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My Life on The Titanic

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.

Bring On The Empty Nest

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One of the biggest challenges ever, for me, besides being completely inept when it comes to choosing marriage partners, is the act of parenting. Getting pregnant and being pregnant and even delivering the babies was the easy part, but parenting especially through divorce, financial hardship and the rest of life, has not been the easiest thing I’ve ever attempted.

For starters, I am not one of those nurturing people. A kid falls down and skins their knee slightly and I’m likely to brush the incident off with a brief, “Get up, dust yourself off, you’ll be okay.” I am also not the hover mother or helicopter mom. It isn’t that I’m not involved with my kids, but I do believe that one should never do for a child what the child can do for him or herself. This, I find, annoys children to no end.

I remember my mother telling me when my children were young, that things got better as the children got older. I remember, when my kids were toddlers, hoping that was true. I remember being so exhausted all.the.time. And, for the most part, when the kids became potty trained and could dress themselves and headed off to school, it was.

Then they kept growing up. Then they reached middle school and high school. Those are the years where their social lives explode and they aren’t yet old enough to drive. This was something I was unprepared for. It was like the busy-ness and energy drain of the toddler years on steroids and then doubled since, at any given time, I had at least two and often three or four kids’ schedules to juggle. On two occasions, I was so exhausted and stressed that I ended up in minor fender benders, not from intoxication, but from fatigue.

That wasn’t that long ago. These days, I have a 21-year-old that is away at college and won’t be home for summer. I have an 18-year-old that just got her permit. She is working on learning to drive now. By summer, she should be more independent. I have an almost-17-year-old son who doesn’t have his permit. If insurance rates for him are what I think they are going to be, it might be quite a bit longer before he’s driving. He does have a bike and he can get around to pretty much anywhere that way.

But my kids, as grown up as they are, as independent as they are becoming, still have not learned to pick up after themselves or to help out (without being told) around the house. This, combined with the constant schedule disruptions and taxi service I must provide daily, is wearing me out. This last week, with everyone home for Spring Break, leaving their stuff about and having to be told twenty times to do a basic task like empty the trash or unload the dishwasher or pick your clothes up off the floor, I lost it. The final straw was when I told my son he forgot to rinse out his bowl and put it in the dishwasher and he responded with, “You didn’t tell me I needed to do that.” No, I didn’t. I do tell him to do this a thousand times a day and the one time I don’t? Yes, it induced a fit of craziness in me. It’s at this point, that all rationality leaves me and I end up in a catatonic stupor or I end up banging my head against the nearest wall.

Tonight, this same young man, at 9:45 pm, after the day is pretty much over…a day which included a trip to the grocery store…texted me the following:

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I’m actually fairly impressed with myself that I texted him that response instead of switching into Shrieking Mom mode. Fortunately, I had an extra toothbrush on hand. Obviously, this has happened before. The craziest part of all is that he has his own drawer in the bathroom he shares with his sisters. How hard can it be to get a toothbrush back into the drawer, or underwear into the laundry basket which is a mere eight inches away or trash into a trash can as opposed to decorating the bedroom carpet with it?

Yes, tonight I’ve picked on one child, but I have four and they are all equally as talented as their brother. These talents weren’t ones I encouraged. I expect children,at minimum, to pick up after themselves and I’ve diligently worked to establish and teach routines, procedures, and to implement systems that are efficient and help keep our home clean with a minimum of effort. In spite of the fact that I do have a career outside the home which is, at times, very demanding and draining, I’m not one of those overwhelmed moms whose homes you go to where stuff is scattered everywhere, dishes are piled high in the sink, and clothing or dirty dishes cover every remaining surface. In spite of my best efforts to get my kids to communicate in advance what their schedule is, to organize themselves, and to pick up after themselves, the kids aren’t getting it. I have, apparently, completely failed in my parental obligations on this front.

Weeks like this kind of have me looking forward to that stage of life called the empty nest. Sadly, I have an entire decade left before that happens. Just as the youngest one launches, the oldest will return home unemployed with graduate degree in hand (at least that’s what everyone tells me is going to happen). With any luck, I’ll be able to enjoy a few empty nest years before I am relegated to the assisted living facility. I can only hope.

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