Guest Post By CJ Golden
“You must give up the life you planned
in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
~ Joseph Campbell
“I hate my life”
No, that’s not me speaking. My life is lovely just as it is. I am quoting the oft written or spoken phrase that comes from someone whose life has not morphed into the one she anticipated.
Well, that is, to say the least, disappointing. Especially when the path travelled up to a certain point had been filled with freedom, joy, albeit with perhaps some difficult situations that were effectually handled without much strain. Life at that time was good and the recipient of that good life had no reason to believe it would ever change.
Guess what? Life does change. Life spins on a dime as our paths begin to take detours that lead us down unanticipated and rocky paths. In the midst of such turmoil it is easy to proclaim the one hates their life. It is normal to do so, for we human animals are confident in our ability to change our courses and script our destinies. We do not – for a second – believe that our personal worlds can be anything other than what they are at the time.
And then life strikes back against the comfortable normality of our existences and deals us a backhanded blow that knocks us down.
That was the case for my husband, Joe, and me last year. All was good and there appeared to be no reason to not believe it would remain that way. Joe was healthy, as was I. Our children all happy and productive. The same could be said about our grandchildren. What could possibly go wrong?
What could possibly go wrong was scripted in the nature of being mortal.
Joe developed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia that ultimately clogged his central nervous system and created a series of devastating strokes. Unexpected. Unreal. Unnerving.
We were no longer the he and me who we had grown to know and love. We were now the patient and the caregiver, the “child” and the “mother”, the extremely ill husband and the extraordinarily shattered wife.
Neither of us had asked for these new roles yet there seemed no option but to work our way along the new and tenuous path that lay before us. We most certainly would not give up – not on ourselves or on each other.
Suddenly Joseph Campbell’s quote because our reality and we had to either heed the truth behind it or give in to anger and despair.
It is at this point that many caregivers begin to chant, with good reason, “I hate my life”.
Well, yes. I understand. Of course, I do. I’ve been there. But my vision for our future – Joe’s and mine – was not one of distain. My vision was that of two loving people working together to create a new normal together. My vision was to live Campbell’s quote and be ready to give up the life I had planned in order to have this new life that was waiting for me.
When I speak to caregivers I need them to recognize that I am neither being hard-hearted nor Pollyannaish when I suggest they rethink their new normal and find a way to make it work for them. It is not easy. Life, at times, truly is harsh. But to fall into the trap of spending the rest of one’s days wishing to reclaim the past; waiting for a miracle which will restore that past, and perfect life, becomes a fruitless aspiration.
Life will never be the same. Not for the caregiver or for her patient. Just as it will never be the same for Joe and me.
But with enough courage we can make our new lives work. We really have to, don’t we, as they are the only lives we have at the moment? Certainly positivity in formulating a future is wonderful and should be practiced. However, while that future is waiting, it is imperative to remember that the life we are now living is the one that’s been handed to us.
And we can spend our days lamenting, “I hate my life.” Or we can work to mold what we have into something workable, more enjoyable and comfortable.
In essence, upon discovering the life that has been waiting for us, we need to embrace it. Otherwise the rest of our days will find us mired in despair. And that, to me, is too painful to accept.
CJ GOLDEN in her new book, One Pedal at a Time: A Novice Caregiver and Her Cyclist Husband Face Their New Normal with Courage, Tenacity, and Abundant Love (Eronel Publishing, Feb. 2018), recounts her experiences during and after her husband of 25 years suffered numerous cancer-related strokes, and her learning curve as a caregiver. More about CJ at https://www.cjgolden.com/.
*Photo courtesy of CJ Golden