In the past few days, I have nearly stapled by thumb, sliced off the tip of my finger and vegetable peeled a stipe of skin into the potatoes I was preparing.
I find myself staring at nothing, blink and force myself back to reality.
Sometimes it feels like I’m wearing noise-blocking headphones.
Sometimes it feels like I’m half asleep.
Either I’m not hungry at all, food doesn’t taste like anything, or I just want ice cream since it is easy and actually has a flavor I can taste.
Sometimes my stomach feels nauseous or like I’m carrying a rock in there.
These are all unpleasant new experiences, things I’d rather avoid.
There are sweet people around me who want to help me feel better, who are sincerely sorry that my dad was just diagnosed with cancer and who wish they could do something, anything to make the situation more tolerable.
I haven’t told many people. I don’t know how to tell them, don’t know how to deal with their sympathy.
Before I can tell others, I feel like I have to be ready to allow them to be sad. The problem with that is that I don’t have any help or support to offer them.
Last week a friend of mine left at home her husband, her seven kids, her job working at least 20 hours a week and drove an hour and a half to meet me. She gave up six hours of her Sunday afternoon to help shoulder the diagnosis my family is trying to absorb. This is a gift I don’t know how to repay.
Maybe that’s part of my learning curve, learning how to accept help rather than being the one to offer it.
I have to learn how to respond when people say, “I’m sorry” about my dad’s cancer.
I have to learn that it’s not up to me to live up to anyone else’s expectation of my reaction. If I’m numb, I’m numb. If I’m teary, I’m teary. If the roles were reversed I suppose I would be prepared for any number of reactions. But in my mind I wonder if people wish I would break down and cry so they could feel like they’d helped get something off my chest, like I trusted them enough to bare that part of myself.
It comes down to the fact that I don’t know how to be the recipient of sympathy.
Who wants to learn how to do that? It’s a skill I don’t desire, like learning how to shoe a horse. I’m not interested in being in a situation that would require me to have that knowledge.
However, situations are not always chosen. More frequently they are thrust upon us.
That’s the other thing. I’m worried that it can come across as me making a big deal out of something small, or milking a situation for personal gain (although I’m not sure what I would gain by my dad being sick). I’d rather not have to admit I can’t help with that thing, or that I’m too unsure of my ability to compartmentalize that I can’t trust myself doing that event because I get choked up at the most inopportune times.
Maybe as time passes and we’re further away from the initial diagnosis this will get better. Maybe it will become the new reality rather than feeling like a bad dream that we’ll wake up from. Things will start being more manageable, they’ll feel like less effort.
Until then, I’m stuck in a class I hate learning something I don’t even want to know.
Do you have any websites or blogs that can offer some perspective or tips on how to learn this life skill? Have you ever dealt with illness and do you have any helpful suggestions for how to get through it?
I purchased two plants that required staking or support of one kind or another. In the hopes of adding some color to the wall of green that is my back lot line, I got a morning-glory and a scarlet runner bean. The scarlet runner bean is supposed to be both gorgeous AND edible — a two-fer! How could I pass it up?
At first I just created a tiny teepee from some bamboo-ish garden sticks I had around. You probably know the ones; they are the kind that turn your hands green if you handle them too much. After a few weeks of patient observation, it occurred to me that the poor things had nowhere to go and since the bean’s tag claimed it could get up to 10 feet tall, I decided to revise my initial strategy. It required some creativity, because I didn’t want to spend a lot and because, well, it’s just more fun when you make it yourself. I enlisted some child labor (my own children, breathe easy) and we embarked on a little project. It was quite rudimentary and didn’t need much in the way of equipment or tools, as you can see below.
After we got the “posts” painted (and dried, smarty pants) it was time to assemble the structure. For whatever reason, I decided the time to do this was 7:30 p.m., exactly the time when my kids get ready to go to bed. Why? Who knows, but that’s when I started to try to saw the ends of the posts into points, which in my mind would make them go into the ground better. That proved to be more difficult than I thought. The crazy things jiggled right out of my grip as I tried to saw them, or they twisted and escaped from me that way. But I was not proud and I went inside and dragged my sweet, long-suffering husband out and convinced him to saw the posts. It took him all of three minutes (for the record, he did not cut them into a point per se, he just sliced the end off at an angle. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it still served the purpose). Fully committed at that point, I had to get the thing constructed before I could call it a night, but the mosquitos were coming out and the children were crabby, so I had to do it quickly.
Once I had the posts pointy, I started digging holes in the back of the garden. Then I got the staple gun and the climbing material for the plants. Stapling like the wind, I got the thing started and managed to avoid squishing the plants I was trying to support (don’t ask me about any other plants!). After getting the kids to bed, my sweetie came out again and helped me complete as much as we could, since I ran out of climbing material. Then we went inside.
When my helpful husband came home from work the next night, he asked me if we were going to hold a ski race in the backyard. Puzzled, it took me a full 30 seconds to figure out what he was talking about. I’ll let you see if you agree with his assessment.
Despite the current ugliness, I’m willing to reserve judgment until the flowers have fully covered the “trellis” and bloomed. If it still looks industrial after that point, then I will admit defeat. And it is possible that the green colored plastic fencing might have been more subtle; however, the trellises I’ve seen are so frequently white that I was swayed by my preconception — I could only be creative to a certain degree. So again, it is possible that my brilliant plan might not turn out as I intended. There is still the outside chance that it will all work out. Until it doesn’t work out, I remain hopeful. That’s what gardening is all about anyway, right?