There is a weariness of spirit, that I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to encounter.
My mom always taught me, growing up, that if I ever wanted to get myself out of a funk, or feel better, that all I needed to do was to help or do something nice for another person. And she was always right.
Up until this time, let’s see – 8 weeks now since my mom had her stroke – pouring myself out in service to my mom and dad has been everything I thought it would be. The joyful giver comes to mind. And if I’m honest, the giving felt good. My spirit was full of the joy that comes from helping and loving another person.
That’s been my mission and what I’ve felt called to do right now: simply to love.
To love in every way, shape, and form that brings. Whether that’s listening or comforting my mom when she’s feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. Whether it’s doing a humiliating dance or silly accent spontaneously to lighten the mood when people are down. Whether that’s emptying the dishwasher at 6:30 in the morning before the house wakes up or making sure there are groceries in the fridge. Or whether it’s just spending time with my father to let him know he’s not alone in this.
Love takes many forms. Forms that I was anticipating. Forms that I welcomed. And embraced.
But what about another form of love that is often not talked about.
What about when love hurts?
This is an oft overlooked aspect of love, because honestly, it’s not fun to discuss. It’s not pleasant to remember and usually painful to relive.
And well, I’m beginning to understand why.
I’ve been pretty emotionally blindsided here these last several days.
One of the things that I really didn’t appreciate about strokes was how much it can change a person, at least during the initial recovery period. Sure, there are the obvious changes: for many (thankfully not my mom): there are physical changes – challenges that require physical/occupational therapy to manage. But then there are the mental and personality changes, which are not so obvious, at least on the surface, but that can be, perhaps, even more devastating than the physical.
But my spirit has been redlining, getting beaten down by discouragement, and dwelling on the things I cannot change. Allowing myself to feel defeated or hurt by her moments of tension or acute frustration.
Things as simple as the air space in a room, that was once filled with overwhelming love and compassion from my mom, is now stagnant and often tense, perhaps even slightly charged.
And that hurts.
As I type this, my eyes are just waterfalls, spilling over all the fear and confusion and pain that I’ve been bottling up, being strong on the outside for my dad and for my family, but I honestly don’t know what to do.
I know that this behavior and display is not really my mom. Mood swings are par for the course and this is just a result of the trauma in her brain and an aftermath of the stroke. And it’s not all the time. But I am just beside myself and truly lost for what to say or what to do or anything.
And after an especially difficult episode, I had to just go upstairs and cry.
What, Lord, are you trying to teach me through this? How, Lord, can I love this woman in the way she needs right now? Help me, Lord, to speak the words she wants to and needs to hear.
This sluggishness of soul is new for me. I don’t feel myself. And I feel incapable of being the light and bringing the joy that my family so needs right now.
But I think what I need to remember is that, this “not myself” feeling I’m experiencing…my mom is experiencing this 100 times worse. Only she can’t express how she’s feeling and she doesn’t know how/if she’ll ever be fully back to herself. So the least I can do is offer compassion.
Going forward, I know things are going to probably get harder, not easier. But my presence at home has never been more needed. Not only for my mom, but also for my dad, as he’s feeling the pain of this new phase of recovery.
I need to remember that love can hurt. I just glanced up and saw the crucifix. And if that doesn’t exemplify the degree to which love can hurt, then I don’t know what else to say.
Love is not always a walk in the park. Love is a choice. And I am realizing that now more than ever. Even if that means enduring some tough moments that leave me feeling raw or with a trampled spirit.
We are called to love. Even when it hurts.
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