Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beside Myself

In writing there generally is not much to say when there is no conflict or drama.  In life, we prefer to have as little of those two things as possible.  After the drama of last Summer I was glad to be settling in for a calm and restful Autumn with Brennis feeling better every day. 

It was calm.  Well it was free from major drama anyway but Brennis' cleared arteries were obviously pumping blood much more efficiently since I was now being forced into involuntary servitude as we began tackling nearly every home improvement project we had been neglecting for the last three years in the span of about a week.  After twenty years together we had established certain patterns regarding household duties.  I did the laundry, cooking & dishes and Brennis did the weekly deep cleaning.  My philosophy on cleaning is "It's better now than when I started" so I could comfortably abandon my cleaning routine at any given point and be perfectly fine with it.  Brennis cleaned until it was done.  Obviously he was the better choice for the job.  For the most part, however, that was the extent of Brennis' physical activity before the heart attack.  Other than that he generally was on the couch smoking cigarettes and watching television.   I know now that given the state of his heart it was really all he  was capable of.  It did, however, make my list of chores get longer and longer with every passing year. 

Now that Brennis was "fixed" I couldn't stop him. We were painting, replacing floors, sanding walls, cleaning, scrubbing, bleaching, you name it.  I think at one point we were working on five rooms in our house at the same time (and we have a very small house). No I was exhausted. I was so thankful that Brennis was able and willing now to do all of these things but I had become accustomed to working at my own pace and not having to keep up with someone. Suddenly Brennis was like a machine.  He never stopped. 

I had just been through the most emotionally draining experience of my life and now I was going through the most physically draining experience.  While I appreciated the fact that Brennis was now feeling better and he was excited and able to do things he wasn't able to do before I was beginning to get worn down.  I was hanging by a thread and it was getting more and more frayed by the second. 

All through the end of summer and into the fall we continued on this runaway train.  Part of me wanted to stop it but part of me knew that if I stopped it I would be forced to deal with reality so I continued to allow myself to get sucked into the perpetual activity that had become our lives.  The reality I was avoiding was the very real fear I had that something else was going to happen to Brennis.  One minute he was fine and the next minute he was having a heart attack a few months before....I don't think you ever get over that.  Even today I worry about him continuously.  If he's sweating, I worry. If he's tired, I worry.  If he eats too much or too little, I worry. 

As long as we were busy I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to worry that the other shoe was going to drop.  We were happy, we were making our lives better by making our home more lovely and more functional...who wants to deal with fears then? 

Worrying is something that I do very well.  It has become as much a part of my personality as green eyes are a part of my physical appearance.  I understand that it is fruitless but I do it anyway.  Recently I ran across the blog of my father's former cardiologist  Dr. Terry Gordon and as I was reading through the blog I came across this statement that spoke to me:  "If you have control over a situation, you shouldn't have to worry about it.  And if you don't have control over a situation, worrying about it isn't going to give you that control." 

It was so simple and so right.  There were things about Brennis' health that we could control.  We could stay away from cigarettes and eat well and exercise.  We could take care of ourselves and each other.  Even with all of these things there is also a possibility that Brennis might have to deal with this situation again some day.  He also might be hit by a bus, get cancer or live to be 100 years old. As long as we are taking care of the parts that are under our control there is really nothing to worry about.

The other day Brennis and I were talking to two women whose husbands had both been through traumatic medical procedures.  Brennis made the observation "I still think that this is harder on you guys than it was on us.  There was nothing we could do but trust that we were in good hands.  You guys had the worry."  It was true....I worried.  I still worry.  Coming face to face with Brennis' mortality made me intimate with it.  I didn't like it.  The thought of him not being a part of my life anymore was not only emotionally painful but also physically painful to me. It made me ache. 

What I realize now, however, is that worrying about Brennis is not going to make him live forever.  Years ago, when we first moved in together I used to be very jealous of Brennis when he was with other guys.  It used to make me crazy.  Finally, one day I realized that being jealous was only making me anxious and upset.  If Brennis was going to cheat on me he was going to do it whether or not I was jealous.  In fact, the more I acted crazy the more he might be tempted to find someone who wasn't a lunatic. 

The same is true now when I worry about Brennis having another heart attack.  My worrying isn't going to cure him of heart disease....but my constant state of anxiety certainly wasn't helping matters any. 

Finding peace in this world is not easy.  We are always going to be confronted with problems and issues that we have to resolve.  Sometimes the fixes are easy and sometimes they are difficult but we muddle our way through them until we are back at a place of comfort and contentment.  Worrying about what might come next isn't going to keep it from happening.  Being able to let go of worry is something that I work on every day.  I have to actively think about it and stop myself from going down that road.  It leads nowhere.

If we are going to truly experience the beauty and magic of life we must not allow worry to obscure our view.  Worry closes our minds and our hearts to the wonderful things that life has to offer, it stops us from trying new things and can paralyze us with fear. Life is about moving forward, learning, experiencing and loving.  If our lives are consumed with worry we aren't able to allow any of those things to enter our lives.

I will never be able to get the time back that I wasted worrying about things over which I had no control.  When I find myself worrying about something I try to remember that, listen to the voices that tell me to proceed and go.  Worrying has never solved anything.  Spending time and energy on something so counterproductive simply doesn't make sense.

Now our house is finally the home we have always wanted.  We made it that way one step at a time.  Sometimes I worry that it won't last forever.....but then I just let it go.  I look around and smile.  "This is the moment I have always wanted," I think to myself....and I am thankful.     


  1. Just love to read what you write.

    I was trying to explain to someone about my practice of taking some time every morning before I get out of bed to imagine how wonderful my life will be... how my art will sell, how the new gallery will be a raging success, how loved I'll feel, etc. This person said, "Yes, but that's all just empty dreaming." And then I had the enlightened thought... yes, but so is your worrying about the worst.

    If we're going to expend the energy to think, please let's focus on how happy we are, or imagine how beautiful the future can be. It may or may not make the good things come, but it's damn easier on the nerves.

    1. I so would choose "empty dreaming" over worry. I do think it's strange how some people feel the need to talk us out of our happiness. I used to think that worrying "protected" me from what might happen. I did worry about Brennis' health before the heart attack but none of that wasted energy helped me a bit while I was really facing a crisis.

  2. i am also a recovering worrier. it's hard to stop but i am getting better at catching myself and diverting my attention to what is happening right now. something i heard a long time ago really struck me: the things that happen are usually the things we never saw coming, so all that time spent worrying was just wasted time. and like you said, time we can never get back. worrying gives us a false sense of control over what will happen. and i like this quote "worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. it gives you something to do but you sure don't get anywhere." by the way, i could really use someone to motivate me to get my house into shape! are you guys for hire?

    1. I am not the person you want motivating you to do anything around the house. I am the worst at that. I think our sudden surge in energy last year had everything to do with the nervous energy of quitting smoking and the extra energy of Brennis' opened arteries. Having more energy helps but finding the energy to BEGIN is the hardest part. : )