Friday, May 9, 2014

{Sunday Sentiments} Week 14... Love Your Normal

For the last couple of years, my life has shifted to some kind of a different normal. It's not a "normal" normal.  It's not the normal I want and is certainly not the normal I planned. The hours of anxiety and tears that have gone into figuring out how to cope and accept it have been countless and sometimes seemingly endless. Little by little, I do find little slices of understanding and hopefully one day I'll have it all figured out.  This is my most recent "slice" of understanding and I've felt very compelled to share it with you... ♥

What does my normal look like?  Normal for me is up in the middle of the night, fumbling for meds to calm my husband's pain - then still getting up early to get the kids out the door, then to work so our accounts don't dwindle. It's planning my life, the kids' lives, our entire life around his medical and treatment schedule. It's not being able to commit to a friend because we can only do 24 hours at a time (on good weeks). Sometimes good mornings turn into bad afternoons - so even the best laid plans can go array in a minute's notice.  It's seeing the doctor's number on the Caller ID and feeling fear flood my body wondering what they want to change or what lab came back that they didn't like. It's learning to be a nurse - to flush lines, give shots, and manage his discomforts.  It's making sure our overnight bags are always packed in case we have an emergency.  It's always knowing which friends are in town and thinking through who could come in the middle of the night if I needed them to.  Kinda like in baseball... you think as the batter comes up to bat, "If the ball comes to me, where will I throw it?" Yeah.  Like that.  Always thinking a step (or two or three) ahead. Just in case. It's also combating this obsession to stay ahead of my laundry and dishes in case a friend has to come over last minute to help me, (I can't have them think I have an awful life AND live like a slob)!! It's the constant anxiety and worry about getting my hubby the best care and taking the best care of him. It's overcoming my fear of driving into NYC to get him to the best hospital. It's researching. Always researching.  It's filling prescriptions, managing insurance claims, juggling hospital bills, the scheduling and planning of every treatment, appointment, consult, surgery, scan and everything in between. It's doing and taking care of every other family detail as well, ALL of the time, because my better half is busy fighting for his life. Asking him to grab milk on his way home from work, pick up a kiddo from a lesson or to drop something off at the Post Office is out of the question.  Dividing and conquering on a Saturday with 4 busy kids is a luxury I don't have. Sometimes even discussing the needs of one of the kids or figuring out a financial issue is too much for him to wrap his mind around.  Many decisions, big decisions, I've had to make on my own... in the best way I know how - even though he's just down the hall.  Even though we are together every day, all day - it remains to be the weirdest kind of loneliness I've ever experienced.  We don't go on dates or much discuss the future - we can hardly predict tomorrow, let alone discuss a summer vacation.  We daydream together sometimes, but we both know deep down it's not likely to happen that way and that leaves a feeling of emptiness.  It's trying to let yourself live in between scans and getting yourself emotionally prepared for results appointments.  I hate results appointments. I didn't plan for my husband to get sick, I didn't ask for cancer to take over our family. I didn't want 2012, 2013 and now 2014 to be consumed with his illness and care. But it did. It has been suffocating. Much to our biggest and most monumental efforts, it's taken over our life and has stolen the "normal" we used to love.

HOWEVER... getting too wrapped up in how "not normal" all of that is - is no way to live.  I'm learning that although this is not the normal I would pick off a shelf...  it's MY normal and I'm learning to love it.  It's given me the opportunity to dig deep, to deliberately look for and find gratitude in the things that are going great. My husband might not be 100%, but I love him and he's here. I recognize that as a mighty blessing everyday. It's also the little things that I love... the sweet winks I get, the thumbs up and half smile he'll flash me when we get a glimmer of good news, the notes I see the kids write him, a giggle that slips out when we watch our favorite shows. I love how he'll hold my hand during a tough appointment and give me a squeeze when he senses my anxiety.  Those moments are amazing and my heart, despite the pain, sometimes bursts with joy and overwhelming gratitude.  I am blessed. I am lucky. We might not be able to go out and do the "normal" fun things families do, but the unique depth and kind of love that's been added to our marriage when one of you faces death is unmatched. It's a love that I am proud of and so lucky to have. I'll do anything - even live this crazy normal we live - to spend just another day with him. The disappointment and tears of missing practices and games overwhelmed us the first year, so the second year we gave it all up and as I typed this up last night... my kids were running through the yard flying a kite. Through my open window, I could hear them laughing and talking about doing a lemonade sale if it doesn't rain this weekend. We now play basketball together (and let me tell you, I'm a fierce contender when it comes to HORSE), board games, watch movies, go on walks. Arranging play dates is stressful - so we play together instead.  We ride bikes together, cook together, clean the house together, share funny images we find online together.  We have several intense Words With Friends Games going with each other. The kids are resilient and they've adapted to new, simple ways to have fun. Basic, old fashioned fun like building a fort in the backyard. The team work and true friendship between my kids is awesome - and I love how the decompressed activity schedule allows for so much more quality family time. So much so, that as Eric gets better and as his cancer and transplant get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, I hesitate to add that stuff back to our calendar. We've also learned that life is too precious and too short to fight or make big deals over silly things.  Too precious and too short to waste it doing things that don't add value and meaning to our lives. They are stronger, less selfish, look for ways help, have a sweet kindness for their dad that melts my heart and I love that.

