What Matters

There comes a point for everyone of us where we have to decide what matters and what doesn’t, who matters and who doesn’t.  There’s always a why associated with it.  Why does that matter?  Why doesn’t he matter, or she matter?  It is a significant thing when someone or something matters in your life.  Like an honour, a bit of power given to the person or the thing.  So it is a sad moment when you realize that someone or something shouldn’t matter anymore.  It’s about what’s important though, isn’t it?

What is important to you is what makes something matter or not.  For example, my children – they are worth an investment of emotion, love, communication, whatever – it doesn’t mean our relationship is perfect, it means that they matter.  Why?  Because I love them, and they represent the love I shared with Kevin. Likewise my home is also important to me.  It is a safe haven, a controlled space free from drama.  My home therefore matters to me, it is more than a house and it represents something to me, something that I value in many ways.

I have decided that other people’s drama is what shouldn’t matter in my life.  I don’t handle it well, I don’t like what it does to people, I don’t like what it does to me.  I think that drama only sucks you in when you let the people creating the drama, forcing an event or discussion, have power in your life.  Perhaps I am too clinical, and it’s “easier said than done”, but I don’t think so.  I think it is important to take a step back before you go down a path that may be treacherous and full of emotional stress to determine if there is any value to be gained.  Is it important to you?  Does it matter?  Is someone else driving or controlling the drama?  Are they worth the effort, your effort?

One of my biggest self learnings through the grieving process was that I have limited emotional energy and need to ensure I only expend it when absolutely necessary.  It’s the only thing I can control completely –  what’s important and what matters to me.  Those are the things worth caring about.


What’s In a Job?

Today I had a job interview.  Still within the organization that I work for, but different job, different department.  One of the perks of working for a large size employer is the opportunity to try new things.  This is something that I have done many times over the years, moved around, tried new things – some worked some didn’t.  If I didn’t try though, I wouldn’t know.  Usually I opt for temporary assignments, it gives me, and my new boss, a chance to size each other up and to see if we are a good fit.  I also believe it makes me a better employee by increasing my awareness of other areas, of ‘who’s who in the zoo’ – who the decision-makers are, and why and how things get done.

This job interview was actually a major step for me.  Since Kevin died I haven’t felt comfortable with pushing any boundaries or taxing my ability; his death literally wiped me out.  Besides the emotional ups and downs, there was an associated fatigue that seemed to seep right into my bones. There was brain fog, a cloudiness that descended on me, possibly my mind’s way of coping with Kevin’s loss and aggravated by lack of sleep.  These things made it hard to think and even to express myself coherently. Consequently, it became a challenge to do even the familiar which was frustrating and served to increase the pressure I placed on myself.  I would find myself measuring how the ‘old’ me worked versus how the ‘new’ me did.

My physical stamina was a concern, particularly on my return to work.  Even a phased return, with minimal hours, left me absolutely spent at the end of the day.  After I returned to work full time I still had to be mindful and accept that my capacity was diminished.  This meant standing down on multi-tasking and ultimately reverting to methodically doing one thing at a time.  Then I began to increase my workload; to return to where I thought I should be, able to do what needed to be done.  The end goal was to get through a day of work and still have some energy in reserve to focus on other activities outside of work.  I believe I am finally getting there.  I must be, since applying for a different job is something the old me would do routinely.

Kevin called me a ‘job hopper’.  He would show me our red vinyl book of telephone numbers for family and friends and say, “Count ’em, honey.  Count how many phone numbers there are in there under ‘Mom’s Work’.”  Truly, I have to say, there were a lot. The job hopping ended completely when Kevin was diagnosed with cancer.  After his death, and when I was able to start back to work, it was comfortable and necessary for me to go back to the familiar, to my ‘home’ position where I felt safe, to work on regaining my capacity. It’s a good indicator that my capacity is back when I start contemplating trying something new.  So, whether or not I am successful in this most recent hiring process I still feel like I accomplished something – I buffed off and shined up a part of myself that has been lost for the better part of two years.  If I get the job, for old time’s sake, I might write it in the red phone book and just imagine hearing Kevin say, “Geez, honey, at some point you have to settle down.”  Nope, no I don’t.

The Ungrateful Walk Amongst Us

I am not exactly a pillar of strength right now for those around me and most people know this.  I am fragile and tentative as I try to build a new reality without my husband.  I have lost my ballast and consequently I carefully have to consider the implications of anything I do and how it may impact on my emotional reserves. Most, almost all of my friends and relatives, are helping to guide me along my way, expecting little and assisting lots, however, there’s always one in every crowd.  That one person that brings the harsh reality of the world right up into your face and makes you realize how carefully cocooned you’ve been on your journey, or in my case, my journey.

