I realised the other day that there were some things I wasn’t prepared for with the chemo journey with mum. Leading up to it, I thought I had mentally, spiritually and emotionally prepared myself for what we would face during this season. At no point did I allow myself to believe that she wouldn’t be healed from cancer because I believed that God would have His hand on it, and He did. I told myself that it would be difficult watching her go through the chemo and dealing with the side affects, which it has been. I also told myself that I would be drained through it, which I am. However I had left out one little thing: guilt. I never factored in the guilt I would feel over little things, like being short with mum. Or letting my frustration show. Or getting into heated discussions about things that we would normally talk (and argue) about. I never prepared myself for the guilt I would feel over those things.
We tend to make allowances for people, especially people we love. We’ve all done it at some point; we turn a blind eye to certain behaviours, or we make excuses for things that were said and done. We may not be as generous with others when they do the same thing, but with those we love, we make allowances. Even more so when it’s someone going through an illness or a trial. The spoon comes out and we start to sprinkle a little sugar here, a little there, just to soften things for them. And when we do that, we often don’t realise that we start to change because our behaviour has changed. We become more restrained, more cautious of what we say and do. And gradually, that starts to change us. I can’t really speak for others, but I know it changes us because it currently is.
I’ve done it with people and I find myself doing it with mum – holding back what I really want to say because I think it will upset her. I justify it by saying ‘she has enough to deal with, just leave it alone’. And on those occasions when I’m not capable of controlling my mouth and I bring up something I shouldn’t, or we argue about something, the guilt sweeps in like a tidal wave and just drowns me, leaving me gasping for air. The chemo has thrown mums hormones into chaos and her moods are like a seesaw – up and down. And that’s what causes the restraint in me, the fact that I don’t know how she will react. What she would usually take in her stride has been met with tears and what she would usually get upset about has been met with nonchalance. It’s the fear of the unknown reaction that has me putting on the kid gloves and clamping my mouth shut. And in the process, I’m finding that I’m spending more time alone so that I can pray out my thoughts instead of speaking them, or reading a book so that I can block out the world and not think (and yes, I’m still reading the clean romance novels!), or writing.
I’m not sure if anyone in this situation or similar has experienced the same thing. I don’t resent my mum for it, this guilt is on me, not here. But it’s there and I’m trying to shake it. I don’t want to treat mum like a child because she is not a child, she is one of the strongest and most amazing people in my life. But I want to protect her so fiercely that it changes my behaviour (that’s the she-grizzly in me). It’s funny because over the last few months the whole ‘honour your parents’ commandment hasn’t come easy and I’ve found myself regularly having to repent because my frustration has come through and they’ve seen it or felt it. And that happens when you hold onto something, or someone, too tightly. I see very clearly what my problem is and I’m trying to change my protectiveness, but it’s not coming as easily as I would like. But it is what it is and that’s where I’m at right now; trying to be a daughter and a carer and a friend to my mum without suffocating her or making her feel like a child. I have some room for improvement in that area but by Gods grace, I will get better at this.