Friday, April 16, 2010

Monday April 12 – Entitled to Anger

It’s back to the rehab again. This is the second to last trip to Halifax.

You are excited about next week. It’s the Boston Marathon next Monday. You’ve already invited friends to share the experience with on April 19th. You want to track runners in the race virtually via the internet. You want see who you know that’s running in the race from Nova Scotia so that you can follow them though the race course. I expect this will be like reliving the 2009 Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon talk gives way to a Cabot Trail Relay (CTR) discussion. You are going for the weekend. We are all going. You want to follow your team-mates through the whole course. This would amount to a full 24 hours of being awake. I think I might have to be the voice of reason and try to get you to be a little less involved.

You are not ready to hear my voice of reason. You love the CTR and nothing is going to stop you from living the experience as fully as possible. I hope to be with you for part of the race, but the children want to visit their friends and Annie wants to see her doggy family, so most of the weekend you will be in the team’s care. I know you will be in good hands. I suspect Martha, a nurse and your best friend, will be my voice of reason by proxy. She has a lot more diplomacy then I do. You might listen to her.

You have a special surprise for the runners of your team that you are working on which has to remain a secret until then. Chris G suggested that you finish 17th leg of the CTR. He thinks that the team could get special permission to wheel you or have you walk the last little bit of the race. “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. That’s the glory leg … the last leg. It belongs to Edwin. He has earned it. He could do the top ten, for sure … maybe even the top five!”

As always, you are thinking about the joy of running not about yourself.

Then the conversation circles back to smoking again. I don’t know how many approaches I can take to dissuade you from smoking. As we talk, it occurs to me that you are literally, on the edge. You are constantly looking for something to be an excuse to smoke. “You didn’t call me this morning, the nurses are not nice, I got scolded again.” Yet you are also looking for a reason not to smoke. Up to this point, the reasons not to smoke have been about logistics. “I don’t have cigarettes, it’s too hard to get outside, I have to wait for someone to take me out, there is no lighter, these cigarettes are stale.”

I don’t have to give you barriers, you make your own barriers. I think there is a battle going on in your mind … to smoke or not to smoke. That is the question. At times you think that you could pull off a ‘mulligan’ with smoking. I am doubtful. I think you are too because you have also acknowledged that one cigarette leads to two, and two to three etc. To counter this you need a logistic barrier that is ‘out of your control’. It is like you are playing mind games with yourself … and me.

You think of the no-smoking challenge like a race. The problem with this metaphor is that the race never ends. Every day is a new challenge with a new finish line. You wish that, one day, you could just not need to think about not smoking.

It’s difficult for me to fully understand a smoking addiction. Three months ago, I didn’t even know that you smoked. I never heard you talk about smoking and I never saw you smoke. Hearing you obsess on the subject seems very odd.

We talk about how, in time, you will learn new ways to cope with the feelings that lead you the desire to smoke. The problem is that it is difficult to learn new things when you have a hurt brain especially when you are also struggling with other things. This was not a good time to stop smoking … you have a lot of stressors on your plate right now and smoking is a coping tool.

I remind you … although you have 225 days in now, you have only been a confessed smoker for 90 days. Change takes time.

Your favorite poem, ‘If’, has always brought you to tears. When I ask why, you said it was because of the line: ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run. Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!’

To you, the unforgiving minute represents your lost potential. You take the quote literally, Running is your way to compensate for the unforgiving minutes that you have lost. Without running, you feel less entitled, less of a man and less deserving of life on Earth.

“I don’t believe in God … I am angry at God. I have every right to question him. If he is real then he should have killed me back then.”

Without any prompting from me, you started to talk about how you think your role of father is going to grow. You see it the same way my psychologist sees it. Your father role will kick in slowly. It will not be something that you slip into right away. I’m pleased that you acknowledged this, because I see this already being the case.

It frustrates you when the children come to me with their problems and not you but you are gradually getting that back. It’s a practice thing. Most parents ease into the parenthood thing with newborns … stepping into the lives of a 10 and 8 (almost) year old is very difficult without causing some collateral damage.

Today, our family psychologist did more exploration about smoking and asked you about your feelings when you want to smoke. This has been a real sensitive spot between us. I try to be supportive and yet not enabling. That is a difficult compromise to achieve. I think that you don’t believe I have achieved it because, more then once, you said “I make you want to smoke”.

The psychologist thinks it would be wise for Tara to see a psychologist to help her understand the feelings that she has. Over the past few months, I have learned that understanding fosters acceptance of the feelings and this allows you to learn more about yourself.

I reflect on the last months, and sense a theme of anger. I’ve drifted in and out of anger for some time. Most of my anger is directed outwards to the hospital, and the people who try to help you and the system that supports them. Tara is entitled to her anger. You are entitled to yours … your anger with God.

It has been a yo-yo day and I have to leave for Truro when you are going on a down swing. Just as I was wondering how I was going to leave you in the emotional state that you were in … the chaplain (ironically) comes to visit you just as I leave. It really couldn’t be any more obvious, God isn’t punishing you, God is there to help at every turn … you just can’t see it right now.

On the drive home, I wonder why I am so tired. It’s the transitions. Transitions from nurturing mode to logistic mode. I have never been a person who can ‘change horses’ quickly. I have inertia and a momentum problem. The transition time is spent in the car. I try to decompress in the car so that I’m ready for my next shift in Truro.

The closer I get to Truro, the more tired I got. “I only have to do this for another two weeks.” I think aloud, trying to keep my eyes open. I finally limp into the driveway. I turn off the engine and tip the seat back and sleep … in the sunny car … in the driveway... for a full 45 minutes.

The sleep proved to restore me partially but not completely. To finish the job, I took Annie out for a walk. Then I was ready for the rest of the week ... Logistic mode.

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