While I’ve never understood Shakespeare, he did have some awesome quotes. Unfortunately, I just tend to paraphrase them to suit my own selfish needs which is probably why I got a “D” in Shakespeare in college (and why I changed majors, but that’s for another blog). While spring typically brings a sense of new purpose and revival, I find myself wondering if I lost the memo telling me what I’m supposed to do next.
Last year I was blissfully awaiting those first tiny spikes of hair to sprout from my head like little blades of grass ready to burst forth from the sod left dormant by winter’s cold. I was ready to actually go someplace and not have to be afraid of getting sick or needing my nausea meds. I felt like I was reawakening, just like the world after its winter sleep.
Well, I’m still waiting to wake up. Apparently this is normal. No wait, it’s the “new normal. These are two words that should never, ever be put together to make a reasonable phrase. Normal is normal so how can it be new? I didn’t order a new normal. I want my old normal. My old normal, while maybe not the most exciting, was good. I could walk for a reasonable period of time, keep up with my children and lose weight without too much trouble. I remembered things, tackled new projects with gusto and was one ambitious woman.
Now, not so much. Numb feet and hands, electric shocks jolting me, achy body, chemo brain, and a whole host of other things that are just too boring to list now bog me down. I want to be able to walk more than 3/4 mile without needing to ice my feet and live on Motrin for 48 hours. I want to play with my kids. I want to not be afraid of tackling a new writing project. I’d like to sleep well more than a single night each week (sometimes I’m lucky and get two- whoo hoo!). Let’s not talk about the weight. Apparently, the trauma of chemotherapy makes your body actually want to keep extra weight just in case you decide to indulge in the toxic cocktail again. Yea, like that’s on my list. I just can’t seem to convince those chubby little cells that it’s okay to let go. I’ve threatened them, screamed at them, pleaded with them, begged them, bribed them (which was, no doubt, counterproductive) and sweet-talked them; all to no avail. Nothing budges and neither do I.
I have come to realize that I’m tired. Not physically so much, although I just don’t have the stamina I used to. Before my treatment, I felt like I was in my early 30’s. Now, I have no trouble believing I will be 50 in just 4 short months. Now I just feel old, worn out and beaten down. I remember neighbors hanging rugs out when I was a kid and beating them. Sometimes, you could see where people walked on them because they had thin spots. I’m that rug. I keep getting beaten and the dust is gone. There’s some bare spots and I just don’t cover as well as I used to. Humor is cutting it less and less. My well is beyond tapped, it’s bone dry and digging deeper won’t help. Things that used to bring me joy just don’t any longer. I’m tired, so tired and just want to rest.
I find myself pleading with God to do something – anything – to help me get myself together. I journal, I blog, I work, I homeschool, I cook, I run a soccer shuttle and try to be present for my sons and husband. And while I can generally put on the face, it’s becoming more apparent that what I’m doing just isn’t cutting it. When my husband continues to ask “What’s wrong with you?” it’s apparent that life is coming apart at the seams.
We are vacationing in July, something we all need. It will be good to get away even if it means renting a cabin and I still have to keep up with the cooking and straightening up. Truth be told, I’d love a week by myself but I’m fully aware that after 48 hours my ears would be missing the sweet sounds of “I didn’t do it” and my arms would miss prying one child off another. During chemo, I found that what most found mundane was what kept me sane. Ironically, it’s the mundane that might be driving me toward some insanity at this point.
I’m not sure which is worse – being discontented and not knowing it or being discontented and not knowing what to do about it. If you don’t know your discontented, then you can point fingers everywhere else. If you do know, the process of becoming undiscontented (?) becomes your responsibility. Trouble is you don’t know how to wrestle with it so it eventually overtakes you until you just want to either make yourself so busy that you don’t have to deal with it or crawl under a rock until it goes away.
Life after cancer becomes a new normal. I HATE the new normal. I want my old normal. The one that doesn’t involve being discontented, quarterly pelvic exams and lying on a CT table twice a year. I want one that involves continuing to be blissfully unaware of the damage cancer does to a person on a physical, mental and emotional level. Sometimes I hate being the one who “gets it,” and I want to be happily ignorant again. But I wasn’t given that choice. This is it and I need to deal with it.
Maybe the “new” normal involves a time of discontent and introspection. Maybe it means redefining myself beyond my disease. While I am very proud that I beat OVCA, it’s not who I am any more than I am only a wife or only a mom. Maybe it means extending myself some of that grace I tell others to extend to themselves. Maybe it means being selfish sometimes and going off on my own to recharge. Working at home and homeschooling tend to keep me tied to a single place. While it’s grounding, it’s also very confining.
I’m thinking it means taking a lesson from the butterfly. The caterpillar only knows one normal, chowing on leaves. Then suddenly it gets the urge to curl up in its own custom made sleep sac and take a much needed rest. When it wakes up, it’s a new normal. It used to crawl and chomp on leaves. Now it has to fly and slurp up nectar. Seriously, how much more radical can you get?
I hate adapting when it’s not on my terms. So I live in my own spring of discontent. Hopefully, the summer will be one of enlightenment.