Thursday, January 08, 2009

Peeling back

No one ever expects anything bad to happen to them. I'm sure we've all had a friend or family member go through something that makes us wonder how we might handle their situation. Unfortunately, no amount of wondering actually prepares you for how you'll actually cope. It makes me think of sleep.

When a woman is pregnant, everyone says, "Enjoy your sleep while you can. Take lots of naps." Perhaps they've found a way to harness the power of sleep to be used at appropriate sleep-deprived moments. I know I wasn't given that special gift at any baby shower I went to. Ava was born and I stopped sleeping. I went from a nice 8-hour night to sporadic shut-eye in no time flat. I didn't know much about being a new mom but what I did know was this: No amount of napping that occurred during the pregnancy (and there was a great deal of napping) helped me adjust to the immediate lack of zzzs.

The same holds true for my current situation. No amount of wondering how I would react if a parent died or how I would handle breast cancer (both experiences friends have gone through; I don't tend to sit around wondering the worse-case on a daily basis) has prepared me for the (sur)reality in which I find myself. Two weeks ago I was healthy; today I live with a disease that will be with me every single day. This was certainly not something I could have studied for, prepared for, practiced or even really imagined.

What has surprised me a little is how I have handled it all so far. I'll admit I'm not the world's most optimistic or positive person. I try to be a "glass half full" kind of gal, but more often than not, my glass is just slightly less than half full (but see, I use the word full as I try to be optimistic rather than just saying the glass is half empty!). I try, but not always with success. When I've wondered how I would handle bad news, I figured I'd *try* to be positive but would likely find myself sinking quickly into the depths of woe-is-me. Everyone likes a little melodrama, right, and woe-is-me definitely fits the bill.

The past two weeks have shown me that you can't count on anything you ever thought. We're made up of so much more than any preconceived notion. Maybe I'm still in shock, but I haven't found myself scrambling up the hill as I try to avoid the depths of woe-is-me. Don't get me wrong - I've had some bad moments and there have been lots of tears, but I've also managed to talk about what I'm going through (sometimes with tears, other times without). Maybe I'm in denial? Nope. I don't have any crazy thoughts that perhaps the doctor will tell me tomorrow that they made a huge mistake and that I actually have Lyme disease (although wouldn't that be awesome!?). This diagnosis, this disease, this reality is what is is. What *is* a little surprising is how demanding it is, calling on all parts of me, parts I didn't even know I had.

Of course, some of the new parts I have - the five lesions on my brain (I hope to learn more about them tomorrow - do they have names? what do they like, dislike? how can I keep them *silent*?) - I'd rather not have. But no amount of wishing them away will do anything but fuel them. Remember: we want to silence them.

The other new parts are a little less definable. All I can say is "they're there." I won't say that I'm stronger or more positive or suddenly peaceful. I can say that I feel a gentle strength holding me up; a smile and a giggle where I didn't expect one; and a newfound appreciation for calm.

I'm sure as the reality sets in more concretely (let's face it, it's only been a week), I'll have to expose more of myself that I didn't know was there. I'm not sure what I'll find underneath all the layers. I'm sure some of it won't be pretty, but so far I've been very pleasantly surprised by what I'm seeing under it all.


BrooklandJess said...

Everything I think to start to type comes up inadequate, but if I let that go on, I'll never send you a message and that is no good. That's cowardly in the face of your bravery. Yes, everything seems inadequate - what a huge upheaval, a complete realignment of the poles of your life. What was due-north, the path you were walking in deliberately, is now somewhere else entirely. New path, new direction, new scenery, new end goals.... Weirdly, the parallel to the experience of becoming a parent holds true a 2nd time. You can't know the direction you will take after the child arrives... you can't know how illness will change all those directions again.

I've been thinking about you a lot. You are putting a "glass half full" face on the blog. You sound strong and optimistic, denying denial and looking to the practical and positive things you can do. Or so it looks to a distant observer. :-) I hope there is some truth to the appearance. I, and I'm sure all of your friends and family, wish you strength and calm and support. You are already handling it with more grace than I'd expect from myself. I think I'd just shatter... but I guess we surprise ourselves.

BrooklandJess said...
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