Archive | May, 2013

Anger (and other stages of grief)

4 May

It was a particularly difficult morning after a long night. Kim and I were in a strange place and our attempts to adapt to our new environment were not going smoothly. Simple acts we used to take for granted have become either artfully choreographed maneuvers or sloppily improvised acts of sheer will, but almost nothing is simple. I try to wake up 15 minutes earlier than Kim so I can stretch before I lift her to a sitting position, and then transfer her to the wheelchair. Washing her, brushing her teeth, fixing her hair – all the morning intimacies most people hurry through while thinking about a dozen other things are, for us, a singularly focused exercise. There is a rhythm to our mornings now but it is always a precarious dance because there are not only dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities for failure there is also the emotional and physical toll on both of us.

On this particular morning Kim was getting frustrated and I was feeling angry – which is not usually my reaction in that moment so it stopped me cold and I pulled back from Kim and said, “I have to tell you how I am feeling so you can understand the emotion I am bringing to this moment. Sometimes when our day is not going well I get frustrated, but at my worst – I get mad at you for not being able to hurry up. I get mad at you for having ALS. I know that is unfair. I know you don’t deserve that, but sometimes that is how I feel.” and she smiled and responded, “It’s ok. Sometimes I get mad at you for helping me because all the help you give me is a reminder of what I can’t do for myself.”

There is no way to go through this without feeling angry sometimes, and it is equally impossible to avoid making those around us collateral damage from time to time as we process the raw emotions of our day to day lives. And yet, we can commit ourselves to brutal honesty with each other, and ourselves, about why we are sad or angry or peaceful. I was embarrassed by how I felt but Kim heard it and immediately resonated with the authenticity and the absurdity of my anger, just as I did with hers, and then I went right back to brushing her teeth with a calmer disposition and an open heart.

When we first started dating I told Kim, “you can’t be wrong with me. If you feel it or think it you can say it and whatever you tell me will be ok.” and now that we have tested that out over time and in the extreme I can honestly say it is a sacred intention that, when we remember it, has sustained us through some of our roughest moments.

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