Four days left

Four days left until my son leaves for college. It’s really hitting both of us a lot right now. I made him some chocolate chip cookies last night at his request. It felt like one last thing I could do for him for old time’s sake. I used to do a lot of baking for the kids, including making all their snacks for their lunches until they moved down here.

I’m still worried about my husband. He is still having a lot of trouble sleeping because he’s in so much pain. I know that the pain isn’t caused by the cancer but that doesn’t really make a difference to me and how I perceive it. All I know is that he doesn’t deserve to suffer like he is. And I’ll be honest that it reminds me of what is still to come.

A friend recently reminded me of the importance of cleaning out our dryer vents and he got the supplies to do it today. But he was also talking about how much he dreaded it and how much work it would require, so I got online and ordered a Groupon to have someone else do it. I hope that will make a difference for him. Already he seems unwilling to let someone else do the work, though, because he expressed concerns about whether or not the person I hired would do as good of a job as he would.

I’m slowly accepting that he isn’t always going to be around and able to do things for me. Maybe that’s why he expressed concern that someone else wouldn’t be able to do as good of a job as he could. Maybe he doesn’t want to admit that he’s as exhausted as he is, and I don’t blame him for that.

He’s getting his vaccine booster shot on Friday, so that may put him out of commission this weekend. This weekend is also going to be our last before Dyl moves out. Lots of big, complicated feelings here.

Wins and losses

The win: I got my husband a heating pad yesterday and he slept at least 4.5 hours in bed. (I’m writing this while he’s still asleep, so it’s still unknown how he’ll do the rest of the night.)

The losses: Well, for one thing, I’m not sure if going up on the Pristiq is still helping. I’m excessively sleepy again and don’t have the same degree of motivation I had to get shit done even last week. And I still haven’t had the motivation to write anything for Medium.

On the down side, my youngest leaves for college in five days. I’m kind of freaking out a lot about that but am trying not to show it to him. I’m letting him know that I care, of course, and that I’m really going to miss him, but I’m not trying to be too overwrought about it in his presence. On the plus side, he’s been giving me lots of hugs lately, which are always welcome.

My husband and I were talking yesterday and he said that people always tell him how brave he is for going through with the cancer treatment. He doesn’t see it as bravery but just something he has to do.

While I know being the spouse of someone with stage IV cancer can’t possibly compare with what he has to go through, at the same time, I wish that just once, someone would think about what I have to go through. Not only am I completely powerless to help him when he’s suffering but I am also going to have to learn how to go on without him.

We’ve always said that for either one of us to live without the other would be like losing a limb. And I’m going to have to go through that and somehow still be okay.

I hope it’s still years away but in the meantime, I don’t really know how to live, either. Just knowing what’s on the horizon for me really makes it hard to fight against depression and to have hope for the future.

No anxiety or pain

No, unfortunately, that’s not how I’m feeling right now. My husband is sleeping on the couch again because he’s in so much pain and my youngest is leaving for school in 8 days.

Instead, I read an article in the New York Times (I can’t figure out how to link it here and you have to be a subscriber to read it anyway) about a woman in Scotland who doesn’t feel pain or anxiety. Big Pharma is supposedly studying her to find out if her case yields any clues that could provide treatments, which honestly sounds like it could have some pretty scary applications.

Part of the cause of her inability to feel pain or anxiety is a genetic mutation related to how her body processes endocannabinoids—the chemical that makes marijuana work for pain.

Considering that my husband could get approved for medical use of low-THC marijuana (as could I, because both spasticity and incurable neurological illnesses qualify), I found that fascinating.

I do know that I have a much higher than average pain tolerance, though. I’ve had cavities filled without Novocain before and gave birth to a 10-lb baby without an epidural. I’ve been told that I should be in more pain than I am due to my neurological illnesses.

But I obviously do still feel pain and I definitely feel anxiety. (In fact, I feel a great deal of anxiety, especially now.)

Would I want to give up all pain and anxiety if it also meant (as was the case with the woman in Scotland) that I could never feel an adrenaline rush, either? I don’t honestly know.

