I was reflecting this morning (July 8) on how life is so often a mixture of good and bad, what we want and what we would never choose. July 8 is one of those days where this idea is very much at the forefront of my mind, perhaps especially this year.
July 8, 1990 was the day my Mom died (Angeline (Nostbakken) Holtslander 1927-1990) at 0200 and also the day heather and I got engaged to be married at 1500 (3:00 PM if the 24 hour clock has you buffaloed). Lots of people have questioned my (and heather’s, I suppose) sanity for getting engaged on the same day my Mom died and while I can see their point, they don’t get my point, namely, on a day of death, we stuck our flag in the ground forever for life. The two events are inextricably linked, of course, but is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Life and death are, odd as it might be to put it this way, both part of life. We can’t live as if either one of them isn’t a reality so putting them together in an inescapable way helped me, and continues to help me, not lose sight of them both. I don’t live my life thinking of death all the time but I don’t live my life thinking it goes on as I see it forever either.
I wonder if this realization helped me see how much I needed to address the intolerable stress I am under. I use the present tense today because it is still too much. I am deeply grateful for a workplace (shout out to iQmetrix!) that has allowed me to take time away because of the totality of my life. I have said it before and it bears repeating, if I was at work while all this was going on, I simply couldn’t continue.
When I first went on stress leave I envisioned days with naps, reading, writing, walking, that sort of thing. Life, however, had other things in mind.
On June 2, one of our kids and his kids, moved in with us. I was still at work and thought it would be fine. The grandkids, ages 5 and 3, were going to daycare so heather and I needed to provide care for them only when their Dad was at work outside of daycare hours. As it turned out, it wasn’t so fine and I went on leave June 16. This opened up some time during the day for me to work on recuperating. But June 19 was the last time the kids went to daycare for reasons which are someone else’s story to tell. From then until July 1 they were at our house 24/7 and, with heather working, a lot of the daytime care fell to me. It is providential, or a delightful coincidence if you prefer your God-moments to be anonymous, that I didn’t have to go to work during this period but it certainly didn’t match up with the vision of rest I had. On July 1 they moved into their own place (so thankful they found a great place in such a short time!), but we have had the kids here whenever their Dad is at work since they moved in.
I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, I love my kids and my grandkids. I am happy I am able to be useful when they need me. The truth of all of this, unfortunately, is that I don’t have the freedom to use all the time I think I need to get better. It has turned out that the only stressor removed was work and several of the others became more intense.
In the middle of this, I got a call from the insurance company which is covering my short-term disability. It was an odd and irritating (and ultimately quite stressful, how’s that for an irony) call. I was forced to defend my psychiatrist’s decision to put me on leave even though none of my treatment was changed. The call took such an unexpected turn, it wasn’t until I got off the phone that I realized they didn’t consider stress leave to be a therapeutic decision and were looking for an increase in medication to “prove” I needed time off. I still don’t know what to do with the call. It makes no sense to me at all. If they are concerned about the reliability of the diagnosis and treatment . . . why ask me?
The grandkids were here for the workday today and I’d like to say I was a perfect Grandpa, whatever that might mean, but I was me, not a greeting card. They were fed when they were hungry, read to when they wanted a book. I watched them play on the trampoline and in the sandbox and found things for them to watch. The part of me that says, “You didn’t do enough” is the part I’m working at ignoring because it isn’t making anything, least of all me, better. I was able to provide the care they needed and also take some time for myself to rest.
The besetting temptation when I am in this is to think, “This is life now and it will always be this way.” But that’s a lie. I can get better and I will. I see my therapist tomorrow, at least as I write this, and she has proved helpful over and over again. I have a supportive family. I have a deep sense God is happy with what I’m doing. I will keep going, doing as much as I am able in this current iteration of me, not trying to do what I could do when I was in my 30s or 40s, and I’ll come out the other side.
Disclaimer: not sure if this is actually a disclaimer or not but if you would prefer to only get notification when a sermon is posted, let me know and I’ll see if I can figure out some way to make that happen. Your alternative is to make a rule in your email app to delete anything from me that has “Stress Leave – ” in the title which should accomplish the same thing.