A child shall truly teach them.

I've also learned I am strong and capable.  I've learned I can do very hard things and with effort, I can handle pretty awful loads of burden. Sadly, I do recognize I've lost a lot of the shiny, carefree nature of my personality, but in its place I've gained an incredible amount of confidence and strength.  Ultimately, I know my energy to keep going doesn't come from me - I know that it comes from God Himself. How lucky to see his hand in my life. Daily. To a degree that is undeniable. It's HIS will that I keep going and He affords me the energy to do it.  I don't know that I'll ever understand why Eric got cancer, twice, and why it's been such an uphill battle... but I do know that the days I handle "our normal" the best, are the days I choose to face it, the days I choose to accept it, and most importantly, the days I choose to love it.  God gave me "this normal"  - if I let myself see it, it's a beautiful normal and it's mine to make me a better person. It's up to me to embrace it, be grateful for it and to show Him I can do it.

I can do this.

If I can pass along any little nugget of wisdom learned from our experiences with cancer... today it would be to love your normal, whatever it may be.  Your normal may not be awesome, it might be hard, maybe it's truly awful and takes intense courage to carry it... but it's your unique kind of normal. My new motto and challenge to myself - and to you - is to dig deep and embrace the normal we've been given. My normal might not be traditional, it might not be awesome... but it's added an amazing depth to my life that I wouldn't have otherwise known.  I'm going to love my normal and I hope you can stand proud and love yours as well. ♥

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UPDATE: Due the the overwhelming response and emails I received from this post, it inspired me to start a new blog where I'm going to share our cancer stories and lessons learned while fighting for Eric's life.  Thank you for all the sweet notes and messages of love... the new blog is HERE.

Much love,

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Anonymous said...

I am sitting at my desk here at work with tears streaming down my cheeks....THANK YOU!! Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for the wonderful example you are setting not only for your family, but for those of us you don't even know. Thank you for helping me to remember what is truly important and the best way to achieve that happiness we all want. Your words/experiences you shared have touched me so deeply, and I pray I can develop some of the strength and character that you have. May God continue to bless you and your family.

The Hatch Family said...

Thank you so much for your amazing words & sharing your 'normal' it put a few things in perspective for my own crazy life! You have always inspired me, even back in your Henderson couponing days! Thank you, for the reminder to love my 'normal' even when it seems hard to do!

Idaho Noticias said...

Thank you!

Robyn said...

You really are amazing!

AnneMarie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on "normal" right now. I, too, have had quite the shakeup on what my life used to be when my husband passed away suddenly from a pulmonary embolism (no symptoms or warnings) just 4 years ago. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I was. I am learning each day what it means to be a single parent--some days easier than others. But I have also learned that happiness comes in many ways, and I can be happy in this new normal. My cousin, who was battling breast cancer at the time, shared with me her thought "Hard doesn't have to mean unhappy" That's become one of my mottos. I also remind myself that my Heavenly Father loves ME and has a plan for ME and with His help I will be able to do what he presents to me in this life.

You are an inspiration to me! Thank you for all you share!

-Susan- said...

Lisa I'm sitting here weeping as I read your post. I think you are my newest hero. Don't know how you do it all and create such wonderful computer art and projects for us. You and your family are in my prayers. Thanks for sharing your courageous battle with us.

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