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Hands in the Valley

Day 1476

My Mother is Dying. She has a brain tumor about the size of her hand that is stealing her from me. We can still have conversations, and she can still go places with the help of a rollator or an arm to lean on, but less today than yesterday. My wife and I have moved in with Mom and Dad so that we can provide more direct support to both of them. This experience is another one-day-at-a-time challenge, and—like recovery—each day is filled with pain and blessings and doing the 'next right thing.'

People around us who have never walked in these steps express admiration for my being a 'good son' and amazement at my wife for being an even better daughter-in-law. Friends and strangers who can better relate are more likely to wish us peace and prayers with encouragement to also take care of ourselves. These people seem to have a deep understanding that none of us are getting out of this life alive, and the best we can hope for may be to have the courage to serve someone else the way we would wish to be served.

When drafting this entry in my mind, and even when I started putting words to paper, I was not thinking about the similar touchstones between caregiving and recovery. Maybe this is why writers write, so they can learn what is really going on in their contemplations and calculations. In this case, I'm struggling with any attention coming my way that suggests a purpose or motive beyond putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe as I witness what is happening before my eyes.

But here is what I thought I would write about before I got sidetracked by what I needed to write about; it's been on my mind for weeks.

Ever since Mom got sick a few months ago, I have been aware of every time I've touched her. From helping to stabilize her steps to holding her hand during times of stress and emotion, I have been filled with joyful discomfort of doing something new and necessary.

Something new? Physical contact with the woman that gave me birth is something new? What have I been missing, and why the hell am I just now realizing it.

I have never thought of myself as a hugger or an avoider. If someone wanted to say hello or goodbye with an embrace, I was okay with that, but it was rarely necessary, and I seldom sought it out. I never thought of casual affectionate contact as an issue in my life either way. But these past few weeks—every time I have helped my mother navigate her unsteadiness—I've begun to think I was wrong about that. Maybe it's a conspicuous oversight as it relates to my addiction, but the lens of my life has changed, and I'm still learning to translate and re-translate these new hues.

Is this related to my sexual addiction? Do I have hidden 'Mommie issues' that are just now coming to light in the darkness of her illness (or mine)? Am I overthinking everything with a hypersensitivity that accompanies pilgrims in the Valley of the Shadow of Death? The answer is probably 'yes' to all those questions and more. The tricky part is understanding the relative weight that each carries.

Maybe the really tricky part is remembering what I've already learned through other self-inquisitions; I cannot separate my recovery from my life. Do I want to understand better what I'm experiencing? Yes, of course. Do I want to get mired down in guilt or even in fix-it mode? I do not.

So, I'm saying all this out loud because that seems to be the best way for me to keep my curiosities from becoming catastrophes. And in the light of day, perhaps the balance will become more apparent, and the fear of the shadows will be less demanding. It has happened before.



But something's changed 'round here

What am I missing?

I don't think I know where we are

Something's changed 'round here

Why do I get this feeling that I'm in the dark.

–Linda Davis, "Something's Changed"


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