Lynne is a friend of mine who lives in Seattle. She and I worked together when I lived there five years ago. When she and I were last acquainted, her mother’s time was ending because of cancer. Lynne and her family were helping her mother pass into the next world and doing their best to honor her mother’s wishes.
Now, Lynne is battling cancer herself. And by her accounts, she is kicking its butt! Go Lynne!! In her last email update to friends and family, she included this message:
“Some have asked what they can do or how they can help. Here’s one idea. A dear friend pointed out a chapter in a book called “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen, which was very inspiring. It describes a ritual for a person with cancer. They gather a group of friends and family and each one talks about a time when they faced a difficulty or crisis. They reflect on a quality that helped them get through it, for example, determination, faith or humor, and then symbolically instill the quality into a stone for the patient who carries the stone with them to treatment. I love the idea. Though I can’t gather everyone around me, if you feel so moved and inspired, feel free to write to me about a difficulty that you’ve gone through and what helped you through it. I could use all the strength, inspiration and determination I can get.”
Rather then send a stone to Seattle, I am infusing my love for Lynne in this post and sending it virtually. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I think the most difficult time in my adult life was the first year I moved to Seattle. A lot happened that year. A lot. Some wonderful and some sad, but all stressful. In the interest of conserving space, here is a list of all the things I experienced that year:
- Moved across the country
- Started a new job
- Planned (and paid for) a wedding
- Moved again (but in the same area)
- Got married
- Developed a health problem
- My father passed away
- Navigated my first year of marriage
Whew. All in all, I was stressed to capacity. I mean, if you could add it all up — and you can if you use a stress scale — I was at risk of serious emotional and physical breakdown.* But I am made of stern stuff. I didn’t break down.
But I did crack.
I started that year as a confident, laid-back person. Had I met my doppelganger 12 months later, I would’ve described her as a worrisome, impatient, unforgiving cry-baby. I watched myself turn into this person — a transformation made all the worse by my complete lack of power to stop or retard the process. It was awful. And I was over 2,000 of miles away from my nearest support network, from my family and close friends.
And here my poor husband (Billy), my brand new husband, thought he had married a confident, laid-back woman. That is not what he got the first year of our marriage. I could see it in his face sometimes, the “Where’s the woman I fell in love with?” look. My response was either a demonic “She’s not here” face that could break glass or a “I can’t find her” face that would make a puppy whimper. It was awful. And I felt like I was over 2,000 miles away from my true self. The distance between who I was at the time, who I was12 months before, and who I wanted to be felt immeasurable and untraversable.
Blech. That was the yucky part of that year. Let’s move on to the good part.
Billy and I had just paid for a wedding, so we didn’t paint the town much in Seattle. But we did spend a lot of time together and see the the city sights. And we talked. We talked all the time. Sometimes those talks were fun and happy. Other times they were gloomy (like the time I had to confess to him I couldn’t stay north of the Mason-Dixon Line).** But we never stopped talking. Somewhere along the way, our gloomy talks became less frequent and the fun talks happened more often. We were husband and wife and over the course of that first year grew to understand what that really meant and grew to be best friends. A difficult time that could have torn us apart drew us together instead.
If I never thanked you for putting up with me, Billy, let me do so now. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You were the tether between who I was that year and who I wanted to be. You pulled me and my baggage back in the boat no matter the weight (though you were probably thinking “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”). Even though we are no longer married, from the bottom of my heart I wish you everything you want and more.
I made it through that time with the understanding, love and encouragement of my brand new husband, my new best friend, Billy. And also because I am an ornery wench who would not let one lousy year turn into a lousy lifetime.
So, Lynne, I am filling a virtual vessel with all the strength I mustered that year and the health I wish for you. Every time someone reads this post, more strength and love will flow your way. And I will be sending love daily on top of that. =)
Please post a comment and send Lynne happy, healthy thoughts. Or post a comment and send love to someone you know who needs it right now.
* Out of curiosity, I did add it all up and I scored a 345 on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale that year. Which really just means I would have been well within clinical expectation if I had gone bat shit crazy. But I didn’t. Well, not completely.
** Billy loved Seattle. Loved his job. Loved his new friends. And loved the city. And I asked him to move back to Austin. And he did.