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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3 Responses to “Anger (and other stages of grief)”

  1. Kevin Hindmon May 4, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    As younger men, I learned from you because you were probably the first true friend I had that had a different personality & world view. Not so different as to be repelling, but different enough to make our friendship interesting. Now, I find that I continue to learn from you as you share the experiences y’all are having. I am learning more about being a loving husband and a whole person through you. I have learned it from my father-in-law as I watched him care for my mother-in-law as a brain tumor took her from us. Now, I am learning it from you. Truly this is what Ephesians 5:25 means when it says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
    Thank you for your honesty & your love for your family.

  2. Diana Peer May 4, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    John and Kim,
    Your generosity in sharing your journey is blessing others in ways you will never know. Thank you for the gift of this entry today.
    Diana

  3. Nancy Johnson May 4, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    You two can handle what you do and have to do because there was a firm layer of love as a base before this condition presented itself.

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