I do know that lately I feel like I would give anything to just be unfazed and numb, particularly in terms of my husband’s death (whenever that may be.) I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is going to happen and I don’t know how to carry on from here.

Meditation helps somewhat. But I am clearly still immensely impacted by it, to the point that I can’t do any creative writing now.

Would I trade any of this anxiety to feel a bit less? Maybe. I can’t honestly say.

We’re never getting out of this

I read this article about how it looks unlikely that we’ll ever achieve “herd immunity” against the coronavirus and it doesn’t look like vaccinations are going to make the difference.

I also read someone I follow on Quora who was talking about how ineffective the Pfizer vaccine is in particular against the delta variant of the disease (and of course, that’s the vaccine that my husband and I both received.)

I have been trying to keep my sanity throughout the whole pandemic. I’m glad I have a therapist now to keep teaching me relaxation techniques and to talk to about my stresses. But I realize that the amount of panic and unease I feel is probably here to stay for the foreseeable future and I don’t know how to react to that.

My husband will only still be around for an unknowable amount of time. We will probably never get to return to our old pre-pandemic life as we knew it, which means no concerts, no travel, very few dinners out. The challenge is how to find new ways to enjoy our time together.

Then, there are nights like this one, where he’s sleeping on the couch because he’s in so much pain. I just feel so helpless to do anything. I want to make him feel better and I can’t.

Meanwhile, I just have to go on with my life like everything is normal and fine. But it’s not normal and it’s not fine.

My youngest

My youngest is leaving for college in 9 days. Last night, he came in to talk to me about the fact that he’s feeling pretty freaked out.

He even wondered if he should stay around home and just go to community college instead.

I understand why he’s nervous and worried. He’s worried that my husband’s health will take a turn for the worse. In addition, we have two very elderly cats, one of whom shares his bedroom. He worries that any of the above three could die while he’s away at school.

The fact of the matter is that I’m worried, too. I see the deaths of the cats as being more likely in the next few years than my husband’s death, but the truth is that we don’t even know that for sure, either.

I hope he gets down to campus and loves it there. I really do. He found out that he’s getting grants that cover his entire tuition this year. His college ranks #11 in the country for engineering, his choice of major. He has so many doors open to him right now and it would be a shame not to take advantage of these opportunities.

At the same time, he only has one friend (and it was kind of a peripheral friend at best) who’s going away to college. His girlfriend of four years is staying at home and going to the community college because she doesn’t know what she wants to do.

I think she’s putting a lot of pressure on him, maybe even not to go. I love her dearly, don’t get me wrong. But I think it would be a real shame if he threw away this opportunity.

I was also able to tell him that I did understand how hard it was to leave everything I knew to follow an opportunity, which is what I did when I moved down here. I had many moments where I wanted to give up and go back home, but I’m obviously glad that I didn’t.

I’m really hoping he finds a well of internal strength and taps into the deep dedication that even got him into this school.

I’m also realizing that I may need to drive down to campus on some Fridays and let him come home for the weekend. Maybe if he gets to see my husband and his girlfriend and the cats a little more often, it might be enough to help him get through.

The pandemic is getting to me

I don’t know if the pandemic is affecting my ability to write or not but it is really getting to me in general.

I talked to my therapist yesterday about my inability to write and she asked if anything preceded it. I guess there was, in a way, though I don’t know how much I’m still affected by it.

One of the last articles I wrote was how and why to apologize to your kids. I ended up deleting the article. I wrote about my own parenting fails rather than my mom’s. But I gave her the heads up that one of the things I mentioned was that if you (as the parent) repeatedly deny that you said something, it can cause your kids to distrust their own memories and perceptions.

My mom didn’t react well to that and opted not to read my article. She also didn’t talk to me for over a week because she was upset.

On the one hand, that tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be seeking her approval on what I write. Yes, previously she was being very emotionally supportive and saying really encouraging things, but I obviously found the limit of that.

