For better or worse, I mainly use this little corner of the Internet to reflect and share my thoughts on student affairs. My career is certainly important to me, but because I focus so much of my energy on my full-time job, my blogging and the professional organizations with which I’m involved, it’s easy to shelve the other pieces of my life. They are no less important; in fact, in many cases they bear greater weight on my daily life.
It has been almost a year since I shared publicly via another blog that my mother is ill. I rarely write about it and only occasionally even discuss it with those closest to me. The past year has seen ups and downs, including her decision over the summer to stop treatment and transition to hospice care. But don’t let the word hospice fool you – she’s active and traveling, still having sleepovers with my four-year-old nephew, and hasn’t missed an opportunity to nag me lovingly.
But what strikes me about the past year is how my identity has finally, after much struggling, absorbed this role as daughter of a sick parent. It’s present in every moment of my day, every day, even when I’m not conscious of it. I see it in the way I respond to my cell phone ringing unexpectedly midday, it changes what I watch on television and the books I read, it changes my friendships with those around me.
Two of my friends identify with this part of my life more than anyone else in my social circle. We’ve formed an exclusive club of the saddest sorts around this common experience. We share the difficult moments, find the levity in the lighter moments, reach out to one another and respect when one of us needs to back away for a bit. This experience wasn’t what brought the three of us together; it’s one of many threads that keep us connected to one another.
One of those friends, K, has been on my mind a lot this past week as his mother’s health recently declined. He left early this week to be with her and his family. I sent him a quick note upon finding out he was leaving and then later in the week sent him a text message to tell him I was thinking of him – because I honestly was (and still am).
Watching someone you love go through this makes you feel helpless in a way you never anticipated. Being on both sides of this experience gives me new perspective. I understand how strong the desire is to reach out to a friend, but at the same time feel grossly inadequate to say or do anything meaningful. I also know how important those phone calls, text messages and e-mails are, and at the same time feel grossly inadequate to respond appropriately when they are received.
I’m planning to write more about this part of my life over the coming days, weeks and months. I hope it doesn’t deter my student affairs friends from continuing to visit. Actually, I hope it inspires more of them to let others see who they really are and the other pieces of their lives that form their identity.