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.