I still don’t know what to write, though, because all I can think about is the pandemic and how afraid it makes me for my husband. I’m glad that the CDC just announced booster shots for the immune-compromised.

He also said he has a “gut feeling” that it won’t be Covid that gets him. He never has gut feelings about anything so I’m more inclined to take that seriously.

But at the same time, everything about the pandemic is making me downright angry. Not only that so many people don’t even think about or care about people like him but because we’ve now proven that we’re not going to get this virus under control.

That means that we can’t do a lot of the things together that we wanted to, especially now that our nest will be mostly empty. We can’t go to concerts or travel or really even go out to eat.

I don’t know if it will ever be any different while he’s alive, either. And suddenly I am just so mad at all the jackasses who think that even wearing a mask is too much to ask of them. They’re stealing my final years with my husband and I am so, so sad and angry about that.

The writing muse

My writing muse has gone missing and I don’t know how to get it back.

I’ve seen a lot of advice (mostly on Medium) about the importance of writing every day and not waiting for the inspiration to strike. I have to admit that I haven’t really tried that.

Well, I sort of did, but it turned out to suck.

I’m still keeping up with meeting my freelance deadlines but I don’t seem to have much energy left over. I don’t know if it’s a matter of not having enough spoons or just being lazy.

I just know that I wish I could get it back somehow.

Parenting fails

I’m not feeling great about my parenting today. Both Amy and Dylan took me to task for two different ways that I’ve recently handled things with them.

Amy was first and she told me that I was overwhelming her with links of things to buy for her apartment. She’s moving out in about a month and so far, doesn’t have much. She approved of me getting her a set of cookware and some baking pans the other day.

But what she said was too much was asking about dishes or knives. She said she wants to research them first, discuss them with her boyfriend, and wants to do a lot of her shopping in person. I agreed not to show her any more links of things I’d offer to buy for her. She is very independent and really isn’t comfortable with receiving gifts, even of things she genuinely needs, so I need to back off.

I think we mostly got everything straightened out but I admit that it still hurt my feelings to be told that I was too overzealous. I guess that’s a problem of mine, since I was too overzealous when Adam came out as transgender, too. (I prefer to think of myself as “aggressively helpful,” lol.)

Then, Dylan told me that he was upset that I didn’t even ask him if he wanted to have oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth. He took me to task for not researching enough whether it was possible to get them removed too early, as he thinks his may have been removed too early. (I researched it after he said that and no, he probably did not have them removed too early.)

He also said that I should have let him know what the potential side effects of tylenol with codeine and ibuprofen were before he took them. I guess I probably should have.

I told him that dentists always say that kids need their wisdom teeth out around age 18 and I’ve never questioned that. He rightfully pointed out that dentists always say that kids need braces, too, and we questioned that because my husband had long-term damage to his jaw resulting from wearing braces.

I also told him that I did do a lot of research, particularly on whether it would be safe for him to have it done by a traveling oral surgeon who came to our dentist’s office, since that’s kind of an unusual circumstance. I did a great deal of research on how to keep him safe during the procedure, particularly regarding the anesthesia.

But I just didn’t know to research whether or not it was possible to have them removed too early. Instead, I was letting my decision be guided a lot by J’s coworker, who didn’t have them removed until his 30s and had a lot of complications. Dylan said I shouldn’t have relied so much on anecdotal evidence, and I guess he was right.

Then I said that part of why I thought of having it done this year, rather than waiting until next year, is because I don’t know how long we’ll have dental insurance. Whenever J dies, we will probably lose it, unless I find a way to pay for a private plan. I finally saw Dylan’s expression change and become less angry when I said that, and he said that if we had talked about it, he might have decided to have it done this year anyway.

Parenting is just one of those things where sometimes you don’t get everything right, no matter how hard you try. In both the cases with Amy and Dylan, I was trying really hard to do the right things. I did tell them I wanted them to talk to me when I messed up and I’m glad they felt that they could do so. But it still sucks that I messed up anyway.

Getting stuff done

I managed to set up a Fidelity account today, which I’m counting as a win because I wasn’t sure if I’d have time. Not only did I make time for it but I even woke up late.

