Take a Break From the Battle

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dying man

I found myself face down in the Land of Burnout and that admission led to the chance to get way from home for a night and think and breathe and, most importantly, sleep.

I woke up on Saturday morning nearly bursting with excitement about my upcoming adventure, but—as with any big attempt at escape—there were some serious obstacles between me and my front door.

Obstacle #1: It's a lot of work to leave.  I made lists and lists for my family who would be caring for Steve. When and how to give meds. When and how to move him from bed to wheelchair to bathroom, etc. How to get through the night. So many lists. Having made the lists, I did a some cleaning and sheet-changing. It's just a lot of work to leave the house and Steve, when someone else is going to be stepping in to my spot (but I'm not complainin'—it was every bit worth it.)

Obstacle #2: This is the big one. The bad one. The one where I thought for sure my survival getaway was teetering on the brink of disaster. My sewer flooded. Not even kidding. This has happened about a half dozen times in the past 13 years—so it's not a regular occurrence, but it is a wretched one. Think: raw sewage flooding the floor of my laundry room. My heart sank when I realized what had happened. I can ask people to do a lot of things for me, but I cannot ask them to clean up raw sewage. I don't feel I can even ask my kids to do that. It's just ... beyond. Beyond the boundaries of favor-asking. I'm not proud of the text I sent Whit, but I'm going to share it with you so you understand my mental state at the time:

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My sewer just backed up again. No breaks. No breaks whatsoever in this dumb life.

Do you sense a little drama there? I assure you, I felt every inch of that despair. At the same moment of the sewer explosion, Steve had an urgent need and so I went to help him and I could not stop the tears. It was just the worst moment. And I know he felt every bit as bad as I did, but he had no words. He just shook his head sadly. I often forget how hard it would be to feel like you cannot help the people you love—especially for someone like Steve, who has always lived to help the people he loves. Truthfully, I don't actually forget; I just try to block those ideas from my mind because I can't even bear to think about all my husband is losing in this process. I went upstairs to change from get-out-of-town clothes into muck-out-the-laundry-room clothes, but Tori followed and sat me down and said this life-changing thing to me: "You need to leave. Right now. You need to grab your suitcase and get in your car and go. This is not your problem, it's OUR problem and we can solve it without you." I protested weakly and she put on her firmest voice and said, "Please don't take this wrong, but we are already losing one parent, we can't lose two. You need to leave and let us deal with this."

And I felt a flood of gratitude and relief so great I cannot describe it with words. So I did it. I left. I left my disabled husband and children sitting in a house with fundamentally yucky problems and I got the heck out of Dodge. This would not have happened four years ago, or four months ago or even four weeks ago. Until I reached this level of desperation, I would have let the obstacles win. I would have said, "Not gonna work this weekend." I would have felt noble and strong. And I also would have secretly resented all the weight that fell on me and no one else. And that resentment would have led to ... oh, OK—I guess we're caught up now.

I drove to Sunriver in a literal and emotional fog. First I turned on some music, then I turned it off and then on again. When I got there, the skies were pouring rain and it felt just like my heart. I checked into my room, turned on the fireplace and sat staring out at the meadow and mountains for I-don't-even-know-how long.


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