Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Occupational Hazard

We all have them, right?  Some jobs are inherently dangerous (firefighting, police work, military) while some involve high stress (doctors, air traffic controllers, preschool teachers!).  Some hazards may include exposure to dangerous chemicals or challenging people.

My job is providing psychosocial care and support to people with cancer.  Death is my occupational hazard.  Of course, working with people with cancer doesn't put me at any greater risk of dying, but it does involve developing relationships with people who may die.

Some professionals handle this hazard by staying disconnected and may appear cold to the casual observer.  Some get way too close, burn themselves out and leave the job.  I choose to care for my patients, know them and develop relationships with them...with appropriate professional boundaries, of course.  It's not really a choice for me.  It is the only way I know how to do this work.  I think you have to care in order to find the joy that is inherent in this work as well as to be effective.  But balance is they key.    I have to find ways to deal with the stresses and losses inherent in my work.  I have to have a well-developed support system and a life outside of work.  I have been lucky to be able to find that balance and have stayed in this field for 17 years.

But some days are harder than others.

Yesterday I attended the burial mass for an incredible person whose life was taken by cancer.

I am not Catholic, but for some reason, certain portions of the mass are comforting to me.  The incense that the priest waves around the casket is a smell that calms me.  The music comforts me.  I also tend to have a lot of flashbacks to my deceased ex-husband, since he was also Catholic.  [More about that in later post]

I cried a lot yesterday.  The person who died was young and had so much life left to live.  She battled her cancer for 7 years.  I knew her for 5 of them.  Her sister gave her eulogy and gave it with strength and grace.  I was in awe of her and not sure if I could have done the same.   But she did what she had to do...and wanted to do.  And that is something I can understand.

At the end of the eulogy she stated that her sister lived a life with no regrets.  That really struck a chord with me.  Could I say the same about my life?  Mostly yes, but there is one thing.  And if I can identify it that quickly then I need to do something about it.

I know that making a change is something you do for yourself.  But I am hoping to draw strength from so many people who have faced much bigger battles.  Because I can make this change.  It is within my control.  Which is very different than cancer, which takes your control and throws it out the window.

I want to live a life with no regrets.  So it is time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Have you seen them?

Have you seen those stick figure decals for cars that represent your family?  They're cute.  And I hate them.  If you have them on your car I hope you are not offended by this.

Adorable little stick figure people.  A mom with big curls in her hair and a briefcase.  A girl holding a soccer ball.  A boy in with a hockey stick.  A baby in a diaper with a big bow on her head.  A dad with a golf club.  A kitty cat.  Then I realized that I only saw "normal" stick figure families:  two parents, a couple of kids, a pet...an INTACT family.

I have spent quite a lot of time answering the question, "Are we still a family?"  No one ever asked me this question.  I just asked it myself.  Over and over and over again.  I know we ARE a family.  We are a small, loving, non-traditional family.  But I still miss the dream of what I thought my family would be.  I thought my family would look like one of those stick figure families on the minivan in front of me:  a wife, a husband, two kids and a dog.  But as many of us know, life had other plans. 

And I am OK with that....except when confronted with one of these annoyingly cute nuclear stick families on the car in front of me.  Somehow that stick figure family makes me feel like I am missing out on something.  I am proud of my family, but I am not going to put a decal of a mom and one kid on my back window.  I don't want to advertise that it's just me and my kiddo.  It just doesn't feel right to me.  It feels like it's nobody's business what my family "looks" like in stick figure form.  In fact I do not want everyone who sees my car to know I am a single mom.  I don't like the safety implications or the assumptions that might be made.

But they are cute.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Taking the High Road

The current post at Since My Divorce is about how I handled my divorce proceedings.  I believe very strongly in taking the high road and not doing things that were contrary to my character.  You can read the post here.

It made me think of a funny little story I thought I would share.  I was really angry with my husband.  However, I tended to intellectualize my anger and dealt with it within the complex web of other emotions I was feeling.  As Mandy describes, I purposefully took the high road in my divorce.  Part of this is who I am.  I did not want to sink to the level that my husband was acting on.  I also did not want to do anything that I would regret in the future.  I wanted to handle an impossible tragic situation with as much grace as possible so that my son would see that example.

I never really regretted these actions, but sometimes I would imagine what it would have been like to dump all his clothes and personal stuff on our front lawn, so when he arrived to pick up his stuff it would be a big embarrassing mess.   I never really wanted to do this, but I did fantasize about it.

The things I did do were on a much smaller level.  In packing up his things and storing them in the garage, I found our Precious Moments wedding topper.  I was struck by the innocence of the piece:  the idyllic round-faced, wide-eyed groom holding his bride in his arms.  Suddenly, I grabbed a hammer and attempted to bash it to pieces.  The hammer struck the groom's head and demolished it, while leaving the bride intact.  So much for happily ever after.  Then I placed it into one of his boxes for him to find later.  It was a small thing, but it was symbolic.  I knew when he saw it that he would know just how much he had hurt me - and that was enough.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thanks to That One Mom for inviting me to do a guest post on her blog, Only Parent Chronicles.  She is one of the first bloggers I "met" here in the blogosphere and her story helped inspire me to share my own in more detail than I had done before.

Hop on over to her blog to check out my post on friendship as well as the rest of her awesome blog!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Shout out!

Just wanted to take a second to give a shout out to my "followers" - both new and old.  I know that some of you have been following me for a while and others are coming to my blog through SITS and Since My Divorce, where Mandy is currently sharing my story.  I am humbled by the support I am receiving.  I want to take some time and reflect on this experience of my story being told by another person.  It is very cathartic and healing!  But today is Labor Day and I am having an impromptu party to celebrate all the fun we have had this summer and I need to prepare!

So, just wanted to say thanks.  And if you're stopping by, please feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to know that you were here!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seeing my story through different eyes...

If you have not already done so, please check out Mandy's blog, Since My Divorce.  Today is the second post in her series about my story and I am so pleased with how she is presenting it.