Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.
My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer. I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.
When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette. Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.
The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.
But I’m scared.
What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?
What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?
And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?
Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.
What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be? Will I need to take more time off? How will my body respond? Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off? My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5. That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year? How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?
Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school. This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request. If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school. Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past. I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.
On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate. The move was a good one, for my youngest. The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved. I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal. I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see. It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now. I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.
Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon. I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable). She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen. This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.
In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family. I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink. For now, we remain afloat.
The icebergs continue to converge with no relief. One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way. I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship. All I can do is survive today. And after today, tomorrow. And after tomorrow, the next day. I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.
It’s August. The still midnight air hangs heavy like a thick comforter that won’t move, suffocating in its stillness. The air conditioner is ineffective in my badly-in-need-of-updating 1970’s-style ranch home. You could say it’s a fixer-upper. The windows, the single-pane aluminum type, gather condensation on the inside during the winter and do nothing to keep in the cool air during these sweltering hot nights. Back in the days of the last marriage, a second-mortgage was taken out, the amount of which was originally intended to finance the much needed home improvements, however, the ex’s coercive tendencies along with my fear and intimidation of him, combined with my desire for a great deal less chaos than we had at the time, resulted in all that money going toward his custody battle. It was a losing battle on all fronts. Custody was not awarded, the resulting parenting plan divisive and chaos-inducing, and it ate up all the second-mortgage money; a total of nearly $30K. The house remains a fixer upper, just like my life.
I’m awake tonight, thinking of the summer nights four years ago, when I was homeless, having left my house and my ex under a civil protect police escort because the tension between the ex and I was at an all time high. I’d been advised by the officers to get out, since he wasn’t leaving (and he was much bigger than I). One officer said, “I’m concerned that if you don’t leave, this has all the makings of something tragic we will read about in tomorrow’s paper.” In the 30 minutes I was allowed to gather the most important essentials, I cut cable wires, grabbed technology, clothing and only the essential toiletries. Not one of my more glorious memories. In fact, when I have to define the word shame, that episode is one of the top five in my life that come to mind. In times like that, you quickly learn how little stuff you really need in this life.
I ended up living in a small travel trailer in a trailer park borrowed from friends while I waited for the court hearing to see which of the two of us would end up with the house that I had purchased on my own, without him. Tonight, I remember those nights. In the trailer, with my daughter, then six, hardly a lock of any protective value on our flimsy trailer door, a hundred yards from the interstate with the incessant rumbling noise of semi’s barreling by. There was little sleep to be had during those nights either.
I’m back in my own home now, but on the verge of leaving it again, this time, for good and by choice. When and how, and where my final destination is, I don’t yet know. These uncertainties occasionally keep me up at night. When they don’t, they certainly gnaw at me all day long and re-surface in my dreams. When I was younger, I only had myself to worry about taking care of, and though I wasn’t always certain of the destination or the outcomes of my choices I didn’t have the ever-present concern for another human being’s physical survival and emotional well-being. These things, these parental worries, nag at me all.the.time. The worries always end with the final, culminating question: Will the children be all right?
So much has happened in the last four years. On the surface I’ve gone from sleepless nights frightened behind flimsy travel trailer walls to sleepless nights behind sturdier, but deteriorating, stick-built walls. I’ve rebuilt a life after a very traumatic second marriage and subsequent divorce. My children and I are working on healing, a process which I will forever regret that they have to endure and for which we will all likely be healing from for the rest of our lives. We’ve established routines and created a new way of being together. It is a way that emphasizes honesty, respect and consistency. This doesn’t mean things are always calm and quiet, but they are stable and they are much safer for us all. I have to say, “No, I can’t afford that,” much more often than I used to, but after four years, things are getting better…or they were until the latest recent developments on the job front and with the second ex transpired. The thoughts traveling through my consciousness vary greatly from details of how I will make ends meet with these new colossal expenses looming on the horizon, to knowing deep down, that somehow we will survive because we always have.
Among the thoughts of financial worries, dealing with the fallout of divorces, job stresses and the well-being of all my children swirls the heat, the deep silence of the heavy night punctuated by the yowling of neighborhood tomcats, there is the knowledge that the bad times don’t last forever, the good times will return though they won’t last either. This set of challenges must be faced and endure,and though it won’t be easy or fun, at some point in the future, I will be able to look back on these nights, the way I do on those trailer park nights and realize, “I made it through that. It’s going to be okay.”
Look…I accomplished nothing today. At least, nothing the rest of the world would consider important. So I did what I did. Spent some time with my youngest and she kicked me to the curb because I’m old and ugly and uncool…so I went to a nail appointment which had to be “rescheduled” because my nail tech can only take me in limited doses. I then returned home to find that all my other children had fled to their other parents’ home in order to get out of doing chores at mine…I then realized that since I’m poor, ugly and old, there’s just no way anyone is going to give me a break, so I figured…now’s a good time for a cocktail…this occurred at 10 am in the morning…you can now understand why I accomplished nothing today. I’m good with that…