One of the nice things about getting older is perspective. I suppose there are other nice things about getting older, but my mind is too slow to think of them right now. My husband and I are dealing with a new situation in our lives. It’s a situation of our own making, one in which we and a young person are at the mercy of others.
There have been other times in my life when being at the mercy of others has been my lot. I remember being in the Charles De Gaulle airport flying stand-by, hoping and praying for a French airport employee to call out my name in a way I could understand, before I had to spend another night on the wrong side of the Atlantic. There was a sense of panic deep down inside me, knowing that this harried looking woman who could not speak English and whatever faceless computer those tickets were coming out of held my fate in their hands.
There was also the time, standing in a bus station in London, late to catch the train to the airport when I realized that I left my wedding rings at our hotel. A kind of desperate panic set in, compounded by the strange city, different culture and the fact that we had to get on a plane.
There was the birth of my first son, when I had planned to have a natural birth at a birthing center, but my water broke and labor did not start. Once my water broke, I was on a 24-hour clock and I knew I was at the mercy of those two little hands. There was at first a sense of panic, and then resignation that there was nothing I could do to change the “rules” and once my time was up, to the hospital we went, a hospital with its own set of rules put in place by nameless, faceless, bureaucrats looking to prevent lawsuits – not give me the natural birth that I wanted.
Other times, the powerlessness I feel is being at the mercy of God and nature. In the last few months of my mother’s life, watching her get weaker and weaker as the brain tumor and radiation damage slowly took her away from us, I felt that same sense of anxiety and hopelessness that accompanies not having control over my situation. Though I am a nurse, and I could think of options such as fluids and feeding tubes, I knew they would not save her life and that she would not want them. I watched, helplessly, as she stopped eating, then drinking, and was gone.
The perspective that I have gained has allowed me to look back on these situations and see what physical symptoms accompany these times in my life. I literally can feel my heart rate rise, my appetite diminish, and my frown lines intensify. I have learned some coping mechanisms to get me through. One is the best case/worst case game. I think, if this situation plays out, what is the worst that could happen? What is the best? More than likely neither of those will occur, but at least I have emotional prepared for them. Sometimes I simply change my situation. In the case of birth, I decided not to go to the hospital at all and had my next two babies at home – and that was the right decision. Sometimes I just get really proactive, researching and reading anything I can get my hands on about what is happening.
Often I just breathe. Breathing is good. In through my nose, blowing the air out through my mouth, I feel centered and less stressed. And while I am breathing I pray. For strength, for calm, for patience and sometimes, for acceptance. Lately, I’ve been asking for the intercession of Sts. Jerome and Joseph, and St. Michael the Archangel. For these moments are all part of the battle that we fight for the ultimate reward. As long as I’m breathing, I’m fighting. And as long as I have my faith – I am NOT powerless.
Copyright 2012 Katherine Barron