Taking Off My Cape

superman-earth-one-symbol-1

This week I received a wake-up call. I am not Superman. This realization has come after more than a year of pretending that I was a caped crusader, able to do anything without exhaustion or need. I took care of mom, while managing to not only do my job, but receive a promotion and special projects, while also managing several blogs, working on my writing and editing for private clients a little bit here and there on the side.

Looking back it all seems crazy now, but that is what helped me cope throughout this last tough year. You see, mom was in bed a good deal of the time recovering from surgeries or cancer treatments and I was left with nothing but this awful silence that I felt compelled to fill. In those moments, my thoughts often led me to fear and I knew I couldn’t allow myself to succumb to them. So I filled my time up with work and other tasks to force myself to be too busy to think of much else.

Thankfully, during that time mom recovered, but I have not. I never stepped off the treadmill I had placed myself upon. I told myself lies that I was fine, even as I continued a struggle that only seemed to worsen with time. I never took one day to simply rest, but continued on as if I was a caped crusader.

Well I’m not.

But even so, I needed someone to tell me that. I was too bull-headed to ever admit my own defeat, especially when what I was defeated by is my own bull-headness. Well I received that wake-up call last week. My health is not great and I haven’t performed as well as I normally do on my job.

This is so unlike me. I pride myself on doing great work while managing several things at once, but I have not been myself for a long time. Instead I have tried to be this person who could do anything that was expected of her without any sense of her own needs or humanity. I felt that’s what I had to be to help mom. After all that is who Superman is, leaping over buildings in a single bound without getting a scratch. Well, I had to not only help mom leap over every obstacle to her wellness, but also hoist myself over them too.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve seen other caregivers make these same choices. We are in an impossible position. Caring for someone you love as they undergo painful treatments or catastrophic illnesses is horrible. True, there may be good moments and hopefully, your loved one will recover, but still there is an uncompromising fear that you must do battle with on a daily basis, even as you strive to remain cheerful and untouched.

So we sit in waiting rooms holding our loved ones hands, exchanging pleasantries or pretending to be interested in jigsaw puzzles while combating our own fears. Or we go home and tend to whatever day-to-day necessities are required to help our loved ones. We do this while exhausted, in tears or with smiles, but most of all we do this from love.

Every time mom has an appointment with her oncologist, I am afraid until I hear that she is fine. Even now that they say she’s cancer-free and my fears should have subsided, it is as if, I have forgotten how not to be afraid. I think it will take me some time to learn how to stop being afraid. Cancer is a pretty scary thing after all. It creeps into your life without a sound and can just as easily return.

Superman is the only superhero who had to remove his outward clothes to reveal the truth of who he really is. Though I am not superhero, I too, must reveal the truth about who I really am.

I am strong, but I am also weak.

It seems that I am human after all.

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This entry was posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, Friends, hope, Mom, wisdom and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Taking Off My Cape

  1. Yes, you have to take time for yourself – they all say that (but do any of us listen – haha). Hope you feel better soon.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you Gabrielle 🙂

      So true, but this is one life lesson that I’m definitely learning. Just another step on the journey, I guess.

  2. KjM says:

    One of the hardest things to accept is is that we are who we are. Not as we think we should be. Not as we would like to be, or would like to be seen to be. Not as we think others think we should be.

    Just who we are. Human after all, as you say.

    You describe so very well, Rachel, why you find yourself where you are. In the midst of, faced with, such fear as you have experienced, it was necessary to do what it took to keep it at bay, some distance outside the circle.

    And now it’s time of let go. Not easy, in no way easy. Learning that it’s ok not to be afraid – a hard, hard thing. Because it was not ok for so long.

    And now it is time to heal – for you, no less than your mother. And what it will take is – time.

    But you know that, you know what to do. For you are taking off your cape.

    I applaud your courage.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you so much Kevin.

      Your comment brought tears to me eyes. It’s been an odd, trying but ultimately good week. Healing is hard and it will take time, but I’m OK.

      🙂

  3. Carol says:

    I am glad you are not superman, Rachel. How would I ever keep up with you? Sometimes you just need to step back and be you. Take a day for yourself, get some rest and do something fun, not related to sickness. Tomorrow we will have fun, just you and me and the “dress”

    See you then, love—-Carol

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you Carol. Yeah the cape is gone and I won’t be putting it back on. Time to have fun.

      Love you too 🙂

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