Thursday, May 19, 2016

Stress? Happy - Thank You - More Please

             Kim seems to let stress pass right through her, moving into Problem Solving Mode, but I'm more of a worrier. I almost didn't write this week because of the stress I am going through, including four big ones:           

               1. loss of one's job
               2. death in the family
               3. serious illness, and
               4. moving.

Writing about it helps.

            I may be exaggerating a little in counting my retirement, which happened 16 years ago, as “loss of one’s job.” My teaching career yielded a solid pension, a concept that my grandkids and my former Starbucks partners could not understand. Other than potential financial distress, “loss of one’s job” can also lead to a loss of identity. “I am a teacher,” is clear enough, but “former teacher” does not define what I am doing now. And I’m sorry, but “blogger” feels a bit lightweight. Thankfully, the other stressors have moved in to fill the void.

            “Death in the family” for me takes 3 forms. Just last week I learned that my ex-wife died suddenly. Since our divorce we had maintained a cordial but somewhat distant relationship, and her death brought up a lot of memories, most of them happy, along with the sense of defeat that accompanies any failed marriage, no matter what the story. At the same time, as Kim is going through her cancer treatment we can’t help feeling the stress of vulnerability, imagining a possible death in the family. And finally, the death of friends and colleagues, though not family, triggers the same anticipation of our mortality.

            “Serious illness”? Cancer obviously counts. As I write this, Kim is recovering from her fifth surgery since February, and we are looking forward (not the best phrase for it) to radiation therapy. We remain hopeful that this will be the last of it. Meanwhile, yesterday I somberly worked on my computer file labeled “Who Gets What.”

            I’ve written recently about the stress involved in our moving when, in April, we finally sold our home in Michigan. Well, now we are looking forward (proper word choice) to the mid-June sale of our Florida home and another move. (That’s stressor #5 if you are keeping score.) Tomorrow I will phone a couple of movers to get a quote. Today a friend stopped by to fill our garage with empty cardboard boxes before leaving with $15 worth of pre-garage sale items. This move will be even more fun than the last one because Kim may be starting her radiation treatments as we are packing. The good news is that packing and moving will be a distraction from “serious illness” and “death in the family.” What’s more, moving will be my new job, solving my identity issues. I hope to be better at moving than I have been at caretaking for Kim, who does not like to rest until the work is done, including my work.

            We moved to an apartment in Michigan, not to be our permanent home but rather a base of operations as we look ahead to our next chapter. We have contacted a couple of realtors, and they are sending us listings. More likely, though, we will build our new home once we find the right piece of land – 20 acres of woods and wetland, next door to a Starbucks.

            In my case, what all these stressors have in common is a feeling of uncertainty, probably because, as Kim points out, I am fond of my routines and regularities. I like to write down my to-do lists while Kim is busy actually doing things. But now, as things are starting to line up, I noticed that my stress is decreasing. We have a closing date for our house. And though I have let my subscription to The Gainesville Sun lapse, my morning still begins with my t-shirt and jeans, and some leftover coffee while I make a fresh pot in the morning. And my day closes with, most nights, bourbon-flavored Netflix on the couch with Kim. Our morning hug and goodnight butt-pat frame my every day and remind me of what’s important. Kim. Us.

            A few days after Kim’s last surgery, returning home from an upsetting medical appointment, we experienced a major source of stress reduction, visible just outside our back door. We call these “happy – thank you – more please” moments.

Northern Bobwhite

Bobwhite singing "Bob---White!"

Cranes in the Pickerel Weed

            Finding the right property after we move to the apartment will require another pack-and-move, #6 on the list above. And we may decide to build a house, potentially stressor #7. Either way, it will be beautiful.

            Kim tells me that it helps that we have a good marriage as we look past our stressors from the foundation of our good marriage. We look forward to our next creative “happy – thank you – more please” adventure.


1 comment:

  1. It pays to be an artist. What a gracious way to display your present moments.
    Thank you for sharing in such a profound way.
    The visuals as always put a smile on my face and warms my heart. BRILLIANTE!!!
    Tranquilo dear friends!