Adulting for the Win
By Lori Welch Brown
Adulting for the Win
You get to a certain age and you think you’ve got this “adulting” thing down, right? You’re trucking along, monitoring your credit score, begrudgingly make colonoscopy appointments, take a vitamin or two—heck, you even make your bed on a consistent basis. Fantastic—you have earned your Adult Badge! Then you get the Thursday call, or the Tuesday call or the Monday call or whatever effin day it is that delivers the news that makes you want to go running for your binky.
I got one of those calls just weeks before Christmas. My cousin and I were sending rapid fire texts early one morning hatching plans for my dad’s (her uncle’s) upcoming 90th birthday soiree. She lives in Texas so she was letting me know to expect some packages. Although every time she’d asked what she could do to help, and I’d replied, “Nothing—just get your butt here,” I knew she would not listen. She’s like me—she loves to plan and shop and surprise. “Keep an eye out for three boxes!” She can’t help herself. She is kind and thoughtful like that. “Okay—I’ll keep an eye out for them,” I responded and then hopped into the shower to start my day. I circled back to the kitchen for my second cup of coffee when I heard my phone ringing and saw Susie’s name on the caller ID. “Hey—what’s up?” “I just did CPR on Randy for 20 minutes. I’m following behind the ambulance. It doesn’t look good.” Sadly, she was right. Just 20 days before Christmas, on what started out to do a day like any other, my sweet cousin had to say goodbye to her husband of 32 years.
I started making plans to travel to Houston for the memorial service when I noticed something was amiss with my beloved six year old kitty cat, Macey. An ultrasound showed large cell lymphoma. Uncurable cancer. Boom! “Take that!,” Life says. “I can’t. It’s just too much right now,” I say. But, Life can be a cold, hard b#t@h when she wants to be. I’m an adult, and I have to deal. I have to make big, tough decisions. I have to put my big girl panties on and man up even when I don’t feel like I can get out of bed. As I’m writing this, I am alternating between crying my eyes out and trying to decide what course of action to take—chemo or palliative care. I feel helpless, and my heart is breaking in ways I didn’t know possible. I can’t even tell what I’m crying over any more—all the grief is jumbled up—and it is coming hard. I look over at the picture of my oldest brother, Phil, sitting on my desk. We buried Phil in May, and I realize I am crying for him too.
I’m a grown up. I know these things to be true: Life is short. You never know when your loved ones will be taken from you or fall ill. Nothing is permanent. Why then are these things still so damn hard to swallow when they happen? It’s not like I don’t know loss—besides Phil, I’ve buried my mother, a couple of close friends (way too young), grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I’ve had to put two pets down. You’d think I’d have this bull by the horns, but I don’t. I am doubled over by Life. It is not fair. Randy and Susie had just celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary. Macey was just chasing Dozer through the house (she is the alpha) and purring on my chest. It doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ve learned through Buddhist teachings that all human suffering is caused by our inability to accept the impermanence of everything and to let go. I get it, but it doesn’t make it any less hard.
I’m trying my hardest to look for and hold onto the lessons, but even that is proving challenging. It definitely serves as a good reminder that not everyone’s holidays are merry and bright. Some of us run into the New Year with bells on while others drag themselves over the finish line barely breathing—still grieving losses, figuring out a new normal and navigating a world without a loved one. Of course, the big lesson is to appreciate every moment we have with whomever we have in our lives. Everything is impermanent except death. No turning back the clock on that one.
So I’m asking myself how do I carry all this grief into the New Year? How do I look forward to a fresh start when I feel so angry, confused and frickin’ sad? Maybe the better question is how do I let it go in a way that feels like moving forward without forgetting? One day at a time, I guess. I usually kick off the New Year with a new sparkly planner by my side with my goals beautifully scripted in matching ink. This year, however, I am easing my way into things. I am leaning into my faith, and appreciating the small moments of joy. I am doing my best to express gratitude for all my blessings—especially my family and friends who buoy me in difficult times. I’m reminded that the best medicine for an aching heart is found in helping others find comfort through connection. Life knows that no matter what she throws us, we will bounce back if we stay connected. I know this because I am a full-fledged card-carrying adult. While I may be a little bruised and battered, I’m still winning. Take that, Life. Now where is my binky?!
Wishing everyone the healthiest and happiest of New Year’s. May your days be filled with sunshine, hugs and wellness.