Fairly soon after coming home from rehab I was talking to my friend on the phone, and she said something like this, “One thing you will find (when living with a chronic problem like this), is that things that used to really upset you just won’t seem like such a big deal any more.” I have thought of that a lot lately as things come up and I watch myself respond with an atypical calmness of spirit. Part of this has to do with perspective. I think to myself that I have seen worse and lived to tell about it, so there isn’t really any need to panic. Things that seemed really big pre-stroke seem to be such little things now.
Another part of this is realizing that there is a good deal of life that I can do nothing about. I can’t waste my time and energy stewing over things that I have no power to change. Under that category falls the decisions my adult children make that I don’t necessarily agree with. Also the way my children respond to their father’s lack of motivation or my lack of being able to change that. It includes other people’s opinions of how I conduct my life. It also includes such broad categories as world wars, national debt and political upheaval. So it has become my practice to consider whether I even have the ability to fix a problem before I let myself get too overwrought about it.
Connected to that consideration is another one that has become equally important. Once I have determined that I might be able to fix a problem, I also have to ask myself whether I should fix it. There are many things in life that I could involve myself in on a regular basis, but to do that would suck my limited reserves, and may keep someone else from owning their responsibility to do for themselves. Of course this has become a huge issue in terms of Strokeman’s propensity to let others do for him. But beyond that I have sometimes decided that I need to step back from other things I could do but probably ought to let someone else do. I am learning to be comfortable not taking on everything that is presented to me to be taken on. I don’t have to receive everything handed to me.
This concept of not doing everything has helped me work through what I should learn to do to pick up the slack left by a disabled husband, and what I should find someone else to do. As I make those decisions, I have had to learn to speak up when someone asks what needs to be done.
But this poses a new problem that has been….character building. What if you ask someone else to help you and they choose to do it in a way that you don’t necessarily like? When you are depending on free help, you are fairly bound to the schedule and whims of the people who are doing the helping. Do they want to come early in the morning? Do they want to bring their wife and kids for you to entertain while they work? Do they have a different idea of what is an adequate solution to the problem? These are all things I have had to contend with. Sometimes I decide that it is worth it to just pay someone to do things on my terms. Unfortunately, I can’t just pay for everything. I have had to learn to curb my expectations. I try to remind myself that these volunteers have their own families and jobs and responsibilities that must come before me and mine. I remind myself that I should be thankful that there are still so many people that want to help in some way after so long of being needy. So I continue to list what I think I need, and then expect a whole lot less. It is another aspect of not losing sleep over what can’t be changed, but also not losing sleep over people’s feelings if you have to refuse their help. I found myself telling someone this week that I appreciated their willingness to help, but the fact that they can’t hear, and my husband has a very soft voice, makes it difficult to accept their offer. There was a day when I would not have been able to speak so freely for fear of hurting feelings. What I have found is that often it is a relief to the other person to hear the truth. Even the man with hearing issues seemed to relax as he realized I understood his problem. Once the truth was spoken, we were able to come up with some reasonable ways to work towards a solution.
It isn’t always that easy, though. Sometimes I tell people what I think I need, and for whatever reason, they don’t feel led to fill that need. They ask, but what they wanted me to say isn’t what I say. I have talked to others in the needy world about this, and have had this confirmed by them. One told me she had told a couple of lady friends that what she really needed was for them to hold her while she cried. “I have never figured out why it is they couldn’t just hold me, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t.” Another friend said, “Yes, all I want is for someone to come on a regular basis and just sit with me for a visit, but they don’t have time for that. They will do errands, or cook meals, but they don’t have time to just come and visit.” It can be frustrating, confusing and difficult to deal with these encounters patiently. So I have come up with following approach:
First of all, I do a lot of praying about what it is I think I need. I have God’s promise that He will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). And He is pretty rich, incase you haven’t noticed. So I can’t imagine asking for anything that He couldn’t supply. And I also know that He doesn’t make promises that He can’t or won’t keep. So I ask Him first, and then as other people inquire of me what I need, I tell them straight forward and honestly. And then I let it go. When I find myself getting flustered or irritated at people, I remind myself of this truth: If I don’t have it, it is because I don’t need it, because God has promised to supply all my needs. It’s not that I give up hope of ever receiving what I think I need. I know that sometimes my timing is a bit different from God’s timing. He may be saying, “Wait for it…wait for it…” I also know that sometimes my idea of what I need isn’t right. I may be asking for something far inferior to what He will ultimately be giving me. It is an opportunity to learn more of my Shepherd, while I look expectantly for His blessing. Ultimately, it is an exercise in remembering that the fulfillment of my daily needs is not dependent on the people in my life. That is God’s category. He is more than capable of providing whatever it is I or Strokeman need. And He is far better at giving us good gifts than even our earthly fathers (Matthew 7:7-11). So the question is, do I believe this? Do I trust my good Shepherd to keep me from wanting as described in Psalm 23? If I do, then there is no room for fretting, or for being irritated at the other sheep for not stepping up to the plate when I ask them for something. But I continue to speak plainly of my desires to anyone who asks, because somewhere out there is the person or persons who will be used by God to answer the prayers I am laying at His feet.