The way you think, rest, reset, get energized, or get tired- those are all unique to you. Sometimes that's not so hard to deal with when you think of others needs, but way confusing when you think about your own.
2015 was a difficult year. My dad went into hospital in January and lived there for nine hard months, mostly in bed, steadily losing his ability to control his mind and body. We sat there beside him and watched the decomposition of our strong, stoic, proud father.
It felt a bit like my brain and body were on fire and crawling with ants, while simultaneously numb and catatonic. Depression and anxiety moved in. My mind was made hostage with thoughts of self deprecation and feelings of inadequacy, while my body went through the motions of work, family, and getting back in the car to go sit with dad. I spent a lot of time on my phone, cycling through three apps, then back through again. It was like being engaged with something that felt manageable, but curled up like a hurt puppy at the same time, blocking out the moving parts of actual life around me.
And I was mad at myself for spending so much time on my phone.
It's not very inspired.
Or even cute.
But if you were going through watching your dad die the most agonizing death, and you wanted my advice I might say- is it helpful to spend way too much time on your phone right now? Just to zone out and stop feeling so intensely? Then- that's okay. You're forgiven. You're just trying not to burst into flames and take the whole house down with you. You're trying to create a tiny world to escape into, just to take breaks from the real world you live in. It's okay.
But in the middle of it all, nothing felt okay.
I envied my sisters for their boundless energy and compassion. Their ability to interact with the hospital staff- to be an encouragement, to spread joy. I envied their patience with our dad when he asked for the millionth time to be taken to the bathroom after we had just explained to him five million times that he was catheterized. I wanted to yell at him. Sometimes I did.
I often felt like my skin was being scraped off with a dull butter knife, but that I was being asked to walk around and function as usual. No- to over function. I don't mean that my family was asking more of me than what I was willing to give. My family was incredibly sensitive, and we offered each other time off and time away frequently- guarding one another's sanity and well being, needing one another to stay as well as possible. I mean life itself was demanding more than what I had to give, and so I had to go into deficit. Overdraft. High interest FastCash-style loan from the Bank of Emotion.
And so one of the things that I did was to not write much. I was on fire. I didn't know what might unintentionally burn someone else, and I could in no way afford any more conflict in my life. I recognized that this wasn't just my dad dying, but also the dad of seven other people- people who have their own experiences and perceptions; their own need for privacy, their own realities surrounding the loss of their father. I recognized that the man I knew as my dad would not be the same as my siblings. And I didn't have the emotional strength to tell my own truths at the time.
From January to August 2015, my sisters, brother and I took turns sitting by my dad's side. My mom meanwhile amazed us further by continuing to stay in the house, actually living alone for the first time in her life. At the age of eighty-eight she learned to cut the grass. She learned to sleep alone. And she went and sat with my dad pretty well every day for close to eight months.
In August, my mama got a flu that wouldn't go away.
We took her to the emergency that we'd so often taken our dad to.
It didn't go away because it wasn't the flu, and my sweet mom never went home again.
Impossibly, we had two parents dying in hospital. Mom's room smelled of death, and we could hear dad yelling and fighting from seven doors down. I think that my brain started on fire around this time.
Even now, I can't really talk about it. And that's okay.
There is no limit on how long it might take to process.
I felt sad about not writing. I thought about what good therapy it could be. But I knew that my hands were on fire, and that I needed to sit on them. Besides. My hands were busy switching between three apps on my phone, and steering the car between Niverville and Steinbach. It was not the time to open the doors of my heart any wider. Not the time to risk that kind of vulnerability.
I noticed that my sisters needed to talk. They would spend time together talking about mom and dad and I could feel the tiny callouses on my skin get ripped off and all the skin reignited. I had to curl up. Hide. Run away. I noticed that my brother needed to plan. I couldn't stand to think of the moment after the one I was already inhabiting.
Because we're not the same humans. One is not better than the other.
We all needed to honour who we were at the time, and what we needed both as a unit and as individuals.
I needed to drive alone through the McDonald's drive through for my eighty-ninth cup of coffee of the day. My sister needed to watch a lot of Netflix and eat supper with her husband in the hospital parking lot. She needed to plan the weekly hospital family schedule. My other sister needed to work less. To be closer in proximity to my parents, to live in their house, harvest mom's tomatoes, cook her recipes.
At the time, I knew intellectually that we all needed to process differently from one another. But I could not believe it in my heart. I could not keep the wolves away and their screams in my head got louder and uglier. Even now, I have no advice for that me. She did her best. She showed up even though she had no skin left. Sometimes she was crazy. Who can help her?
It's been almost a year and a half since I lost my parents. My mom died in September, five weeks after her cancer diagnosis. Three weeks later my dad died after an agonizingly long nine month hospital stay. I believe he finally, finally gave up after mom went- it was heartbreaking to witness.
I don't regret the mania of those nine months. I don't regret all the evenings and weekends that I gave to my parents. There will be no do over, and I will never again have parents to visit or care for.
A year and a half later, I'm still learning about honouring one self, and about honouring others. I'm learning about the importance of one's own voice, whether it be audible or silent. I'm learning about honouring one's instinct and authenticity. I'm learning about honouring space- guarding what we let in, setting limits on it when its overwhelming, leaving room for staring into space and simply thinking. I'm still learning about the concept of Enough, and how it applies here. For example- there's enough words, and enough time to find them again. To capture those words a year and a half later when some of my skin has grown back on and I'm ready to be vulnerable again.
And my way will not be your way, we are not the same.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”