Yesterday Pete broke a mug as he was putting away the dishes. I wasn't bothered by Pete breaking a mug (my drugs must be working). I was glad that it wasn't another wine glass (I'm down to three reasonably sized wine glasses.) I woke up this morning thinking about the friend who had given me that particular mug - when I drank coffee from it, I remembered this friend. Something has changed in this friendship.
Warning: I tend to make bigger meaning out of little losses.
For example, the year that my youngest son went off to college, Pete came home to find his cat looking sick. The cat tried to get up; he convulsed and then flopped down dead. It was quite dramatic. Pete had to do the dreaded "dad duty" of calling said youngest son to tell him that his cat had died. Our little boy, turned man came home, grieved for his childhood pet, offered some love to the other cat that was still alive and then I did the "mom duty" of taking child and animal to the vet.
I was recalling this story to a friend and making all kinds of connections between the loss of the cat and the loss that I was experiencing with child #2 going to college. Parts of him were changing, our relationship was different, I was experiencing little losses. And at this point, my friend interrupted me and said, "sometimes cats just die, Beth. There doesn't have to be a bigger meaning to it!" I looked at her stunned, “What??!!”
Little things happen and they connect to bigger events, people, things, memories. Little things conjure joy, love, kindness, sadness, desire, peace, hope. I need the little things to help me understand the big things. I need to pick up the broken pieces of a mug on the kitchen floor to help me understand that when suffering chips away at us, friendships change. When we are broken, our functions change. We might not be able to drink (or talk, or relate, or even love) the same way that we used to. When I pick up one large piece still intact from the fall, I realize that it can still hold something... maybe not liquid, it makes me dream of what our friendship does hold if not what it "used" to hold. When I search for the little shards of pottery that shot far away from the mug, I asked myself, "in going through suffering together, what blew up?" In other words, aren't there pieces of ourselves that simply can't remain intact when we experience the blows that come with chronic illness? If we allow ourselves to experience suffering and illness, don't pieces of us shatter and leave little bits to be found around the scene of the crime?
Or... what if, like the mug, I can't hold "stuff" anymore and I need others to hold "stuff" for me? Will others help Pete and I when we can't help ourselves? You see, I'm not a mug and when I break or shatter from falling, I don't get tossed into the trash. I have to live with my brokenness. Pete has to live with his brokenness. We have to find glue. And then we roam our world looking like we've been through an ordeal, cracks and scars. And we keep stumbling on pieces that we thought we had lost, gluing ourselves back together as best as we can.
Or maybe sometimes cats just die and mugs break. There doesn't have to be a bigger meaning to it.
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.