I had one here today, unexpectedly, and consequently very briefly.  Since Kevin died I have not been exposed to any sort of confrontational situation.  Today that changed when I had an unexpected visitor knock on my door.  Not stopping by to do check-in, to see how things were going or any of the niceties; no, this visit was just to use me as a sounding board for how awful life is and how rotten family is. Totally self-absorbed, no one has it as bad, coming to my home to make me listen to a ridiculous nonsensical story of woe.

We all know people like this, they walk amongst us, and yes, they are the ungrateful ones.  They don’t realize that they actually could have it all – if they would just put a little effort into it. I have no capacity at present to deal with the problems that vex these types of people; problems so petty and trite it offends me to listen. In my world, you draw strength from those that are able to give it and offer it freely to you; you don’t suck it out of the people who have nothing left to give.

In my regular world (aka life when Kevin was alive) I didn’t look for confrontation but I wouldn’t shy away from it either. In this new world everything is measured by energy – emotional issues sap my energy almost instantly, let alone confrontation.  In my mind the proportions of things have changed, for example, simple things like going to the grocery store are weighed out by necessity versus potential interaction.  Social interactions may engage an emotional response – while shopping who might I meet and what might I do?  The overlay or lens for these questions is – and how am I feeling right now?  It’s a convoluted thought process, especially since how I feel can change dramatically over the course of a day.

Today I wasn’t afforded the option of assessing the appropriate response, it was pure reflex.  Fortunately, I discovered that at present I may be slightly diminished but at the core I’m still solid. I probably should be slightly comforted to know that my innate personal strength still exists, but I really rather would not have had to find out. My reflexes didn’t let me down but it was a tremendous waste of energy on an ungrateful individual.


I Have to Plan to Think and I Have to Think to Write

Today I realized I have perfected the ability to look without seeing.  I was sitting on the couch staring out the window and my daughter said to me, “That’s crazy, eh?”  I looked at her and said, “What’s crazy?”  I guess there had been some birds at the bird feeder which is right in front of the window.  There had been quite a squabble as the birds jockeyed for position to get at the food and it was quite entertaining.  It happened, literally, right in front of the window and I hadn’t seen a thing.

It wasn’t that I was lost in thought, I think more than anything I was devoid of thought.  I find that I can zone out completely, just go into stillness of body or mind or both.  I can still multi-task, I can walk to my car, or do housework or all those day-today tasks that need to be done.  I do them without thinking, just like breathing.  Now I find that often I can pass people in the street, at the store, at work, and it doesn’t register who they are.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter who they are.  Or maybe I don’t want to recognize them because to do so triggers a thought process about their family, spouse, routines that they blissfully take for granted; things too painful and too close for me to dwell on right now.

I think, truthfully, that the reason I choose not to see things is that I don’t care.  I don’t have the emotional resources to spend on interest or concern, not even for myself, let alone others.  Alternately, maybe it is that I can’t care.  Caring is active and needs effort which is just not possible for me right now.  Caring is a step beyond where I am at presently.  For the immediate,  I have to plan to think, just like I have to think to write.  It all takes effort and is very draining.

#6 – Reflexology

This is my own thing.  Years ago I trained in reflexology as a personal interest and I have continued to use it through the years.  There are a couple of reasons that I believe in the value of this treatment.  First and foremost, there is no substitute for human touch – it soothes a small child, it offers comfort, it provides a connection between people, and at some point in our lives we all crave it.  The second reason is that I believe in the premise of zones in the body that can be treated using pressure points in the feet.  I have used it for my own headaches, whether it is my mind doing the healing or the release of energy blockages, I don’t know, all I know is what works for me. 

When we received the package of reading materials after my husband was diagnosed with cancer, reflexology was one of the “complementary therapies” identified in the official booklet identified under “massage therapy.”  I had already started reflexology on him so it was validating to see it acknowledged in the booklet. It states:  “Research has shown that massage can help you lower stress, anxiety, nausea, pain, fatigue, and problems sleeping (insomnia).  …  It is important to have massage done by a registered massage therapist (RMT) who has experience working with people with cancer.”  (Source:  Complementary Therapies, A Guide for People with Cancer – Canadian Cancer Society). 

I know that he anticipates his reflexology session every day.  I modify the treatment depending on the stage of his chemo cycle.  For the day of and several days after his treatment it is a very light touch, more soothing, to encourage circulation and provide relaxation and communicate love.