I was sitting with The Hub at breakfast the other morning. We had just dropped off my sister at the airport. Chemo was a few days behind us. The Kid had been gone for 5 days. For the first time since diagnosis, we were alone. So I did what comes naturally to me. I started crying.
It’s very heavy, you see. This cancer thing. It is very heavy. And frankly I’m getting concerned. I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve used up my reserves. I have nothing left in my tank. I’m empty.
I’m a big believer that we all have an emotional, physical, spiritual, mental and psychological bank account. I believe we have to make regular deposits to these accounts so that we can make regular withdrawals from these accounts. I believe, for example, you have to stimulate your mind with new ideas and new thoughts on a consistent basis so that later, when you need your brain the most, it will be there, ready and waiting to solve a problem or derive the quadratic formula. I believe you have to take time to be alone or quiet or active or with people or whatever it is that feeds your emotional bank account. I believe you have to do these things so that when you are weary or overloaded – stressed – you will be able to access those reserves. I believe you have to maintain a healthy state of mind. You have to be positive when it is easy to be negative. You have to see the good in yourself when it is easy to compare the worst parts of you with the best parts of someone else so that when you are really hit hard – when a true criticism, complaint or character attack comes along you will be able to withstand it and come out healthy. And all of this goes double for the spiritual side of things.
I’ve held this belief for a long time. I’ve talked to people about it. I’ve stressed the importance of keeping your deposits and withdrawals balanced in a way so that you don’t become emotionally and otherwise bankrupt.
And I’ve learned that the best way to avoid a bankruptcy is not to limit the withdrawals but to increase the deposits. And besides, deposits are fun.
So I’ve done this for a long time. I’ve made regular, consistent, large and small deposits to my bank accounts. I’ve built up quite a balance. I’ve socked it away. Just in case. Just in case.
And they are all empty.
When this whole thing started 17 ½ years ago (or does it just seem like it?) I thought I could grit it out. I thought I could white knuckle it. I thought “6 months … how bad could 6 months be?” And here I sit, 2 months into it, with 4 months to go. And I’m just…. so ….. tired…. And every one of you reading this is saying 4 months! You can do 4 months! How bad can it be for 4 months? And you’re right. I know you are right. But you are saying that with a little something in your accounts.
“It’s like telling me,” I said to The Hub while looking around the big cozy breakfast place we sat in, “it’s like telling me I have to move that enormous brick fireplace.” I pointed to it. It was huge and covered the entire back wall of the restaurant. “like saying I have to move it from there … to there.” I pointed to the wall behind us. “And I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I’m looking at it and I know how … I mean I know you move it one brick at a time … but I don’t know how I will ever do it …. How will I ever do it?”
It’s so big.
I sat for a while. Hub sat too. He’s a good listener and has learned to not try to fix. He dug in my purse and got Kleenex ready and shooed the waitress away when she asked if we needed anything else. He sat for as long as he could and then said “It IS huge. You’re right. It’s so big. But what if I said you don’t have to do it alone? What if I said I’d move it with you? Does that feel any differently? Does that feel better?”
And here comes The Big Suck.
“You can’t do it with me.” I said, “That’s the thing. You can move the furniture out of the way and you can get me a wheelbarrow and you can pick me up when I trip. But you can’t move it with me. It’s my fireplace.”
So this is the challenge. How will I continue to move the fireplace when my reserves are gone? How will I continue to connect with people when I can’t get out of bed? How will I stay healthy when my body is shutting down? How will I return emails and phone calls and write thank you notes when I’ve seriously considered just wetting the bed so I won’t have to get up. How will I stay positive and upbeat when you all ask me how I am doing? How will I walk into that chemo room again and again and again? How will I do it?
“You’ll do it because you have to.” My friend, Jeanette, said the other day. And she’s right. I will do it. Because I have to.
One brick at a time.
One day at a time.