Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm a fixer

I'm not entirely sure this really relates to impending parenthood or anything like that, but this is the venue I have for getting things out of my head so it's going here.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of helplessness, and how I'm not very good at it.  My husband has been reading a book that is a compilation of writing from a teen who died of cancer about four years ago.  I asked him if it was sad and he said that at times, yes, it can be very sad, but for the most part it's a teen being a teen.  Her life wasn't just about the cancer, and that seemed like a bright spot in a sad story for me.  He mentioned that there were some pieces her parents wrote that he just got to where they talked about being upset or angry for the first time.  Her father mentioned that people often say that dying is an end to suffering and they'll all be together again some day in heaven, and he said he doesn't want to be together "some day", he wants to walk her down the aisle at her wedding and he's not going to get to, and it makes him angry.  Her mother talked about her daughter being in pain and being able to do nothing to help her except sit by and watch and hope it passed.

I know that everyone's supposed to feel for the person doing the suffering in these situations, and I do, but it's the bystanders I often feel the worst about.  The people who have to stand by and watch someone suffer and are powerless to stop it.  The people who are left behind, trying to find a way to fill the gap for the loss they've encountered, and trying to find a way to not hate the universe for taking away someone they loved.  Those are the hardest stories for me to hear, probably because I'm a fixer and the idea of having something I can't help with or fix is just too much for me to handle.  It's a crushing sadness I can't even describe.

It makes me look at my own life.  My husband has been going through some stuff, probably for the past 5 years.  In some ways, I blame myself for it.  He hates his job, but when it was offered to him I asked him to take it out of fear of him being unemployed again, since the two of us had been going through varying rounds of unemployment and we had a mortgage to cover and bills to pay.  I knew he hated it there, he'd been temping for a while and every aspect of the job made him miserable, but I was so afraid of losing our house, and him not having insurance, that I asked him to take it.  Now he's been stuck there for years, and it's probably mostly my fault.  I deal with that every day.  There's a lot more going on with him, but the fact is that he's been spiraling downward for a long time and the pit has become so dark and so deep that I don't know how to pull him out of it.  I need someone to jump in it with him like that story from The West Wing, someone who is able to say "Yeah, but I've been here before, and I know the way out".  The problem is that I don't know anyone who has.  I don't know anyone who can help, and it's becoming clear that I can't help so I'm not sure what to do.  The helplessness of it all kills me.  The fact that someone I love is hurting and upset and there is literally nothing I can do to make it better in any way is so hard for me.  Sometimes I cry when I'm thinking about it, though never in front of him.  Usually just when I'm alone, trying to figure out what might make it better.  Trying to figure out what I can do to help ease his pain, and knowing nothing will, that's the hardest thing for me.  In some ways I feel like those parents of a kid with cancer.  You're angry at the world for what it's done to someone you love, and you're sad at the same time because it's not fair.  I think that's the hardest part to come to terms with.  It's not fair.  It never is.

It also makes me realize that as a parent, I'm never going to accept helplessness in the face of struggle with my kid.  I'm always going to want to try to make things better.  Maybe not personal problems she has to struggle through as learning tools, but illness.  Definitely illness.  Viruses and colds pass, but if it was serious and chronic illness, yes.  I'd rather take it on myself than watch someone I loved suffer that way.  Or even struggle the way my husband is struggling right now.

I guess what I'm saying is that for a fixer, not being able to fix things is hard.  I spend a lot of time crying lately.


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