Thursday, January 20, 2011

She's Making It Through the Rain

I often say that working as a singing waiter was the best job I've ever had. In fact, if you are a regular follower of the blog, you have even watched me say it when I vlogged with two of my former co-workers (e.g., Paul and Pam).

They, of course, were my husband Mark's former co-workers, too. Clearly, the best part of my job at Carvers Restaurant was meeting him: my soul mate. But a close second was the opportunity to regularly stand around a grand piano and sing my heart out during two to three dinners shows each week (five to seven during the holidays) plus a weekly Saturday morning rehearsal. Great song selections, talented coworkers, charming atmosphere, delicious food. Music wove this enchanted environment together in a way that continues to evoke peace, belonging and joy, eons after we lived those moments in real time.

This week I've picked up a vibe from Pam's Facebook updates. It's a vibe I recognize: Life isn't comfortable right now. The details of what she is dealing with day to day don't match the feelings associated with life as it should be. Unfortunately, that's the way it is when you live year after year with cancer and cancer treatments (and she's doing it as a single mother of a preteen). It's also the way it is when your life has been shaped by the needs of an adult child with disabilities for close to 20 years, and you realize those years will extend either the duration of your life - or his.

When you are living with chronic health issues, the demands of daily life regularly override how you want to feel. You have to fight to keep yourself above the threshold of what you personally find tolerable. Some days you want to be alone with your struggle. Other days you want people to recognize that you need support. Rare is the day you ask for the support you need. You simply don't want to become another person's tidal wave.

In Involuntary Joy, I attempt to describe the sensations that shape this type of existence using water. I acknowledge times I have felt overwhelmed - swallowed by the latest wave created by a personal financial storm, a poor health storm, a dysfunctional relationship storm, or an employment storm. Sometimes a perfect storm of emotions - created by swirls from each crises - threaten to drag me down.

As I describe in the book, I have learned to employ nostalgia therapy when I recognize that I am standing in torrents of rain. At those times, I whisk myself back to when life felt magical and pregnant with possibilities that I had yet to ponder. For me - and for Mark as well - that time, that place, is Carvers.

Here's what I shared in Involuntary Joy:

Carvers Restaurant had been our Camelot, the magical location of our first meeting and subsequent courtship...No matter how many dined in the restaurant's Chalet Room those glorious evenings, I could always count on one pair of eyes to lock on mine across a finely laden sea of glassware and candlelight...At Carver's I had never seen pain in Mark's eyes. But sitting in the exam room room where we learned of our miscarriage, I could see his pain - feel it even. Had it been possible, I'd have transported us back to the place where our dreams had essentially begun-back to a time when he was the tenor with a huge smile, and I was the flirtatious alto who always managed to be near him ...

I sense that Pam is experiencing a flood that feels overwhelming - things caused by drenching emotional rain that shows no sign of stopping. But those like Pam (and Mark and me) who have stood in such a rain know that it eventually does stop, even if we can't anticipate when or how.

We also know that when it stops, we will find ourselves standing with our shoulders back again, with smiles feeling easy again, and words coming out softer and measured again. And, we won't need to cry tears of release just to breathe deeply anymore.

Essentially, we will find that we have made it through the rain, and - as Barry Manilow helped us recognize - we may even feel respected by the others who have been rained on too and have also made it through.

This is for you, dear Pam. I respect you. I believe in you. I am with you. I hope this bit of nostalgia therapy will help you ride out this storm.

Love, Joy

13 comments:

CathyO said...

The writing here is lovely, Joy. Very lyrical and fitting for such a topic.

I find it interesting that being nostalgic helps you. It's still too painful for me to go back to those years..I shut those thoughts down and force myself to look forward. You are very strong to be able to do so. Thanks for some kind words about struggle.

Joy said...

Cathy - For me, it's a touchstone that reminds me of what it feels like to not worry about the future - before an inexplicable future finds you. I cannot imagine how it must be for you. Do you hope to be able to go back and visit the "blissful before" sometime? Without a painful pit stop? If so, I pray that you'll be able to make that journey soon, and then return today with your hope restored.

pamela said...

My Dear Joy,

I am so honored and touched that I just can't tell you what is truly on my heart. You are very perceptive to know and sense what has been laying heavy on my heart these past few days. You have become a dear and trusted friend and I am so blessed. I miss these days at Carvers, little did I know how many times I would look back and reflect. For just a moment I wish we could go back to a time where my passion of music was fulfilled and overflowing. My love and blessings to you and yours, always!

Kati Potratz said...

Thanks for the paragraph that begins with "When you live with chronic health issues...". Yep.

Joy said...

Kati-

I actually was reflecting on our recent message exchanges when I wrote that ... cool to see how you found it! I hope your days are going well.

Joy said...

...and my friend, KaKi ... You out there, KaKi? ;-)

Craig B said...

Joy, I am not supposed to be bawling before 9am on a Saturday. Thank you for all you do and are. You so often make such impacts on others and you don't have any idea. It was do good to hear "my singers" and be able to pick everyone's voices out. Thanks Kiddo!

Todd said...

Joy your words are such a treasure and a gift to us. I enjoy reading your blog. Have a peace-filled day!

Joy said...

Craig and Todd - How very kind of you. Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know. Peace to you in return.

CathyO said...

"an inexplicable future finds you." You are a gifted writer.

Joy said...

I am inspired by those who inspire me. Your life wrote those words. ;-)
Have a great day ...

KaKi said...

Yep, I am here. On a day where I have once again been reminded that I can't do as much as I used to. A day that could really get me down. But your words may have turned the tide, maybe I won't be swallowed now, but just knocked around a bit as the waves will do. Thank you. You know, I used to love that song, but never truly understood its meaning until now. Thanks!!

Joy said...

Ride the waves, KaKi ... ride the waves!