If it's true that God (or the Universe or whatever you call it) only gives you as much as you can carry at any given time, then I'm glad someone (or something) is keeping track, because sometimes I can't seem to manage to do so myself.
On a personal level, this week began well enough, following on the heels of a blissful three-day weekend. On Tuesday, I visited a patient whose family member had died under suspicious circumstances, with some possibility of malfeasance at play. Sitting at her kitchen table, counseling her in her grief, my own grief for my best friend who was brutally murdered in 2001 came flooding in. My patient, who knows about that personal loss which I and my family suffered six years ago, said she was comforted by the fact that I had experienced something so similar. It is these types of moments when one's own life experiences can potentially short-circuit one's ability to be totally present in a therapeutic context with a patient or client. All psychotherapists and therapists know this well. We nurses think we do, but our training often does not prepare us when the reality strikes.
Next came the difficult (but expected) news that my step-father's pancreatic cancer has metastasized to his lungs. As many people know, pancreatic cancer is one of the worst types of cancer with a terrible prognosis, and a large percentage of people die within six months of diagnosis. He is more than eight months into it, and has failed all treatments, the cancer growing and spreading. All that's left for him are clinical trials, and experimental drugs---especially chemo and biologic agents---are no walk in the park. This Father's Day will be a special one, and most certainly his last.
Thursday saw my blog visited by a commenter who spewed vitriol and anger towards me and my wife with not a shred of compassion (see posts on May 30th and 31st). While I have not allowed her words to cause me pain, criticism---whether constructive or scathing---is always an invitation to self-analysis. The gift is an opportunity for self-examination, even if the message was nastily delivered. For those of you who offered comments of support, our gratitude.
This particular visitor whom I mentioned in the preceding paragraph raised questions about the validity of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a condition that both my wife and I have developed over the last few years. Living in a world soaked not only in fragrances but in carcinogenic and harmful chemicals, is something that most people can do without a second thought. However, with rising rates of asthma, allergies to latex, peanut butter, fragrances, and other ubiquitous chemicals, the number of people needing accommodations for such conditions will only grow. No matter how many naysayers there are, The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a number of key federal agencies already have stated unequivocally that MCS is protected under the ADA and other statutes and regulations. As further research demonstrates genetic links to MCS, the American Medical Association will eventually see the light. Until then, we sometimes struggle to breath and to be understood.
Suffering is part and parcel of human existence. I frequently count my blessings and continually try to remind myself of my relative privilege in comparison to a huge percentage of the world's population. Nonetheless, one must shoulder one's own burden, suffer one's personal slings and arrows, and strive to lead a good life. We all want our lives to repay the debt of our existence (with a nod to Robert Fripp). These bumps in the road are simply moments to reflect and regroup for the continued voyage, exhausting as it is.
Here is the text of a portion of a comment from yesterday's discussion:
People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.