Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Anxious Anticipation...

Lately two of my most frequently asked questions have been, “How are you doing?” and “Are you apprehensive about the upcoming holidays?”

My answer to the first is usually, “I’m okay.”  Do you know how many ways there are to say that word?  The answer to question #2 however, is throwing me for a loop.  I think I’m finding that apprehension, like anticipation, is in the waiting.  Sometimes it seems like the expectation of an anticipated incident can be worse than the actual experience.  Once the dreaded experience has passed, you realize what you worried about wasn’t nearly as bad as you had anticipated.

Let me give you a few of my life examples and see if you agree with me.  I think I was in the 9th grade when I had to give an oral report.  My father, an attorney, was big on emoting.  He had helped me with this English assignment, I remember I was in Mrs. B. Smith’s class (once, when she sneezed her wiglet flew off her head into the trash can, but that’s an entirely different story.)  My father had drilled me on the importance of speaking enthusiastically and enunciating each spoken let me remind you that in the 60’s no one in the 9th grade gets up in front of their classmates and enunciates and merrily chirps there way through their oral one.  I, being the obedient child I usually was, did as my father directed and was humiliated by the roars of laughter.  To this day, I have a deadly fear of anxiously anticipating speaking in public.  My voice will shake, my palms sweat and I become a freaky wreck.  However, I am able to speak publicly, spur of the moment or off the cuff, here I find it as natural as breathing.  It’s the anxiety of planning ahead to determine what I’m going to say that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Here’s an example of anxious anticipation everyone can relate to, moving.  I have really only “adult moved” four times in my life and every time I dreaded moving day as if I had bacterial meningitisFor months before each move I would walk the floors of my home thinking, how am I going to get all of this in boxes?  When am I going to find the time?  The next phase was accruing boxes and packing materials and finally packing away my junk, all the while trembling at the thought of moving day.   

The actual moving day was a breeze compared to what went on before and after “The Day.”  Again, anxious anticipation was worse than the event.

In October, 2008 Steve and I took an incredible trip to Croatia and Austria.  It was one of our favorite vacations and we had a wonderful time.  It was on this trip, that Steve mentioned he was unable to stay involved in a book.  He read only magazine articles during that trip, so unusual for him.  We always worked crossword puzzles together, it was this trip that Steve simply couldn’t figure out the puzzle clues and tossing them aside, they were no longer fun.  I remember we got lost several times as we drove through Europe.  Steve always the navigator and I the driver, had difficulty reading the maps, this was uncommon for him, but we laughed about our misadventures.

Croatia October 2008

Coming home, over the next several weeks I saw a grave mental decline in Steve.  As I watched him worsen I silently moved through a thousand horrible scenarios.  What if Steve had Alzheimer’s disease?  A brain tumor?    

I watched silently as Steve slipped down a long dark rabbit hole.  My anxious anticipation grew large and overwhelming.  Steve and I were one, joined at the hip, we depended on one another greatly...what was I going to do if there were something really wrong with my larger-than-life-husband?  These were long days and sleepless nights.  I spent hours praying, asking God for wisdom, guidance, direction.  I was lost and blanketed in disquietude.  When we finally found the culprit, Glioblastoma Multi-forma, Stage 4, I thought my worst nightmare had indeed come true.  

What was to happen to us next?  My anxious anticipation continued with each stage that we traveled throughout the now 5 years.  My worst nightmare did come true.  Steve battled long and hard, with such grace and dignity.  He never wavered in his battle, never asked why, never anticipated what might be, he enabled us to live through each difficult phase of his cancer thinking, “Well, we got through that, not so bad”…and we would move on to the next phase.  Steve simply accepted what was to be and lived to teach us all how to die with dignity.

Now I am faced with the question, “Am I anxiously anticipating the upcoming holidays?”  My answer, “Yes.”  My hope, my prayer is that the apprehension of what is to come will be greater than living through the actual holiday without Steve.

I have found most of my overwhelming moments come when least expected.  When talking to the cable man, or in a conversation in the middle of a cocktail party, or when singing a lullaby to one of our grand children.  It is those tender personal moments, when the floor is swept out from under my feet and I find myself with no place to stand.  There is no anxious anticipation during these waves of emotions, no they come like a riptide and sweep me away.

So my goal is to be thankful this Thanksgiving for all the joy Steve brought to my life and to our children’s lives.  To be thankful I knew and loved this man and that he loved me with all he had to give.  He blessed my life and made my world a better place to live.

I’ll get through Thanksgiving, then I’ll think about Christmas.  Until then, I’ll do my best not to allow anxious anticipation to creep in and take away my joy.  And ask me tomorrow and  I will tell you all, “I’m Okay!”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 2008–13 days after Steve's Brain Surgery

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”  Psalms 28:7