Tomorrow my youngest starts psychological counseling. The pressure of dealing with a chronic illness has taken its toll. For the past two weeks my father-in-law has been in the hospital. He has already lost a toe and has become so demented that the potential surgery to fix his circulation issues may never happen. In the past few months I’ve lost both my publicist and my editor at my publishing house. And as many of you know, I have a book scheduled for next fall. Deadlines loom. Appointments are crammed into place. Work is a non-stop juggling act. I’ve barely seen my wife in weeks because of the countless trips to the hospitals. And yet I parent and teach and write to the best of my abilities. But the cost of maintaining is enormous.
I’m exhausted. I’m besides myself with worry and anxiety. I’m holding my own as best I can. This is my life and these are my challenges and I am the one who must face them head on. There are no shortcuts.
I wish my 8-year-old wasn’t riddled with anxiety. I wish my father-in-law were well and that all was moving swimmingly in my writing life. But none of those statements are true.
It’s also National Diabetes Awareness month. A fact that I love and hate. I will have had type 1 for 25 years this month. My daughter has had it for almost 3. Her anxiety stems from the overwhelming pressure of dealing with this disease, and potentially with how she’s coping with her grandfather’s current condition. Talking to the psychologist, it became so very apparent that the tics she possess are mirror images to my own. I’m lucky though. I get to be the quirky artist. She is a child, so all anyone sees is weird.
Nine years ago, my 72-year-old father-in-law had a massive heart attack. The family lore is that he lived for my youngest, who my wife was pregnant with at the time. This may be true. And his current state may be pushing his savior over the edge. I don’t know. Life is full of such strange ironies.
And yet through all this, I get up every morning and I write. That’s not boastful. Writing is my own sort of therapy. The words distract me from all the noise of my life, as well as give me a sense of footing. Because all the story demands is that I listen and try my damndest to get it straight. Right now I’m working on a fantastic story about race and sports and small mindedness. The pain within the story is physical and psychological and so very emblematic of how I feel right now. And yet, when I am done, I’m not exactly sure to whom I will be submitting.
Facing a roomful of students and meeting their demands with all I have swirling in my head is superbly challenging. Facing my own disease and knowing I am in large part to blame for the very issue that causes my daughter so much pain is downright debilitating. Facing my wife and the tough decisions she and her brother and sister and her mother must is simply unbearable.
But I must bear it all. Right now I’m living day-by-day. I write this not for pity, but to unburden myself, to let it out of the box what I’ve kept it in. I’m writing this while my daughters do homework in the kitchen, with me at the end of the counter, finding solace in what is, and what could be.