Back in August, I had set myself a schedule for writing, that I would complete a 1,500 word essay for the first Wednesday of every month as part of an on-going column. I am going to put that on hold for a little while.
The premise of the column Pain and Joy was that I had learned a lot about all sorts of pain that I’d wanted to share, and that I am learning about joy and want to report on that as well. This month was originally going to be a “pain” installment, specifically “The Pain of Existential Dread”. My original thought was to go into the worry and fear I felt when I was suffering from an unknown illness and detailing how that fear seemed to infect my oldest who was then four. So, five years after this originally happened, I felt like things were under control and I had the distance I needed to tackle this subject. However, five years later I am again in the thick of an unknown illness. I am worried, again, about how severe this new illness might be, about how much my quality of life will be diminished, about how drastic the “cure” will be. I am back in the swamp of not knowing, of waiting ages to see a specialist, and of trying to maintain some psychological buoyancy during the process.
My children (and I bet yours, too) are emotional sponges, and when something is off-kilter they sense it quickly and it colors their world almost immediately. Writing this piece right now feels like the wrong move to make. If I weren’t a parent, delving into my dark fears thoroughly and completely could be cathartic. It would be messy and ugly for a good long while, but it would be over and dealt with. Presenting a polished, articulated version of that fear to the world could open up conversations that I would be able then to discuss and I would not feel as alone. If I weren’t a parent.
I am a parent. There is the reality that if I dig deep into the dark places in my mind that it might be hard to climb back out-certainly not quickly enough to be present, completely present, for my children when they need me. What I learned the first time out with an unknown illness and the prospect of a scary diagnosis is that tears and anger are frightening to my kids, but that emotional distance is even scarier. I cannot be so absorbed in writing this right now, and risk that distance.
Also, immersing myself in this story means that for a while no other stories are being told-not the one about how the squirrels always try to eat the face off our pumpkins, not the one about my youngest child’s very first goal, not the one about how we spent all weekend as a family playing Risk, not the one about how our Christmas lists are coming along. The dominant story of “What will happen to me?” would be the one I would get trapped in, and if I’m trapped there, all of us eventually are trapped there. That isn’t really fair.
So, I have decided to pause the column, for now. I may write the next “Joy” installment. I may not. I might write short frothy pieces for a bit, or short cranky pieces. I may just journal. This illness is making life less predictable than I imagined, so I am going to give myself the grace and wiggle room to ignore self-imposed deadlines and goalposts. I am giving myself the luxury to write what and when and where and how I see fit for a while. That, I think, is something healthy I can do for myself and my family now that my health is suddenly, again, up for grabs.