Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Taking a Break and Giving Ourselves Grace

If you read this blog on the reg, you’ve probably noticed that there haven’t been many posts in the last few months. In August, I mentioned that we were taking a brief hiatus because we were super busy, but that doesn’t even begin to touch on what was going on in our lives the past five or six months. I’m not even sure where to start.

As you know from the podcast, Amber married Jason Jones in December and then dashed off on a fabulous honeymoon cruise. Does that mean we aren’t the Maiden, Mother, and Crone anymore? Can Amber be a maiden if she’s been married twice? Seriously, though, this was a very happy event; all three of us did a lot of crafting and creating to pull it off. I think it turned out beautifully, don’t you?

All that wedding planning kept us very busy, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the bigger issue we were dealing with…the health issues faced by my husband, Mark. I’ve probably mentioned numerous times on the podcast and this blog that Mark was ill. I may have even mentioned that it was cancer…lung cancer…Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma, to be exact. He was diagnosed in August of 2022 after visiting his doctor about pain, numbness, and tingling in his left arm. What they found was a metastatic tumor on his cervical spine that was pinching a nerve. No other symptoms. The tumors in his lungs were tiny and had not caused him any problems. He never suspected. We spent the last 18 months pursuing various forms of treatment, including three different series of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation treatments, proton therapy, a targeted therapy (it had the most promise), and a clinical trial. In the end, none of it worked. 

After three hospital stays in less than two weeks, we were told that the only remaining options were to go back on chemo, which might slow the cancer and give him more days but would certainly take away his quality of life, or he could enter hospice and let the cancer take its course. He chose quality over quantity, and so we began the excruciating process of preparing for Mark to die.

That’s when all the visitors started dropping by. Sometimes, three or four of them on the same day. Staying for hours. Intruding on our time. Keeping me away from things I needed to do. Wearing Mark out so that he had no energy left for the rest of us. 

Of course, this annoyed me at first because I felt like holidays were special, and Christen and I had gone to great lengths to plan the perfect celebration and family gathering. All these people were intruding on our time with Mark and disrupting our plans! But it soon became obvious that Mark was the most vibrant when his friends visited. He was awake, alert, and engaged. He was actually happy. And so I relented, realizing this was what he needed, and if we were really trying to make this time about him, then we had to give him this space to visit and say “goodbye.”

The holidays were a blur. We spent our time rushing about to maintain as much of our planning as we could, but in all honesty, we failed miserably. The Christmas decorations sat in tubs in the middle of my living room floor for weeks before I finally resigned myself to the fact that the decorating would have to be “light” this year. I put ⅔ of the decorations on the tree, hung up a wreath, a bunting, and the stockings, threw some Christmas blankets on the sofa to snuggle with, and pretty much called it done. As for the baking, I think we got two batches of cookies made, and Ashley did one of those. Between visiting with all our lovely friends who came by and scrambling to take care of Mark’s needs, we were too busy to worry about much else. 

We spent a solemn New Year’s Eve watching a movie, and New Year’s Day was much the same. Mark wasn’t eating much by then. I think he took one bite of his breakfast taco and somehow managed to swallow one black-eyed pea. It was a super-fast decline from there, and on January 3, he was just gone.

I didn’t write this blog to be morbid or morose. I wanted to share because we all go through things from time to time that set us back, side-track our plans, or just plain leave us powerless and numb. It is important to give ourselves (and each other) a bit of grace. If you were looking in from the outside, you might see that we suddenly stopped writing blogs, and you might think that we are not committed, lack motivation and follow-through, and aren’t worth your time and effort. But we want you to know we didn’t just stop writing blogs. We are still as committed to Modern Musings as we were, but sometimes life does not allow us to participate in all the ways we so carefully plan. And that’s okay. We do what we can do, and that is enough. We might need to revisit our goals and make them more realistic and achievable. We might just need to pause for a while and rest before picking it back up again. Pausing is not a failure. Changing your plans is not a failure, either. 

Let’s start this new year with grace. Grace for ourselves. Grace for others. There’s always more to every story than what you see on the outside. I hope we can learn to let go of all our ridiculous expectations of how things should be and learn to embrace the way things are because when you are fully present in your life, it’s all good.

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