Thursday, August 13, 2009

Synergy (in an unexpected way)

It’s been somewhat of a synergistic week.

Someone I love is in the middle of some serious health issues. I’m not going into detail because it’s really not my story to tell but more than that, the physical details don’t matter. What does matter is that this person faces a very long and difficult road, and is frustrated and in a lot of pain.

And I am on the outside. I am able to listen and make phone calls or do errands, but completely unable to do what any of us who care really want to do: make it better.

While I can understand the frustration and isolation of illness better than others might, even this familiarity is not enough to bridge the gap. Being able to understand the emotional aspects of this situation does not make me feel any less useless, or helpless.

And with that, I stopped and realized what it must sometimes feel like for the people who love us—so much of all of this is out of their control, too. We often write and think about control in terms of our own bodies—what medications we take, what preventive steps we adopt, what can go wrong not matter how carefully we plan otherwise.

But those who love us have their own frustrations (and I know this is but one of many). They can do so many amazing things for us day in and day out and most of the time, that’s enough. Most of the time, we’re all probably too busy living to stop and think about it much. But every now and then, it must really stink to stand by and watch someone you love go through a bad spell and not be able to do the one thing you want to, which is to fix it.

A couple of years ago I wrote this piece on marriage and chronic illness. I re-read it today, with an even deeper respect for what it takes to make a relationship so much more than the sum of its challenges, and an even deeper appreciation for my husband, who for four yeas (as of today) has shown me what it means to put someone else’s interests above your own without hesitation.

I know I am one of the lucky ones.


Kairol Rosenthal said...

One of the greatest lessons I learned from traveling around the country and interviewing young adults cancer patients for my book is the power of listening.

To just being with someone in their pain, confusion, out of control situation is a profound gift. Or at least I thought so until this winter when my husband was facing serious health issues. "He just has to sit by my side unable to do anything? How does he cope with this feeling of nothingness," I thought as I began to understand what he goes through in relationship to taking care of me, his wife with cancer.

Standing in his shoes I could not believe how amazingly great he is at dealing with no-man's-land - that place of the patient, where nobody else can go and outsiders feel utterly helpless.

All my best to you and your loved one.



Laurie said...

You captured those feelings so well, Kairol. Listening is incredibly powerful, and so important. Except when it just doesn't feel like enough...

We are both fortunate to have such amazing people who can deal with the no-man's-land so well.

Maureen Hayes said...

Laurie and Kairol,

You are both luckier than you can ever know. In all my years as a chronically ill person, I have seen more marriages that ended than that survived. And of those that did survive, many were very unhappy, unpleasant situations.

It takes a lot to be able to handle all the stresses that chronic illness places on a relationship, as you yourself are seeing from the other side right now Laurie.

I wish your loved one peace and healing. They are lucky to have someone like you around, because even in your frustration I am sure you a great support and help.

I am glad you have blogged about this issue again, it something that doesn't get enough attention and needs to be discussed more thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

I guess this is one of the ways I'm "Lucky"....
My husband has osteoarthritis in a very damaged hip, and RA runs in his family, so we both have chronic pain, and although it's tough feeling helpless, it's nice to understand both sides of chronic illness, we understand each other a lot more than we would if only one of us had chronic pain....

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