We have my daughter enrolled for the second year in a summer co-op pre-school, which means it's organized and staffed by parents, generally the moms. I've gotten to know a few of the moms over the past two years, though haven't made the leap to outside of school connections. There's one mom though I've always liked. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this spring and had an operation just before summer started. She seems to be doing ok with recovery. I like her because she's open and honest and direct and common-sensical. She calls it like she sees it, and we generally see things the same way.
One day a couple of weeks ago we were the two parents moving the kids to the gym area and as the kids ran ahead and started to play we were chatting about stuff in general when suddenly talked turned to life. She said, it's just been a really rough time, lost a pregnancy last spring, husband quit his stable job to open his own startup, economy collapses and his business is failing, I've not worked in 4 years and have to find work now, cancer, always thought I'd have three kids and now once things are back on track we'll look into adopting, I'm just so angry all of the time - so angry - and I'm taking it out on him for everything. Jsut a rough time.
I did those general female support things, nodded, made appropriate mummurs of empathy, etc. While inside I was blown away - by her honestly, by her matter of factness in reciting this litany of crap. And then the moment passed, and the kids demanded our attention, and I just filed it away.
And the next week her kid developed pneumonia and was hospitalized (though it was not too serious, her son just required oxygen support for a few days). I sent her an e-mail, replying to the news, and said it really seemed like she was in the shitstorm, and I had been though my own period of crap - one that lasted almost two years. I ran through the list- lost baby, marital problems, lost a job, money worries, family illness, family issues, etc (though was very careful to word in such a way that I wasn't comparing and certainly nothing like fighting cncer in the middle of it all - I imagine a cancer survivor is sensitive to "I know just what you're going through, I stubbed my toe last week!"). She wrote a nice note back from the hospital room thanking me for sharing, and I wrote her back saying I think everyone goes throuh their own various hellish periods, and the more we're honest about life sometimes sucking, the easier it is to get support during those times.
So, who knows. Maybe a new friendship is emerging. But, I tell this overly long story for a few reasons. As always, you never know what others are going through. I do think honesty begets honesty (at some level). After all, my litany of crap was heavily edited. Left out the crazy inlaws, the infidelity, the divorce lawyer consulted, the huge sums of money spent on counseling, the firing, the lawyers, the stress. You can't look from the outside and presume to know what's happening in a family. From the outside, heck, other than my obvious weight problem, I look pretty darn good, too. Two kids, a good job, supportive husband, fun activities. You don't see the scars or damage below the surface.
But, it also made me think, as I was typing out this sanitized version of the great shitstorm of '07, what were the parameters of this shitstorm? And when did it end? 'Cause, much to my surprise, I realized it did end. It felt endless when in the middle of it, and without a doubt there are lingering effects, but if something bad were to happen now, it'll be a new bad thing - no longer a continuation of what started in early '07. It didn't end with the birth in November. Those first early baby days were hard. The little guy settling down and getting on a schedule and us all adjusting to his presence helped turn the corner. (oh lord, am I totally jinxing myself even typing this? Am I asking for trouble?). Getting the call of this new job, and starting the job, and having positive feedback I was a valuable member of the team - that's really what helped set my ship a little straighter in the water. Life isn't perfect. But it's a whole heck of a lot better than it was a year ago. Or two years ago. Oh, there are plently of things out there to knock me off course - the ever present inlaw issue. The Marriage and What To Do about our issues. Plenty of other shoes that could drop. New things to constantly worry about. PLENTY.
I feel like I'm emerging, blinking, from the darkness. And that, for now, is good. A fragile good, but good nonetheless. For now. I can't - and won't - stop caveating. More than anything, I think, surviving a shitstorm teaches you to be humble. There's not much that keeps me or anyone from the bad.
4 days ago