Rhymes With Fuchsia

Monday, January 28, 2008

Godot Has Left the Building


You probably know by now, right? that if I start with a sky picture either it's Friday or Saturday, or a Serious Post is coming. As I understand the calendar, today is Monday. You have been warned.

The other day Crazy Aunt Purl wrote about her lifelong love-hate relationship with food and dieting. Her piece is (surprise!) insightful and eloquent, and you should go read it if you haven't already, even if your physique would make Angelina Jolie weep. Although I'm not much for diets, it got me thinking about some weighty issues of my own, pun intended.

I've never had a weight problem (much). I grew up a skinny little thing who could eat whatever I wanted, and until a few years ago I mostly stayed that way, having only to watch that I didn't totally pig out for months at a time. But this:

...so I finally had to stop "waiting until I got skinny" to take chances and do new things.

This is the story of my life. Only for "I get skinny" substitute "I get a better job" or "we buy a house" or "my kids get older" or... well, then Taz got sick, and I couldn't see anything to look forward to. I traded in my part-time technical-writing job for a full-time gig sitting by his hospital bed. Even after the successful removal of his tumor (quite a story in itself, which I may or may not tell you at some point) the doctors gave him about a one-in-five shot, so there wasn't a whole lot of percentage in thinking ahead. I went to all his therapy appointments, I wheeled him around the hospital and outside by the river when it was warm enough, I sat with him while he ate or rested or slept. Now and then I would sneak over to Quincy Market for lunch and wander through the fancy stores, but I never bought anything: they had nothing I wanted. By the time Taz's radiation treatments started, I had begun knitting for the other kids on the unit. I made small things, mittens and hats.

Some five months later Taz came home from the hospital, returning monthly for four rounds of chemo. The doctors said that after radiation the average time to recurrence of his type of tumor was two months. I learned to change the dressing on his central line and to inject him with bone-marrow growth factor. I knitted more small things.

By the time it became clear that Taz had indeed beaten the odds, and he went back to school, and I went back to work, I had become skilled not only at taking the path of least resistance but at not even entertaining the possibility of other ways to go. I was tied down, after all, and destined to stay that way.

But the truth is that long before I even had kids I knew that "until" was just an excuse to keep drifting along. At a certain point the daily stresses and strains of living with Taz became my new excuse. Life is stressful, no doubt about it, but the pace is slower these days. I have time and space and choice, limited but real, if I choose to use them.

Knowing that I don't have to keep drifting along, that I can paddle, and then actually picking up the paddle — that has been my perennial struggle, at which I perennially resolve to do better. I used to play a game with myself: "If I won the lottery, I would _______" — fill in the blank, as many times as I want. If I play that game now, some of my answers will be things like "move to France," or "quit work," but others will be more along the lines of "learn to decorate cookies like a pro," or "finish a sweater already, this is getting ridiculous." The object of the game is to identify the things I could really truly do now, if I really wanted to, and then do them.

It turns out not to be so easy, for me anyway, but I keep trying.

17 Comments:

  • We are so hard on ourselves, for both good and difficult reasons. Taz's illness complicates so many things. I understand your strivings/frustration.

    By Anonymous Laurie, at 4:35 PM  

  • I dare you -- knit a sweater for yourself in 2008! Give that path of least resistance a swift kick in the pants.

    I think we all have things we avoid for various reasons. Some of us run screaming in the opposite direction. Others dance a graceful path around the things that we seek to avoid, convincing ourselves and others that the route we have taken is a desired choice, not simply a way around the undesirable things.

    So, face up to your sweater, and whatever else is in your way, and do the things you really want to! (And then teach me how to do the same thing, OK?)

    By Blogger Danielle, at 4:55 PM  

  • What an inspiring post! I didn't know there was so much strength in that little package. Best thoughts to you guys :)

    By Blogger Carol, at 4:56 PM  

  • i enjoyed that post, and it's been muttering in the back of my head too. seems like we, as people, encounter difficult situations and adapt to them so we don't go crazy, but then forget to drop the adopted behavior when the crisis is over. i am trying to make more conscious decisions daily about what i do so that i am truely doing what i want to, or getting there. it's not at all easy for me either. best of luck with that.

