I recently discovered Twenty Two Prayer Poems for Caregivers by Donna Iona Drozda. I commend it as a great gift for a caregiver. This prayer in particular has been meaningful for me lately.
Harmony and Harmlessness
I pledge to do no harm.
It feels as though I need to protect myself.
It feels as though I am being attacked.
Wherever I go at this time it feels as though
I am an outsider.
I am bereft at hope and I fear that all of my attempts to
Learn to walk in balance are for naught.
I look about me and try as I may to see the beauty
May eyes seem magnetized
To the pain and suffering and ugliness.
Humbly I ask that You
Give me new eyes in this moment.
Remind me that this world is all an illusion
Remind me that nothing real can be threatened.
Teach me to forgive the world.
Teach me to forgive myself.
Show me how to correct my thinking.
Bring me back to balance.
I am willing to step back today and let
You lead the way.
I am willing to be taught...
There is another way of looking at the world.
I am willing to give over my fear.
Again and again throughout this day
I will be still an instant and go home.
I will listen to Your gentle guiding voice. Amen.
When I told my mother that we lost the lease, I became the proud recipient of a biblical pep talk. It began with, “”When I pray for you, I just know that God is in this.” My dad did the same thing. His pep talk began with, “honey. God has another plan.” I had the courage to tell my dad, “you're going to have to believe that for me today.” There was a pause and he said, “well, I can do that.”
The housing option on the table that day was a one year lease. My friend thinks that my life is filled with unpredictability and therefore I should not introduce a known upheaval. I tried to say that maybe the lesson in it for me is to learn to live one day at a time. She cut me off to say that she would not agree that the Holy Spirit has that lesson for me in this. “You're already living that lesson,” she said. Note that she and my dad and my mom all believe that God is somehow in this. God has some “hand” in my next home.
My mother wants me to rely on the Lord. “You've gotta simply trust the Lord for this. God is in this. I'm sure of it. She told me to go home, take Pete's hand and then quoting a scripture says, “present your requests to God with thanksgiving.” I didn't have the heart to tell her that I simply no longer think that finding me a place to live is on God's job description. In fact, if it is we all have much bigger problems.
Multiple Choice: One of the tasks on God's job description is:
A. Protecting children from the sex trade
B. Feeding the hungry
C. Preventing tsunamis
D. Finding Beth and Pete a new home within their time frame and price range
E. None of the above
Answer – in my humble opinion or IMHO – E. None of the Above. Why do I choose E? Because it doesn't seem as though A-C is getting done and they are more important than D – IMHO.
True of False: If any of A-D are on God's job description, God needs to be fired for gross negligence. My answer: T. Let's be honest, what's God doing? If there be a God, it's safe to say that God is not doing the things that we think should be on God's job description. Protecting widows and orphans, creating peaceful activity among humanity, keeping women from being abused, preventing wars based on religious ideology, preventing super powers from controlling the little people of the world.
And so I go back to the original question and my original answer. Perhaps “none of the above” is on God's job description. First, isn't that great?! I can stop being angry at God for slacking on the job! If providing a new home for Pete and I is not on God's job description, then when it doesn't happen, I can stop blaming God. Not blaming God for things that God wasn't supposed to do is a good first step toward establishing an appropriate relationship with God. The next step might be getting to know God.
If this were a possibility, I'd want to meet at a diner for breakfast. I imagine God already sitting in a booth and drinking coffee. I begin, “So God, where you from?” If I were writing the script, God would say, “I come from before.” I'd nod and wonder, “What the hell does that mean?” And then I'd wonder, “What the hell do I say to that?” I continue because I am tenacious. “So, what's your favorite color? Oh no, let me guess. It's green, right?” God responds, “I can see why you would think that. But have you considered that the way that you see green is not the way that I see green.” I'm thrilled that my tea has arrived and I look God right in the face (not quite sure what God's face is like) and I say, “In fact, I have considered that.”
Clearly, I don't think that God is a great conversationalist. And so asking God to help me understand God's job description is probably not going to get me very far. And so I'm still left with considering what is on God's job description because I've ruled out the sex trade, hunger, tsunamis and my new home. To ask the question of God's job description begs the question of ours. What is our job description? The prophet Micah wrote the words, “What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly.”
Job Title: Human Being
Objective: Do justice, Love kindness, Walk humbly with God
Turns out that some of the things that we thought were on God's job description are actually on ours. Protecting widows and orphans, creating peaceful activity among humanity, keeping women from being abused, preventing wars based on religious ideology, preventing super powers from controlling the little people of the world... uh oh.
Mercy! What are we to do? Maybe that's where the conversation begins with God. What are we to do? And not What are you going to do? It seems that talking to God about the things that concern us helps. But how? Well, my mom was onto something. The full scripture that she was quoting is, “Present your requests to God with thanksgiving and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.”
Our job: Talk to God and to one another - and be thankful.
God's job: Offer peace.
I confess that I didn't go home and take Pete's hand and say a prayer. Instead I snuggled on the couch and asked, “What is it that you really want in a house?” And we talked. And I believed that God was with us. Pete and I don't always understand each other and we still have no idea what color green the other sees – let alone what color green God sees. I said my piece. Pete said his piece. God offered peace. That's on God's job description.
If my life were a playlist, this conversation is on regular rotation:
I say, "Don't you think we should take ________, just in case you're tired later?" He says, "No, I'll be fine." I say, "It seems like you're having a harder time with ________." Silence as Pete begins to leave the house just as he was. I add, "I'm just saying that it might be easier for me if we had options once we got there."
At this point, my heart rate is elevated. I remind myself that he is the most stubborn man in the world. I shove the walker in the trunk, taking special care to slam every door I can, I begin to ask, "what is the matter with me?" I feel ignored. It's easy to feel ignored as the caregiver... it's easy to be ignored as the caregiver. I spend a lot of time caring for my partner. Our shared life has shifted in so many ways. I do different tasks than I used to. He has other tasks that he needs to do in order to care for himself. And there are things he no longer can do. And neither of us are very good at asking for help.
I am notorious for wishing Pete would acknowledge his limitations when I am unwilling to acknowledge mine. When I am rested and well fed, when I have exercised my body and employed my creativity, I am at my best. I have no problem juggling our personal life, his illness, and my career. But I work a lot and I often go without protein, I skip the gym and watch television and my well of grace runs dry. And that is when this conversation repeats itself. After I freak out... after I wallow in my own neediness... after I sleep on it and find some protein, I'm so ashamed. Who yells at a chronically ill person? Who slams the doors of her car because her husband, who is chronically ill, asserts his own will? After all, he doesn't get his way often. And he's not really ignoring me. He loves me. And deep down I know that whatever happens, we'll figure it out... together. Then what's the matter with me really?
I've discovered that I'm human. And so is he. We both would rather be "super" human. He always wanted to be the lone ranger... silently fix the world's ills. Folks yelling after him, "who was that masked man?" And my friends voted me "super woman" in college. But he's not the lone ranger and I'm not super woman.
He can't fix this part of our life. And I can't manage this part of our life. And we're tired. And sometimes we're hungry. And we're restless with life's challenges and dreams. Our well of grace runs dry.
What is this blog about?
These are some of the reflections that I am fashioning into a memoir about coming to peace with my husband's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.