Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Strength Before the Dawn

I am done with my graceless heart So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart Cause I like to keep my issues drawn 
It's always darkest before the dawn-Florence and the Machine 

This morning as I walked my dog I couldn't help but notice the black clouds that hovered just above the soft grey ones before a soft blue broke out in the very distant horizon. It was quite a sight. It was almost more beautiful than a purple, blue sunrise. More beautiful because of what it symbolizes. 

As I looked around and realized how dark it was outside and how afraid I should feel (living where I live..) I realized, more than ever that I was actually completely at peace. In my heart. In my mind. In my spirit. 

I found the lyrics above to be very true because I knew that despite the fact that it was terribly dark outside and that I don't live in a very safe neighborhood, eventually light will break through bringing peace and illumination to everything.
But I know that before the dawn, comes the dark. And like yesterday in Houston, often with the dark comes the storm. All of you know I have been through a storm. Several actually. But you must also know that that storm has left a lot of casualties. I have not weathered this storm alone. Thankfully. But also regretfully at times. My physical pain causes emotional pain in the ones I love. It's no one's fault, it is simply the nature of the beast. They keep it together so I have the ability to fall apart. They all too often suffer in silence so I am not burdened with their own internal storms. 

But my question for you today is: what happens when the caretaker needs your strength to be taken care of? What happens when you need them to break the silence for the sake of your relationship?  

It is essential to have family and friends in times of need. It is perhaps crucial to our survival. Those inflicted with pain or hardship often only survive because they know they have others keeping them strong. But sometimes, the ones that keep us strong need our permission to break down. And as the inflicted, if we truly love them, it is our responsibility to give it to them. 

Often times, those of us who are sick  live with our conditions on a day to day basis come to accept our lot in life much sooner than our friends and family. They often sit in the denial or bargaining phase for months or even years at a time. Begging God to give the illness to them, researching alternative treatments, diagnoses etc. They can become depressed, anxious or angry. Lashing out on others or withdrawing from other friends and family. These are all normal responses when grieving the loss of someone you love. Even if the loss is not death. When a close friend or family becomes ill, you feel the loss of their old self and you mourn. It is normal and even necessary. But know, that you also don't have to go through it alone.  

If you are the one living with the illness and you have accepted it and are at peace with what your "normal" is going to be, that your old self is gone and that this "new you" is going to be the best damn you ever despite your limitations you begin to recognize when those around you are still grieving. It is in that moment when you must make the decision that could define your relationship for life. 

In my opinion, you have two options: (I have lived through them both) 
1. Let them grieve in their own way. Move on with your situation and give the time and space they need. In which case, they may end up leaving your life for awhile because they can't actually "deal." They may eventually come back in your times of "normalcy" or "remission." They may disappear completely.  You both may resent each other for feeling abandoned. You may feel guilt or helplessness. In the end, for better or worse, the relationship is no longer the same. It is has evolved in same way, and all too often, your absence in each others lives becomes the white elephant in the room you never talk about.

2. Or, you can sit with them. And YOU can hug THEM and hold THEIR hand and you can give them the courage to let go, grieve and accept your condition. Accept that it is no one's fault. Accept that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, including the both of you. Sometimes you have to be their dawn because they are stuck in the darkness, believing you need it. Let them know, that in that moment, you don't. I guarantee that it will change you both for the better. Acceptance is a miraculous thing, it frees the spirit and calms the mind. The sooner everyone else around you come terms with your condition, the sooner everyone can greet the morning, welcome the dawn and start anew. Be their dawn, so that the next time, you can both weather the storm with more strength and wisdom than before. 

Too often, I read blog posts, forums, chats etc of people who are ill or in chronic pain and they sit in what I call "a jar of self-loathing peanut butter." Sticking to their problems and their pain like peanut butter to the roof of a dog's mouth. And I understand them, sometimes, because I've been there. But I've also seen the havoc that can wreck on those around me. And I've realized, that without the strength of those around me, I'd be much worse. Sometimes, it isn't and shouldn't be about me. So in those times, I find the strength to forget my own physical and emotional pain so the ones I love can find strength and hope in me so that all of us can feel just a little bit of sunshine. 

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