If I say I/we am/are fine, I’m a big fat liar. The truth is that we are not. Mike is sick. He is suffering. He continues to feel worse physically week to week. We still do not know what exactly is going on which only adds to the emotional stress and concern of our situation. He has been going into the office for only a few hours in the morning. He has difficulty sleeping and wakes up early and exhausted. He is anxious about his health and our future. I have never seen him this way. Ever.
Up until very recently, I was in denial. I kept life as normal as possible because I had to for him, for the boys, and also for myself. For the past week, Mike has felt compelled to have some serious talks with me. Each time he did, I braced myself. It sounded like “crazy talk” to me. I didn’t want to go there. I would shut down, leave the conversation, counter with anger, or some other bad reaction. I’m sure it only made him feel worse and more alone. It got to the point that when I thought we would have a Valentine’s Day dinner date out just the two of us, I actually dreaded it because I was afraid he would force me to face the conversations that I had been successfully dodging for days. Dread a kid-free dinner out with my darling hubs?!?! Never would I have thought that as true as it was today. We ended up having a family date night, but even before dinner Mike on his own had decided we would not have serious talks and just enjoy Valentine’s Day. That in turn may have allowed me to update this blog which I have been avoiding like the plague. I thought by writing this entry I’d be like those people who go on Dr. Phil and spill out all their dirty laundry to the nation. Or I am just trying to keep it real. Despite being told accurately by a dear friend that I am good at faking it, I see no point in that really (except for maintaining denial as a coping mechanism!).
The truth of the matter is that we are going through some of the toughest times that we have had to face as a family. First off, we have had a good life and good is a gross understatement. The decisions and adjustments we are facing at this time are minor when placed in proper perspective. In that sense, our problems are problems of privilege. Even though Mike is feeling the brunt of the pain, literally, I still feel like when I use the word suffering it almost makes light of it. Like if someone were to stub their toe and then claim to relate to Job‘s epic trials recorded in the Bible. Regardless, I can’t deny that we are hurting, especially Mike, and that the tears have been flowing freely when I’m alone.
Because his condition keeps getting worse to the point that it is affecting every facet of life including work, Mike feels the need to make some major life changes. We’ve talked about me going back to work, selling our house and downsizing, and all the multitude of financial adjustments we’d have to make to go from a lawyer who just made partner’s salary to a lowly social worker’s salary. If you have low tolerance for problems of privilege (I understand, truly, I do), then stop reading now.
Mike and I try to live somewhat simply in our current means. Despite having HUGE room for improvement, we try to minimize relative luxury and give generously instead. However, we have a weakness for fine dining. When we first heard that Charlie Trotter’s was closing his restaurant in August of this year, we lamented that Mike was having GI problems then that would not allow a visit there. When he started to feel he could eat somewhat normally again with certain restrictions, we went ahead and made a reservation for our anniversary in March. For those of you who don’t know, Trotter is the real deal and one of the original masters of modern cuisine in Chicago. Many of the Chicago chef stars now had at some point worked for him. Though perhaps pushed to the back burner for the hot and trendy of today, he has been consistently awesome for 25 years. I was already drooling. The first touch of reality was canceling that reservation. Needless to say, social workers don’t eat there especially if they are the breadwinners for their family of four. You may think that was an act of God keeping us from sinning with such an expensive meal. I try not to judge others who enjoy their own choice of luxuries whether it be designer purses, Apple products, their growing savings account or their mountain of self-righteousness, so I’ll just say that our culinary adventures have given us a true taste of heaven. I think when I enter the Pearly Gates one day, Grant Achatz will be standing there feeding me some burning tree, cotton candy pillow taste explosion because God will not be holding out and giving a Lean Cuisine frozen meal as my prize.
All that to say that our lives have been greatly affected by Mike’s health. He fears the worst. I had hoped for the best. I also understand his need to be wise, make realistic preparations, and start some of those changes now. So we are. It sucks. I was not handling it well to the point that I wondered how we were showing that our lives are centered on Christ. Others seem to handle their trials so much better, how I felt I should be were I truly believing in the Hope that He gives. I am still struggling. I know He is able to heal, but sometimes He doesn’t. I know He knows best and His will is perfect. I know He provides and does not take delight in our suffering. I also know suffering produces perseverance which produces character which produces hope. I know that even the worst possible changes that could come could actually mean the best blessings in disguise for us. I know all things are meant for our good and that trials can be the best teachers.
But I also know that all the knowledge in my head doesn’t always sink to my heart. And I know that we cannot do this life alone. It is meant to be shared. So, community, I’m asking you to pray for us. Keep us pointed in the right direction. Help those truths become real to our hearts. Have patience when I complain about the loss of so many privileges we had taken for granted. Don’t think Mike is mad at you when he can’t seem to engage in small talk. Love our children so they feel secure in the midst of parents who probably yell too much at them right now. Pray that we will face the fire with our eyes fixed on God so that in it all He is the one who is most pleased. All this has renewed our appreciation for you, for our family, for the little things. Today writing Mike’s Valentine’s card was not just obligatory or a repeating of previous phrases. With the backdrop of our current situation, it was truly heartfelt in its declarations of devotion with renewed appreciation for the gift that he is to me. No matter what may come, there is no one else I’d rather spend my life with. I know he fears becoming a burden and losing his value, but the truth is that he is priceless to me even if he is an invalid whose butt I’d have to wipe. Romantic I know, but I’ve seen enough in years of hospice work, and I would change his diapers for 50 years if I had to because he is truly the love of my life. So yes, we are suffering more than we ever have before, but actually, maybe it is not a lie to say we are also fine. We have each other. We have two of the cutest small-eyed boys ever. We have you. We have HIM.