As a therapist, I can buffer a patient during a treatment session to allow them to succeed with a task. I ask a question, give them a cue, prompt them with information – we are trained to give assistance, and not the answer, to allow someone that is having difficulty with a task the opportunity to succeed. This takes a lot of skill to not just give the answer to someone, but to guide them to the answer so they can achieve it on their own.
During a week long vacation, I became acutely aware of how much I buffer Frank throughout each day, each interaction – at home, at the store, with family, and with the kids. Constant nudges in the right direction, ranging from a head nod, a finger point, all the way to “nope, that is not correct.” When I notice this the most is when I am not there, and he struggles with a task that he should be able to do. Then I feel bad that I am not making it easier for him to complete, not there to assist him, not there to ensure his feelings are not hurt, so he does not feel bad.
I am protecting him – from everything. And I became aware that maybe I am the cause of his frustration right now. I am constantly the one to “do” things.
Now, there are two legitimate reasons for this. Yes, I am defending my actions to myself. One, I am the wife of a LEO, which means I have spent his career running the house, the kids, the schoolwork, etc by myself for years. Not good, but our reality with his schedule. Second, he almost died, and I have spent the last (almost) six months by his side pushing him to strive for more.
What to do? Change a behavior that I have ingrained into myself – don’t ask for help, just get it done – or give him the tools to do things himself, make it on his own, make errors, and let him come to me to help sort them out if he cannot do it on his own??
How does one do that, after I have held so tight to him for so long?
I was recently told by someone in my family that sooner or later I am going to have to let go of this great sadness that sits in my chest. I acknowledged that it is present, accounted for, wrapped up tight in a box in my heart. I am aware that continuing to hold on to such a great deal of pain, anxiety and clear anguish from the day of the accident is unhealthy.
What would you do, six months later, with that box of pain?
Do you let it out? Do you let others in? Do you keep it there and pray it goes away?
I don’t have the answer to those questions
Frank and I have had so many amazing conversations lately, many centered around the kids, and their interpretation of events and conversations that occur as a family. These have led to more positive interactions, understanding of the need for patience, and communication moments that show the ability to recall suggestions, and using them later in a new situation. Those abilities are a wonder to see, and bring renewed hope for recovery.
Fatigue is Frank’s constant reminder of the accident – not a friend for sure, but always present each day. Frank continues to see pushing against fatigue as the way to conquer it – I know that napping and rest is the way to slay that dragon. A man such as Frank, with drive and a force of will that relishes in pushing, fighting, and breaking things in his way, has no point of reference for beating something with a nap.
It is a battle that needs small victories, and lots of time.
And time is something that Frank feels he is fighting against – he is bored, and napping does not feel like a remedy to boredom.
New games on his iPhone help – word puzzles, building towers, managing stores – all help with his processing and ability to multi-task. All important skills to relearn, faster and more difficult every day.
We get ready to start our new week with a slower pace, less scheduled, no pending events, summer activities, and hopefully less stuff. My hope is that with the summer comes new peace for us all.
I think we deserve a little peace.