all of the things that had broken in our lives and that paralyzed us.

My wife and I would come home from work (or that day’s hospital visit) and literally sit on the couch and stare at the walls just waiting for the phone to ring with some kind of an update from someone. Which was never good. We couldn’t even find the strength to turn on the TV or pour a glass of wine. We felt hollow and empty. We were tired of crying, tired of worrying, tired of questioning, and tired of being tired.

Intellectually, I knew the path to better emotional health was through physical activity, but even that became a struggle which just further exacerbated the problems. When I did get a chance to work out, positive thoughts and endorphins were quickly replaced with worry and hurry to be somewhere or do something. During this time it was easy to forget that I even have cancer. At times of reflection I found myself recalling that I am also living with chronic cancer almost as an afterthought. “Oh yeah… and then there’s THAT”, the voice in my head would echo.

My father in law passed first in April, and he was followed shortly by my mother in law in May. When we then received the news that my mom had developed an infection and abscess on her abdomen requiring anesthesia and surgery, I wasn’t hopeful. The combination of a 90 year old woman with an infection, requiring surgery and an extended hospital stay was not a favorable formula. We lost her in June. Fortunately, I was able to say all of the things one would hope to say to a parent before they passed.

We all pulled together and tried to be whatever we could for one another while respecting everyone’s individual grieving process. And by pulling together as a family unit, we were able to navigate our daughter’s safe passage back home where she and our two grandchildren stayed with us for a couple of months while she got her feet back underneath her. We were extremely thankful that they were home and now had to provide whatever emotional support we could in the rebuilding process.

I remember taking a walk one day at work and looking up at a beautiful blue sky and trying to understand, “why us?”, “why me?” I felt like an outsider looking in on someone else’s life. The weather was calm and still that day and I think at that very moment something was answered. It was dim, and brief, but a sense of calm did come over me and for the first time I started to feel like there may be a way out of the dark clouds. But I knew it would take time. I started to practice what I preach in terms of celebrating the small incremental victories in life. Even if that translated to a self-talk that sounded like “you know, this afternoon didn’t completely suck”.  Brick by brick, things started to fall into place. They were new bricks and it was to be a new normal. But the long, slow, gradual process had begun.

The family is still repairing their hearts. Sure there are voids but we are finding our way to a better physical, mental, and emotional place. The pain comes and goes and certain things will always be a struggle. But the love is starting to win out over the loss. I feel better emotionally and physically. Movement once again has restorative qualities and is a conductor of inner peace and mental clarity.  It was an extremely challenging period of time but it didn’t kill me. So by virtue of one of the most overused clichés known to man, it must have made me stronger. Or…. made me something.

If there is a lesson or message to be found here it is to never stop believing in whatever it is that you believe in. The events of the world may not always seem fair but good finds a way to gravitate towards good. So, stay the course. Life can be one hell of an ultra-marathon. There will be good miles and there will be bad miles. There will be miles where you feel like you are being carried at lightning speed and there will be miles that leave you in a fetal position on the side of the road. Get up and keep moving. There are plenty of good miles ahead. And nobody said this stuff was supposed to be easy. But it is rewarding, if you allow it be.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted May 1, 2016 at | Permalink

    Stev00: I like this a lot; it’s honest and heartfelt. Best ideas are “good has a way of finding other good” and “allowing yourself to both grieve and rejoice.”

    Well done, Brah. Onward.

    ST

  2. Posted May 3, 2016 at | Permalink

    That is some serious stuff you went through buddy. I’m so sorry for all the loss. This whole paragraph was my favorite. “If there is a lesson or message to be found here it is to never stop believing in whatever it is that you believe in. The events of the world may not always seem fair but good finds a way to gravitate towards good. So, stay the course. Life can be one hell of an ultra-marathon. There will be good miles and there will be bad miles. There will be miles where you feel like you are being carried at lightning speed and there will be miles that leave you in a fetal position on the side of the road. Get up and keep moving. There are plenty of good miles ahead. And nobody said this stuff was supposed to be easy. But it is rewarding, if you allow it be.”

    You are brave to be so vulnerable and authentic to strangers. But the details of your life have the power to comfort others. So, thank you.

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