I haven’t been writing much for this blog in the past month. It’s summer, which usually means more time to write and think and gather information that I hope can help folks. I’ve had a hard time writing, though, because I’ve been weighed down by life.
There aren’t many good things about cancer. Actually there isn’t anything particularly good about it. But, oddly, I was able to rise to the challenge of the diagnosis and focus.
I saw a card once with the message, “It’s not how you handle crisis that defines you. It’s how you live on ordinary days.”
I understand that. A cancer diagnosis had a way of focusing my energy and resources on one thing. All of life’s chaff, the little things, were easy to put away. Dealing with the insurance company, making doctor’s appointments, scheduling lab tests, and remembering to always have work with me for long waits in offices became second nature.
Cancer was all-consuming. That made it easier, in some perverse way, to handle home responsibilities. Not only did I not have time to clean my gutters, I didn’t have time to think about my gutters.
Because of cancer, I was forced to take a break from normal life, the mundane and the everyday. But, it turns out that just because you don’t worry about your rain gutters doesn’t mean that they clean themselves.
Maybe we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, but I’m tellin’ you that it ain’t all small stuff.
We have found out, over the course of a few months, that we have a problem with a sewer pipe. It is 90 feet out from the back door, a breath and half away from the city’s water main, and 17 feet below the surface. It is directly beneath our detached garage.
To repair it, we will need to hire a company with very large digging equipment, the kind you see doing industrial/commercial work. They will have to be exceedingly careful getting their equipment into our yard and using it on our property because the vibrations could harm our foundation.
The entire two-car garage will need to be torn down in order for a hole that deep and that large to be dug. And, because it is on “our” side of the water main, the city will not contribute even one penny to the work.
When the work is done we’ll have a new pipe that won’t threaten to pour sewage into our basement. We’ll also have a backyard that is mostly dirt, missing several trees, and no garage. We will also have less retirement money because that’s the only source of funding available to us.
I guess I thought that having coped with cancer would make me immune to the stress and trauma of what is quite clearly a “first world” problem. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to even own a house. My parents didn’t own their own home until I was in high school. I’m lucky to have plumbing, running water and waste disposal.
If anything, having cancer has made this harder. There is a point in life where you just want to shake your fist at the universe and say, “Enough.”
It doesn’t work that way. Instead, rain falls on the just and unjust. Heaven knows why the city of Flossmoor decided to bury its sewage pipes 17 feet below ground, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t to punish me.
So, why has this kept me from writing? Because I’ve been falling apart. I’ve had two full-on anxiety attacks. I’m down, fed up, tired. And, I’m ashamed to be so distraught.
And then, Robin Williams killed himself.
There’s a point when people can’t reach out any more. Their problems, their depression and anxiety break them. Their ability to cope with their own mental health and with their financial, personal, and spiritual problems is destroyed. They can’t speak or be heard. They can’t be comforted.
I don’t want to be that person, and lord knows I’ve come dangerously close in years past. I want to be the person who seeks comfort and support. I want to seek this help because I know I would want to give it to my friends. I want to reach out and put my fears into words because I want you to reach out and put your fear into words.
I want Robin Williams and my friend Billy, my friend Martha and my Uncle Michael, and my daughter’s friend Katrina, and so many others to have been able to reach out one more time. I know that their family and friends wanted them to.
This is the human condition, friends. Troubles will follow us. Disease hits us. Sewer pipes break. We lose jobs and we lose our houses. We declare bankruptcy and our children flunk out of school. We get addicted to alcohol and pain meds. Our spouses cheat, our parents fail, our friends give up.
Some of us have a hard enough time dealing with depression and anxiety even when we aren’t in crisis situations. And we can be on the 20th floor, between the roaring fire and a window, and feel that our only choice is to jump.
I’m not on that 20th floor, and I want to do what I can to avoid being there. I want you to do that too.
So, I’ve finished taking a break from this blog and from sharing what’s in my heart. Life sucks at the moment. I’m stressed and overwhelmed. And, sharing it with you will probably help me ride this wave.
Thank you for hearing my words, for allowing me to reach out, and, hopefully, for reaching back.
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