Monday, May 26, 2014

What I did on my day off

I'm sitting in a hospital room at the really good hospital about an hour away from our house listening to Papa Bear sleep.  We've teased him for years that when he drops into a deep sleep he sounds a little bit like Darth Vader breathing.  He doesn't always appreciate the comparison.  Every so often his fingers, toes or legs will twitch and then the bed adjusts so reduce the risk for bed sores.  I'm finding these little things comforting today.

It's been two weeks since Papa Bear was admitted.  Almost 30 full days since the Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis.  His last day of chemo was Thursday and it won't be until this coming Thursday when he has another bone marrow test to see if the chemo has been successful.  We'll know the next steps once those test results come back.

Last Monday I arrived at his room to find Papa Bear in tears on the phone with Yo Momma and a big white bandage on his temple.  He had fallen in the wee hours of the morning.  Luckily it wasn't super serious but it was serious enough.  Additionally, there had been a complication with some of his medicine that caused another problem and he was in pain.  I left the hospital that night feeling helpless.  There was nothing I could do but offer support and encouragement and cry along with him.  So that's what I did but still, I wanted so bad to take away the pain.

Friday there was another issue that caused him to be transferred to the Critical Care unit.  He just needed to be monitored for about 48 hours then was transferred back to the Oncology floor.  Today, I walked in to find him completely out, Darth Vader breathing and all.  He'd had a reaction to something and so they gave him benadryl to combat the reaction.  Sleep city.  His blood count is low, so they will be doing more transfusions today but for right now the nurse just wants him to sleep. 

I could go somewhere else, shopping, to lunch, for coffee, IKEA, (I would say the beach but it's back at home and with the amount of people heading into Beach Town as I was leaving, I'm perfectly content to not be there), but really all I need to do is be here, listening to him sleep, watching the twitching fingers and toes and being near.  Today that's my job and I'm okay with it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"I know this will pass, however..."

"I know this will pass, however..."

I read those words from a Christian dealing with a bunch of stuff in their life and they caught my attention.  The litany of things this person is dealing with is long.  There are things on that list that break my heart.  There are hard things, seemingly easy things, things that take up brain space and heart space and in general make a person weary.  And yet, instead of being able to state the crap in life, put it out there on the table and walk away there was an addendum, "I know this will pass..."

One simple sentence and yet it held so much guilt.  What I saw behind the statement was "I shouldn't be feeling this way", maybe that awful cliche of "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" (click here for the best blog I've ever read on that horrid misrepresentation of scripture) or the even more vile "God's just testing me" notion.  Behind that statement was a denial of self that, however noble, spoke volumes.  We aren't allowed to feel what we feel because...this too shall pass.

Sometimes I feel like the Christian world works overtime to hide the humanness within us all.  We are supposed to be above it all, and yet, we are human.  We are frail.  We get tired, angry, happy, sad.  One minute we can be overflowing with joy, the next despair.  From one second to another we can be calm and then overwrought with anger.  It's the way of life, it ebbs and it flows. Emotions happen.

I am so sad when I hear people disregard their hurts, their worries, their sorrows because, well, we're supposed to "buck up" and remember "this too shall pass."  Yes, yes it will but until the current problems dim, lets just face reality, shall we?  Life hurts sometimes. It's not always fun and joy filled. 

In those moments, instead of passing around cheap cliches (that actually do more harm then they help, in my humble opinion), let's look at the person who is hurting and call the spade, the spade.  Let's acknowledge the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the anger, the depression, the fear, the burdened shoulders.  Let's stop hiding behind the fear that God won't show up and save us from this (again, it's my humble opinion but isn't that what we are really saying with those cliches?) and just come right out and say it.  "I am overwhelmed.  This hurts.  I've had enough.  I'm scared.  It all just feels way to much for me to handle right now."

Papa Bear has been more emotional the last few weeks, as he has every right to be. We all have.  Tears come readily and easily as we contemplate the road ahead.  I have stopped myself, corrected myself several times when Papa Bear starts to tear up and I start to say "AGH, Don't cry!" (which I recognize is more a self preservation thing for me than about him.  If he cries, I cry.)  I've retracted that statement over and over reminding both of us to feel whatever we are feeling, be it tears, laughter, sadness, anger, joy, the emotions are valid and we need to feel them, to work through them as we walk this path.

Hello, my name is Brittany.  My family is going through some pretty rough stuff right now and we're all a little scared and anxious about what tomorrow will bring.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sometimes we just need someone to listen

My role in many friendships tends to be that of listener.  I am a naturally quiet, introspective person and many people who need to talk find those qualities to be helpful.  I regularly find myself listening to people whom I know well and many times to people in line at the grocery store or in the aisle at Home Depot.  Somethings I am privileged to hear, others...

Listening really is an art.  Though part of it comes naturally to me, another part has been learned.  There is a difference between listening to react and listening just to listen.  Most of us listen to react, ie, as the other person is talking we are forming our thoughts and sentences in order to react to what they are saying, give advice, argue, what-have-you.  When we listen to react, we aren't actually hearing what the other person is saying.

