I belong to a women's organization in which we are always vowing to demonstrate equipose* and symmetry of character.
Mine was challenged today while sitting with my friend who FINALLY (Ta-Daaaa) got out of the hospital. You, dear reader, probably know that I have my own issues with fatigue, and the blues.
Well, just imagine a woman from hard-scrabble roots who has achieved the American dream -- successful business, devoted husband, appreciative child, and a gorgous home -- stuck in a hospital bed with only a TV remote and controller for the bed that she has any power over.
Her devoted husband (who will celebrate his 75th birthday tomorrow-- and whose vision is shrinking) has a finite amount of patience and ability to cooperate. His previous wives did most of the messy child rearing tasks, I think, and even if not, they'd have been a very long time ago. He's tired. He's worried about the woman he loves and who loves him more conditionally (as she loves me and most of her friends) than anyone ever has before. She's worried about him getting over-tired... as well as whether he'll have the determination to take care of her recuperative needs for the next week or two.
He worries about that, too, I'm certain.
I was struck by how many thoughts and questions she seemed to have that hadn't been asked, or raised, let alone answered. What prognosis do the so-called experts have? When could she expect to feel as well as she did before her obstructed bowel debacle laid her so low? When can she resume the medical trials to keep her melanoma at bay?
I asked her what she would most want to do if she felt good.
It wasn't about having a great meal (she's lost her appetite and much of the meat on her bones), or driving to Neimans or Nordstroms or Talbots (she always looks like a Talbot woman, to me). It wasn't about whipping her employees into shape, or seeing clients, or seeing friends. It was to post another entry to her blog.
For me, the most important part of writing these entries is to clarify or remind myself what I think and what I believe. I know that she feels she is also doing others a service and setting a courageous example. I, on the other hand, am just glad to be read and responded to on occasion.
While I believe in the value of journaling and clarifying one's thoughts and feelings, I was saddened that those were her biggest and only wishes. Her world seemed small, though focused. She seemed to be avoiding her fears in order to shelter her husband and seem strong. I was troubled but hopeful when she felt safe enough to shed some tears in my presence. It was as if she trusted me to let her be a bit more vulnerable, scared and tired than she usually lets on.
As an emotional counterbalance, I was my job not to join her in fatigue, terror, and vulnerability. And it was my job not to go to the other extreme and turn into Alica Silverstone or Robin Williams-- which I've been known to do.
DH demonstrated HIS equipoise over dinner by listening to the most abbreviated version of all this that I could manage.
I believe that if you are ever with someone who may be dying soon, it is the BEING THERE and being accepting that really matters. Hustle and bustle, drama and hysterics don't change things. Love does.
Irvin Yalom says that as humans we have four primary concerns:
- our specialness (or the lack of it)
- our freedom (and the responsibility that ensues when it is exercised)
- our mortality. And-- given that everyone dies,
- our way of making meaning of our lives
*Equality in distribution, as of weight, relationship, or emotional forces; equilibrium.
A counterpoise; a counterbalance.