Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Having a chronic illness, disease or disability not only takes its toll on the patient but on all of the loved ones as well. I think this quote really embodies the relationship between Dan and I during this cardiac adventure.
Those who know me, know that I don’t like being pitied, babied or generally felt sorry for. My husband is the absolute best at honoring this wish. He doesn’t cut me a break on anything, unless I ask. You see, we’ve discussed my heart disease inside and out and he knows that if I’m asking for a break, I probably need one.
I was diagnosed in March 2008. Dan proposed in June and later that year I was told that I would never have children. I went back to Dan and gave him an ‘out’. To me his proposal had been with a woman able to have children and, knowing how important that was to him, I felt I needed to give him an opportunity to, well do that. He felt… that I was ridiculous for asking.
Dan was in Iraq when I was diagnosed and has had two other deployments since then. Even though he hasn’t literally been by my side, I know that I can count on him no matter what. When I’m in the hospital, he is always there. The only time I’ve gotten him to leave was when I was hospitalized after Mary Ann was born and she needed to have testing done. He left for her. If I am on an NPO (nil per os – nothing by mouth – no eating) he, much to my annoyance, does it with me. He generally rewards himself after with a cupcake. When meeting with doctors, he thinks of the questions I’ve forgotten and helps me process ‘the plan’. Dan hates hospitals and being in them for days wears on him as it would anyone. His coping comes in the form of humor… and naps.
When we are home Dan helps pick up my slack. I can’t do as much as I used to. Dan is a laundry BEAST! He can get 6 complete loads done in a day. He unloads the dishwasher every morning and picks up after the kiddos every night. Cooking used to be entirely out of his reach but he’s worked his way up to great stir-fry and a kick ass omelet!
Everyone copes differently in this situation. Dan and I are no different. I cope by keeping busy and keeping my mind off of the situation. I like to cook, hang out with friends and be out and about. Dan likes to similar things but when he is truly stressed out he copes the best by taking a nap. To each his own.
I love my husband and he takes wonderful care of me. That being said, like all husbands, he isn’t perfect. We both get annoyed at one another and have disagreements. Dan has had some really tough jobs over the past few years. During a particularly rough patch at work, I noticed we were arguing more than usual. It was easy for me to expect the same things at home from him but what I couldn’t see was how hard he was working outside of our home on top of picking up the slack for me. I needed to adjust my thinking.
When Dan and I have an argument, I like to do something nice for him. It sounds strange but when I’m annoyed doing nice for him accomplishes a few things. First of all it makes Dan happy. Truly isn’t that what marriage is about? Being happy with someone you love. It makes me feel happy because he’s happy. At that point it really defuses the issues and does one of two things:
A. It makes us realize how unimportant the argument was.
B. It gets us to a place when we can talk about the issue calmly and work to a resolution.
So, whether it is picking up his favorite candy at the store, doing some of his chores or working it out so he can go shoot skeet for a while, doing something nice for my husband, at the times I least feel like doing so, has helped me cope and made me happier during tough times.
I, Jenna Bell, need to let some things go and worry/stress less. My house isn’t always as clean as I’d like it to be. But my kids are happy and my hubby and I watch TV snuggle on the couch every night before bed. I consider that more important than a clean kitchen floor. I have the best team imaginable for my care and my husband is the best co-captain I could ask for. He may not be Mr. Perfect but he is Mr. Perfect-for-me!
Courage, dear heart. ~C.S.Lewis