Monday, May 07, 2007

Wake-Up Call

M and I woke up at 7:30am on Sunday morning to the sound of the telephone. This isn't entirely unheard of since his Aunt C sometimes likes to call bright and early. It was my mother-in-law calling to let us know that M's brother was in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. We were immediately awake.

Getting this kind of call in M's family is particularly scary because, save for Uncle J, all of M's uncles died of heart attacks before the age of 60. M's father suffered two heart attacks and unfotunately did not survive the second one. That worry is always there.

M's brother leads a hectic life. He has a high powered job and three kids. All of that aside, he stays in shape, eats healthy food, and doesn't smoke. After all of this effort to avoid the fate of so many of his male relatives he ends up in the hospital, anyway. Then these words came out of my mouth: "He needs to relax!"

Can you believe it? The words that I hate and resent came so easily. I realized, though, that I didn't really mean "relax" I meant, take care of yourself.

Relax is such a judgemental command. It always feels so dismissive, like what you may be worrying about isn't really important. I always feel that when people tell you that to get pregnant you just need to relax they are saying the reason you can't get pregnant is your fault. You can't relax, so you don't get what you want.

I recently turned down an invitation to a baby shower and when I e-mailed my friend I was honest about the reason. Her reply was, I understand, and if you need to vent, you know where I am. Take care of yourself.

I almost cried because that was the first time a response to my request for understanding didn't make me feel defensive or guilty. She didn't give advice or tell me not to worry. Her wish for me was an acknowledgement that I needed some space and some time for myself.

I know that my friends don't mean to be dismissive or unkind. I think that many times we assume that since we've been through difficult times, we can relate to everyone's difficult times. What I have learned, though, is that each challenge in life is different and leaves a fingerprint on who you are. Everyone will come away from a difficult experience with something unique. You can't judge someone else's hard times by comparing them to your own, but you can offer to listen and to be there.

Hearing about M's brother made me realize that I need to make sure I take care of myself. Obviously I need to take care of my health, but also my heart, my dreams, and my soul. It won't solve all my problems, but I don't think that's the point. I think the point is recognizing that I am worthy of a little TLC and I am worthy of kindness. I am allowed to be grateful for what I have and to want more for myself, even if my body doesn't always cooperate. It sounds silly to have to say this, but most of the time I get so wrapped up in not wanting to put-out, offend, or hurt the feelings of others that I forget about me. I'm sure that most people are the same way.

M's brother is out of the hospital and will continue to be monitored. He has many health factors in his favor, so we are expecting a full recovery. I'm sure he will see things a little differently now, although I don't know to what extent. M and I see in him a person that we are glad to have in our family. He is one of the many blessings we have in our life, even as we hope for more.


Courtney said...

I'm so glad to hear that your brother-in-law is steadily improving and is out of the hospital. Even in such a serious situation, what you can learn from it is so important and it sounds like you had some great realizations. You deserve to take care of yourself in every sense of the word.

P.S. I think your ideas on that tricky word 'relax' are right on the mark!

thirdtimelucky said...

Interesting thoughts. I'm glad you bil is doing better.

Baby Blues said...

Sometimes life has a way of tugging on our sleeve to remind us to slow down and appreciate what we have. Glad your BIL is doing better.

Reproductive Jeans said...

I am so sorry about your bil...but happyt o hear that he is doing better!

Baby Blues is right--life does tug at us in ways that remind us to slow down and look around...