The increased dose of Pristiq is still helping me have more motivation but it’s also causing really bad insomnia. Because it often takes me several hours to fall asleep, I’m having trouble waking up at a good time. I guess you win some, you lose some?

I have to go through the past couple of months of bank statements to get a more accurate idea of what our budget really is so I know how much I can invest each month. But I feel good that I’m finally on the right track.

Still, although I’m keeping myself plenty busy with my newfound energy, I’m also still really worried about J. He’s been in a lot of pain lately and hasn’t been sleeping well. The tests that the doctors have run haven’t pinpointed any cause. I just hope they will give him some better answers and preferably some type of effective treatment as well.

I’m also worried about the Delta variant of Covid because it doesn’t seem like you can really do anything to stop it. Then of course, there’s also the Lambda variant in Peru that’s even worse, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time until that gets here, too.

J says he has a strong gut feeling that he won’t die of Covid but rather from the cancer itself. He never gets gut feelings about anything, so I’m inclined to take it more seriously. But I also wonder about myself and my kids and I don’t feel as confident that we’ll all get through it okay.

And meanwhile, we’re down to less than two weeks now until Dyl goes off to school. I’m nervous about that for so many reasons and sad, too. He did at least get the very good news yesterday that he got grants to cover all of his tuition this year.

In that light, I really feel like A&M was where he was meant to be. Even though he initially really wanted to go to UT, they would only admit him for a liberal arts major. Meanwhile, A&M has the #11 ranked program for engineering, which he’s going into. And it really has seemed from the beginning that despite the fact that it’s such a big school, they’re actually bending over backwards to make it easier for him to attend.

My husband and I both finished our degrees after we had kids and Dylan is the first one of our kids to do this. I’m so proud of him and all the accolades he’s accumulated (including that he’s a designated Advanced Placement scholar because he did so well on the tests.)

I really hope he makes the most of it. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.

Getting my shit together

I am taking advantage of the fact that increasing my Pristiq dosage seems to be making me suddenly notice all the things I’ve been neglecting (which is really quite a bit.)

We got notice that our new sectional that we ordered from Pottery Barn is actually being delivered this week, which is about a month early. I’d honestly expected it to be delayed instead of getting delivered early, which is a nice surprise.

So in preparation for that, we have to significantly clean our living room before Thursday. I got a lot done today (with help from J and the younger two kids.) Amy and her boyfriend have honestly trashed the garage in particular, just throwing shipping boxes out there wherever when they get packages. I’m honestly really disappointed in how little they have been doing to keep the house clean and in fact, how significantly they contribute to the mess.

We got the garage completely emptied of all those boxes yesterday, which was mostly J’s doing. The younger two kids got the elliptical machine moved from our living room to the garage. I was going to sell the elliptical but now I’m not so sure anymore, so I may wait on that a bit.

I got lots of rooms swept up and moved some boxes, too. I still have a lot of things that I want to clean (like the glass doors of my shower stall.) I’m kind of intimidated by that and fear that it will use a lot of “spoons” but I’m still feeling motivated to do it.

J also mentioned that he was disappointed in the fact that I was still shopping for things I want but don’t need, when I hadn’t even looked into the options I have for investing. It always makes me feel like such a loser when he expresses disappointment with me.

It’s not that he’s ever mean about it. He’s just disappointed that I’m not getting my shit together because it makes him worry more about my future. And it’s not that I don’t care; it just always slips to the bottom of my to-do list.

So I signed up for an account at Fidelity last night and have to wait until I see some small deposits they’ll make in my bank account to verify it. I’m also going to have to call them because they still show that I had an account (with a zero balance, of course) set up when I worked at Starbucks like 14 years ago.

I can’t promise that I’ll get time to call them tomorrow and get things straightened out but I’ll try. I also finally got a package ready to return to the post office tomorrow too. But I’m really serious that I’m not going to keep letting making the call to Fidelity slip my mind like I have been.

I really want to prove to him (and myself) that I really can manage my money well.