    By Blogger the boogeyman's wife, at 6:40 PM  

  • Truly a breakthrough moment...and if you're like most of us, it will also wax and wane. Here's hoping your resolve stays strong. XOXO

    By Blogger Norma, at 6:55 PM  

  • Life is such a hard balancing act at times. I know I'm one that often puts off things I really want to do, more often than not for things I really have to do - but that's not always the case. I can think of a new reason every time a given opportunity arises.

    Your right it's not easy :)

    By Blogger textilejunkie, at 6:55 PM  

  • Here's a little secret... I admire you greatly. For keeping some semblance of sanity, for keeping up a knitting blog, for keeping up with us. Life isn't fair, and we never really know when or what kind of challenges will come our way. But you did pick up that paddle... it just paddled you along being a caring person for another, a caring mom, a mom. It's ok to paddle up another creek too.

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 8:04 PM  

  • Even when not faced with heavy life stuff, I'm prone to forget I can paddle. I think about paddling, I write about paddling, I make lists about paddling, but it's a good day when paddling gets done!

    When I booted myself out of my comfort zone to go and sit for Franklin, the whole way home I was thinking, "What else can I do that's out of my comfort zone?"

    I think it's gonna be that kind of year.

    By Blogger Alwen, at 9:19 PM  

  • You sound like me with the toe-up socks but then again, you really don't *have* to knit a sweater unless it's something you really feel you want to do. It's not a mountain really ;) I am much more of a do-it-now person but then again, that's because major medical issues in my own life left me that way. Thanks for sharing a bit more of the Taz story.

    By Blogger Julie, at 4:30 AM  

  • Thanks for the depth today. And the perspective. The thing that scares me about paddling is that it muddies the water... you know, causes consternation and uncertainty. That's certainly not to say that it's something necessary and freeing. Let me think about this a little more.

    By Blogger Annie, at 9:27 AM  

  • So much to think about... remember if you were paddling alone you would just be going in circles. There are lots of family and friends who are in the same boat paddling right along with you. Of course at time it seems like we are all going off in our own direction, eventually we come around to the same place. My what-if list has become so long, I'm thinking of just tossing it out.

    By OpenID witchypoo, at 10:32 AM  

  • I have trouble picking up the paddle, too. Routines are comforting and safe, like a favorite old sweater--or maybe a blanket would be a better analogy. So I really admire your resolution to steer your own boat. :-)

    By Anonymous Beth S., at 11:07 AM  

  • I'm a perennial drifter too, never actually picking up the paddle. I do know it needs to be picked up though. Maybe I'm expecting someone to pick it up and stick it into my hand, and then I'll row. I get frustrated with myself over that.

    By Anonymous Cheryl, at 1:36 PM  

  • It never fails to amaze me how the tides of our lives can push us off course. You're right though, in that there's really nothing stopping us from picking up the paddle and tacking back ... or going a new way altogether.

    It could be pretty exciting, actually.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 3:01 PM  

  • I've had a browser window open with this open all day. I've read it once. Twice. Six times. I can't think of anything to say that would be helpful, insightful, witty or comforting. It's been a hard path that you've been on, and you are a far stronger person than I could ever hope to be. We are, at times, faced with difficult situations. My heart goes out to you for what you've been through, and continue to deal with on a daily basis.
    Now, regarding the weight issue, I've got volumes to speak...

    By Anonymous Dave Daniels, at 6:58 PM  

  • You are so brave!

    You can do whatever you want to do. There's a lot of things you might think you "ought" to do that aren't really necessary. If you don't want to finish a sweater, then screw it. Send it to me and I'll finish it for you. If you WANT to knit and finish a sweater, start small. Knit one for a kid. (Miss B?)IF you wanna go with the flow, then drift happily. If you WANT to paddle, paddle on!

    By Blogger Roxie, at 10:10 PM  

  • :) and a hug.

    How about we make a deal and give each other nudges (or kicks in the pants) when needed? I know you think I'm taking my life into my hands these days, but really, it's much too easy to let myself be carried along by the tide, and then I find I'm being passive about craziness yet again.

    You go. Okay?

    By Blogger Liz, at 12:39 AM  

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