On Caring For and Being Cared For ~ by Megan and RochelleApr 24, 2023
"The tumor is gone; nothing remains." -- Dr. Oliver, retinol oncologist and surgeon, Anschutz Eye Center, Denver CO,
Megan: Rochelle was the first one to point out to me that I have not shown "any emotion" in days. I finally broke down crying on day 2 or 3 . . . I can't remember. And it was over something silly. I could hear the kids laughing downstairs but I was hungry. That's a story for another day . . . the irrational fear of not being fed. Our fear, as women, that we will starve because we are the great meal-makers. No one eats unless we plan it.
The question of why I couldn't cry lingered for hours. In the end, I realized it was because I can't cry. I won't cry. I don't have time to cry. I am a single mama of four who owns a business and works a long weekend shift as a chaplain. Further, I can't let anyone care for my emotions. That's my job -- to care for everyone else and for their emotions. It is hard enough that I am not DOING anything except lying here.
Rochelle: Watching Megan become vulnerable has been a beautiful thing.
Megan is strong as an ox, as beautiful as the moon to the stars and gentle as a dove.
I’ve learned in my life that if you want to see someone’s character - watch how they behave in a stressful situation.
Pain is pain, and no one would blame someone for being snarky while suffering, but when I say that Megan is the same in front of others as she is behind closed doors - it is true. Her heart is gold.
With every delivered meal, cup of coffee, eye drop, taking out the trash, filling a water bottle, removing her eye guard, helping her up the stairs - every single response has been, “Thank you sissy, I love you”. Even if I’m coming right back up the stairs to complete the task.
Megan: There was no need to take care of Rochelle's emotions. She loved and served and found meaning and life in mothering my children and keeping the house. She reminded me of using my medications, brought me the heating pad and cleaned my bathroom. Cleaned. My. Bathroom. I had no choice but to receive, as I lay here "positioning", body aching and heart racing. I was completely helpless and vulnerable -- but it was not scary. I was safe. I had to trust. And I offered nothing. I was not useful, a worker-bee . . .. I wasn't serving. My worth was simply in the fact that I am Megan. I rested. And received.
More sobbing came later. Tears of the past two years where I lived to strive and down-played every single need I had, while hypocritically insisting that my clients and patients take care of themselves.
Rochelle: It feels good to be valued and needed. My whole life I have given my all to people who could not receive my goodness. They took it, hoarded it, asked for more and then left. Or, they took my love and did nothing, could not express it in return.. After a while these types of relationships erode your worth and value.
It causes someone (me) to work harder, faster, be perfect, perform, and give until I light myself on fire to keep someone warm.
I had to. I only received attention and validation if I gave and produced. I used my innate goodness and kindness in a TRANSACTIONAL way, in order to receive a basic human need: to be seen. We all do this to some extent, it is the way God designed our brains to protect us from a lack of bonding.
In God’s kingdom bonding is life.
Enter Megan. To help Megan recover is to be loved and appreciated. I would have done these things with no “thank you’s” or “I love you’s” because it’s the right thing to do. But in Megan’s household there is a culture of mutuality and reciprocity.
This has confronted my cognitive distortion and I’ve been pondering this as I run errands and drop kids off at different activities.
Megan: Coffee, laughter, massaging oils into my aching head . . . cracking up until the point of tears at the kids . . . discussing future plans with Rochelle for her and for me. Decisions brewing. Contracts made with God. One night, Mila braided all of our hair in tight braids to our scalps. She said, "When a woman braids hair, she is taking on the tears of the receiver." I wonder how many tears Mila collected from all of us that night.
There was time. Time to connect and weep. Time to savor our sister-hood and my children. Time to remember how short my life is. Time to realize the gravity of what I am suffering.
Doing pain well. Suffering well. Thinking abut my patients and my clients and how I can metabolize all of this in companioning them. Am I useless because I can do nothing right now? Or is my pain and stillness a way to be forced to be. To teach my family love? To bring us closer together? Rochelle: Who am I without being needed? What is my value if I don’t take care of anyone? Am I worthy if I’m not serving? My childhood was transactional. You do this and you receive attention and affirmation. (my little brain thought this was love) So I kept striving.
I’ve worked through so much of this as a result of my own inner work - however it has reared its ugly head as I get ready to leave the children, and as Megan recovers she needs me less and less.
What if I’m not valuable anymore?
If I can control all the details of keeping up the house and Megan’s recovery routine, then I’ll be “safe”. Meaning; I will be valued and affirmed, the “caregiving” is the transaction to assure I receive love and connection.
However, ADULT Rochelle knows that I have value no matter what. I am loved and valued just by being. I am, because Adonai just IS, and the Divine IS - wheresoever I am.
As I leave, I have to release control. I don’t need to be a helper anymore - and that control to caretake is NOT real love. It is a “false sense of safety”, an ILLUSION that used to be a method to help little Rochelle survive. Authentic connection through vulnerability, is the epitome of love.
When I release control of caregiving - I release my soul to the Divine. I gather within myself, I stand knowing I am in the center of all I am meant to be - without having to ‘DO’.
I choose to release control of all that I’ve given, knowing that all the beautiful humans in Megan’s household can steward as God designed them to.
Now, when I give, I give from a place of joy and inner abundance, rather than coping and transaction.
Megan: I received the care -- painfully and (at first) uncomfortably. My worth does not come from what I provide or what I give or what I do for another person. I felt wholly and unconditionally loved by Rochelle's tenderness and my children's mercies. Just love. No working; no striving. Just the goodness of family-at-bedside, stroking my hands and whispering words of healing to my ears and soul. Meals came all week . . . donations and gifts and flowers. Tokens of love. My cup and gratitude overflow. I have done nothing to "deserve" these things. Finally, I can wholly and completely accept unconditional love.
No more trivializing the fact that I had a tumor in my eye. No shaking it off or telling others it really isn't a big deal. Weeping . . . . I had a tumor in my eye. Finally allowing the severity of that truth to sink in fully. The desperate fear I had that my children would not have me for the next 30 years . . . that my grandchildren may not see me ever, like mine never saw theirs. "Rochelle, I had a TUMOR IN MY EYE. I HAD A TUMOR IN MY EYE, ROCHELLE." Sobbing. Weeping in a forever-bond with my sister. Weeping over two years of hell, more stress than I could imagine . . . a pandemic, a divorce, a severed family, struggling kids. . . . financial stress and strain and then -- wild overcoming and victory. Two long years, the pinnacle being health issues. The last, long-standing year-long battle now over.
Then . . . weeping for the conquest. It isn't cancer. I can manage this. I'm a survivor, after all. I will have vision. I will heal.
I can live. I will live. Changed. Alchemizing all of this into the next few decades. Another close taste of death. Death is ever-present and I am OK with that because it teaches me how to live.
I will live. With death as my close companion, always asking me how I will spend my remaining. years.
I will live.
Together we say,
“When the body gathers itself before the Divine, a stillness deepens. The blaring din of distraction ceases, and the deeper tranquility within the heart envelopes the body.” ~John O'Donohue
Rochelle (My Dear Sister) and Megan (MCCC)