Listening just to listen is harder.  It means I have to put my own thoughts and reactions aside (I can't BELIEVE she just said that, does she know how WRONG that is!) and simply hear the person speaking.  For me, that also means hearing the layers of stuff that are beneath the words.  The nuances in the phrases or the body language and eye contact.

Facebook is a place where we don't do well at listening just to listen.  Part of it stems from the very self-focused nature of FB to begin with, part of it stems from our need to solve everyone else's problems.  I'm a part of a FB group where I am constantly scanning and reading the threads.  This particular group is a helper type group anyway, so anytime someone posts something there a bunch of people responding with "we did..." or "in my instance..."  Well meaning but sometimes the person posting in the first place just needs these three words.  "I hear you."

I learned those three words from my friend JL.  I've worked hard to embody those words.  I hear you.  Because, folks, we all need to be heard.  Not given ways to fix the problem, not told how we could do it better, not told stories of when it happened to the other person that's really not relevant but struck them as a story to tell.  We all just need to be heard.

As someone who has something traumatic/unexpected/overwhelming happen in their family, I have needed to have people who are there to listen to me.  There are definitely people on my safe list and then there are the others, those who want to give advice, who want me (us) to feel comforted and they offer what they believe are words of comfort (there's a whole 'nother post here but let me just say I told one friend if she uttered a particular phrase I would invoke my super powers and make sure she had shoe malfunctions every day and she would get a not so nice nickname on Facebook...I'm that passionate about this particular phrase not being uttered to me or my mom or brother or dad.)  Yo Momma spotted a link to an article of Facebook and I checked it out (Kimi, she swears it was a share on your FB page...if so, THANK YOU!)

It's good.  So good.  Take a look for yourself.

Sometimes, we all just need someone to listen and say back to us, "I hear you."  Enough said.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Curve balls

Last Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping channels.  On one station was a really awful horror movie, the type I NEVER let myself watch because my imagination already runs rampant enough.  But there I was, my attention caught, as this cross between a human/bat kinda thing that was called a creeper stalked down unsuspecting humans.  It was an awful movie.  I will never go in a cornfield again.

On the other channel was the Hallmark movie of the week.  Some schmaltzy equally awful romantic something or another that clearly wasn't as captivating as the human/bat creeper because I kept going back to that channel.  Back and forth I went between the two until the creeper thing came to an end and then, well I wasn't going to watch Final Destination 2 or 3 or whatever it was, so I wound up on the Hallmark channel again.

Later that evening I was with a friend, relating my day spent watching two awful movies and beating myself up ever so slightly for wasting my day when the 2x4 of reality hit me over the head...watching those two movies was really all I could do that day, I had no more emotional or mental strength left.

Almost two weeks ago, now, Tuesday my Dad or Papa Bear as he is known on this blog, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Just like that he went from living to be 105 like Great-Grandpa Ben to really hoping to make it to 73 or 74 or 75 or 76, heck 80!  There's a lot they are doing to treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia and we are going to be aggressive and fight this all the way into remission but still, the blow of the fragility of life took it's toll.

Yo Momma and I were on our way to meeting Lil' Bro and family at the Happiest Place on Earth when we got the news.  Yo Momma has a lead foot when she wants to...she almost cut across two lanes of traffic to make a u-turn to head home.  I did wind up going to meet Lil' Bro the next day and we spent three days together attempting to push away reality at the Happiest Place on Earth, being family and keeping things normal for Little Miss P.  Sometimes you just do what you gotta do.

Last Sunday morning I woke with dread knowing what was coming in church that day and not wanting to get up.  Not only did I not want to talk about what is happening with Papa Bear, I knew that sometime before church was over Youth Pastor Friend was going to tell the congregation he was leaving full-time ministry.  Even knowing it was the right decision and that God is in the midst of his decision, it was still hard to sit and listen to the words flow from his lips.  There was this horrible mix in my head of Youth Pastor friend leaving, Papa Bear's life in crisis and my own sense of everything being so far out of control I just couldn't breathe.

And so, there I was on Sunday afternoon with nothing left in me, watching a horrible horror movie and a horrible Hallmark romance and occasionally finding tears welling up in my eyes.  Tears are only a millisecond away these days.  It's been a long couple of weeks and there are longer weeks ahead.

Tomorrow I will get up and go to work as usual. Yo Momma and Papa Bear will get up and call the hospital to find out what time he is to admitted.  Five weeks from now we hope the leukemia is in remission so that a bone marrow transplant can take place.  As I have told Papa Bear, there are no options, he will fight this and he will fight this hard.  We are going to kick leukemia to the curb.

This afternoon Papa Bear and I sat in the family room and watched the Giants and Dodgers battle for a win. We watched the players do their thing and eventually cheered when the Giants won in the 10th inning (they can never make it an easy win).  I look forward to the day when Papa Bear and I can go to another Giants game together at AT & T park.  I will buy the best seats possible for that game.  Life throws curve balls every once in a while and sometimes all we can do is just step back and watch them go by, waiting for just the right moment to hit that ball right out of the park.