Posted on April 15, 2015
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the guts of 2013….my last bog standard year before getting diagnosed with cancer in the December.
It went a bit like this. I’d studied a certificate 3 in Community Services Work the year before. Two days a week, and I loved it. After years of devoting myself to being a stay at home mum to four children, I had three at school and one at kinder and it gave me so much balance, between being a mother and being, well…me.
So, the following year, in 2013, I decided to throw myself full time into the diploma. For the better part of the first half of the year, I rose at dawn, got four children off to school and kinder, went to classes all day, or to the library to study, did a round of pick ups at 3.30pm, got some groceries on the run, came home, cooked, did baths and bedtime routines, kissed four little faces, made school lunches, signed notes and washed clothes. Then, about 10pm, most nights would find me studying. I wasn’t prepared to do anything “half assed” you see. When required to write an argumentative essay, after about 20 years of having not written any type of essay, I spent several days, around 12 hours I would think, in the library, with access to the learning skills people, to make sure I knew how to write the essay BEFORE I STARTED WRITING IT. I was INTENSE. Driven. And absolutely bloody delusional.
You see, I thought I was knocking it out of the park. All of a sudden all the years that I gave birth and nurtured babies, all the cuddles given, the boo boo’s kissed, the monsters chased out of from under the bed, the birthday parties, and movie nights, and just growing a bloody big, beautiful family, they didn’t seem to mean so much. Not when I lined them up against this EPIC year, this 2013, this year of DOING IT ALL. Being a mum, a wife, a student, all bloody things to all people. Except….
I was SO exhausted, that I thought it was normal to be run down all the time. So exhausted that I thought nothing of the fact that I was dropping kilos fast without trying…anyone would keeping that pace! So exhausted that I wrote off a heap of irritable bowel symptoms as being “stress”, something i was sure would sort itself out “later”. When I had that diploma and that job, and I had invariably replaced a full time studying week with a full time working week and kept on donning the superhero cape, until I, literally, dropped. I was literally too busy valuing my busyness to value my health, my place at the heart of my family, something for which I will, one day, pay the ultimate price.
With the return to the chemo chair, and being that it is “chemo for life”, I will never be able to “do it all” again. Not even close. And despite the lessons learned in the last 15 months, about slowing down, about finding out what matters, about cutting the bullshit and giving less fucks, I still somehow feel diminished by my new reality, and it hurts. The first cycle back treated me quite well, but I had issues with pain from past treatment, and I was still getting used to my terminal status and trying to process that emotionally, and there was a bit going on, so I just took things in my stride, and comforted myself with the fact that it was still a life while I was still in it, and the side effects could have been a lot worse.
I trooped off to cycle 2 feeling pretty ok. Things were settling down at home, and I was making small plans for small victories. All was well at infusion, until I came home. Then the cramps set in from the platinum based monster drug that, while useful in the fight against cancer, is about as toxic as they come. Cramps in calves, thighs, forearms, lips and EYELIDS. Who knew? Like a combo between an eye twitch and a cramp, and quite special when watched in the mirror. I totally panicked, and hit the sack in a panic, hoping the next day would be a lot better, as this was NOT a LIFE at all. The next day was slightly better, in fact, I took the kids to the movies, shopped for the ingredients for dinner, and cooked it, and got the kids ready for bed. Not bad for two days out from chemo and I stopped panicking, and embraced what I COULD do. I documented my movies and dinner achievement, and the next few days small victories on facebook, because, well…I am a classic oversharer and that’s what I DO, but also because I wanted to celebrate what I can do, not dwell on what I can’t. I’ve reached the winter of my life cycle a lot earlier than anyone would have hoped, but there is a lot to celebrate about the winter if you know where to look.
In the last week, I have cooked for my family five times. Some days that is all I have achieved outside of getting out of bed and stumbling through the school runs. But I’ve taken simple pleasure in selecting the ingredients, and simple amusement at the overheard exclaimations of my children, “mum cooked AGAIN?” I’ve handed them some ingredients to chop, and we’ve talked about things they might like to help me cook, and what their responsibilities at meal times might be. There is no use worrying or punishing myself for the fact that the mess and my impatience saw me driving them out of the kitchen in the past, seeing it as easier to do it all myself. They thrive on being involved, and anything I fucked up in the past, I can start getting right now. No looking back, no regrets.
Because, do you know what? My children are ok. Despite having a terminally ill mother, and a father that also battled cancer in the last few years, and witnessing more tears and fears and heartbreaks than any children should ever have to at their tender ages, they are ok. Children are incredibly resilient, which, while it gives a bit of a pang, is a comfort to me when they day comes that they lose me. But they haven’t lost me yet, not by a long shot, and don’t they LOVE it. Mum cooked something yummy. Mum took us to the movies, and bought us a sneaky beanie boo at the supermarket for no good reason than we wanted one. Some days mum is only out of bed for an hour, but gosh it’s snuggly to jump in there with her and put a movie on. My children are happy…I did that. And that is ENOUGH.
I AM ENOUGH.
And the thing is, you, who is reading this YOU are enough too. I was always enough, and so were you. Why do we think we need to do it all, to be enough? Why do we glorify busy so much, while the years race by and we wonder where our lives have gone, because we went so fast and so hard, and didn’t stop to appreciate the sheer beauty of what was right in front of us.
Let’s do something together. Let’s STOP the glorification of busy. Let’s start a social movement, where we tell ourselves WE ARE ENOUGH. If you got out of bed this morning, and you loved another human being, or nurtured a baby, or gave some words of encouragement, or a smile to a stranger. If you somehow made someones world a better place, just because you are in it, then you are ENOUGH. Hell, if it’s been a shithouse day and you’ve spent all of it in your pyjama’s with your head under the pillow, you’re still enough, bloody good on you for acknowledging you needed that today. That’s enough.
So, who is with me. Repeat after me, I AM ENOUGH