Friday, June 13, 2008

How are you doing?

One of the toughest questions to answer has been this perfectly polite, reasonable, common inquiry that rolls off all of our tongues in all sorts of situations. I don’t really dread the question or wish it not be asked – I just rarely know how to answer it. Most of the time the truthful answer is – I don’t know; or I’m not sure. It brings up a wide array of complex feelings that mirror what this entire journey has been like. It sucks and yet so many blessings have come to light as a result of it. I hate having to do this, and I hate even more that Susan has to do this and that Jon and Patrick have to do this and that all of you have to do this. And yet what else would we all be doing if we weren’t forced to be so aware of the finality of life and our limited chances to live it fully and meaningfully? If you’re like me, you’d be taking most things for granted and getting stressed from the small stuff.

So how am I doing? I’m weary and stressed but I’m also keenly aware of how special my last 31 years with Susan have been – and the five years before that when we knew each other but had not yet discovered we were soul mates. I’m grateful that we get to do this her way and that we’ve had time to plan. It seems so much better than the alternative ways in which we face the inevitability of death. I’m so very thankful for such a huge network of support from the people in our lives. I’m blessed to have had the chance to, in the words of our good friend Martha, “create memories” over the last five years knowing that our time together was more limited than we assumed. I’m grateful that we’re still doing this.

The question “How are you doing?” also calls to mind those moments when my answer varies. We make lots of choices about what we say, to whom we say it, how we say it, and why. Sometimes, if the answer is not really very positive, I don’t want to answer with brutal honesty. The person inquiring may not necessarily want to hear that – or I may not want to hear it coming out of my mouth for fear it will define the rest of my day. Sometimes with some people in some situations, I let go with double-barreled candor hoping that my unfortunate listener is really ready to handle my truth and not regret they asked. But much of the time, the real answer is so complex that we wouldn’t have time to fully explore it.

I think every individual is ultimately required to experience life’s difficulties in very personal ways and the rest of us can really only be present and provide encouragement. We all get to have our turns at it. I sometimes think about all the people I know who have had heartbreaking losses of spouses, children, siblings, and other loved ones; along with the people who have dealt with their own life-threatening experiences. The number is always a sobering reminder that our situation is not special or uncommon – it’s just unique to us. Another good friend, Heidi, gave us a piece of advice that I’ve truly found to be invaluable – “Don’t let anyone tell you how to do this.” Because of course, they really can’t.

So – how am I doing? All in all, I’m doing really, really well considering the circumstances.

How are you doing?

2 comments:

Barb W. said...

Hi Rob.
Dealing with someone's slow death really does change you forever. It is hell and yet I can truthfully say that Alex's death was a huge gift, as well. I will never take anthing for granted again. I have learned to appreciate each day and each person and to actually live 'in the moment' because that's all we can depend on. Things can change in the blink of an eye. The only thing constant is love. Love is forever. Love never dies.
Thank you for being the loving, strong, wonderful friend that you are. I wish you guys didn't have to deal with this, but we all have to in some way or another. Your family is doing this with a lot of grace. You are an inspiration. Love you! -Barb

Mark nash-Ford said...

Hi To All You Moodys/ies (?),
I feel so a part of what you are going through every time I log on to see "what's happin" in your lives. I pray for all of you every day. Rob and Susan know that I have had my "trials" this year, however I am learning that many, many of us do. Most often those outside the immediate family almost never get to "see" inside the way you are allowing us to do. Thanks you sooooo much for this privelege !!! You all are truly courageous and I admire you all so much.
God's Blessings on You All
Mark Nash-Ford