11 May The Big Rewrite
I am behind in writing my May blog. It’s about being busy but it’s also about deciding what to write about and dealing with how it feels to write about some topics. Last month in The Thread Runners, I wrote about people who chase story lines of possible outcomes into the future but often through the lens of depression and anxiety. This month’s post is also about stories.
The stories I am thinking about this time are the stories of “the way life is supposed to go” followed by the difficulty of how to manage when the stories get altered by some major life occurrence. Examples of the sorts of events that change our stories include untimely death of a loved one, a major illness, being terminated from a job, an extramarital affair, a divorce, and any number of others, both good and bad (yes, even the good unexpected changes can be difficult).
In this case, I can draw from my own life. When my mom and dad got married, my dad was in the Navy and life laid out before them in a very positive narrative. Dad and mom were going to see the world through dad’s Navy career and then live wherever they wanted after he retired. That could go back home to the mountains or anywhere else they chose. They would have a couple of kids along the way and my mom would likely fill the traditional 50s role of wife, mom, and homemaker. It’s a good story.
The story was obliterated when mom was pregnant with me in 1956. Dad got very, very sick and for a bit they worried about him even surviving. He recovered some but it was also determined that he had contracted multiple sclerosis. They were both in their early 20s and didn’t know much about what MS was but soon began to realize that life would likely not play out as they had planned.
His MS, of course, cost him his military career and was the sort that took him on a steady physical and emotional decline for the next 30 years until he passed away in 1986. The fact is, it was horrible and excruciating for both him and mom. It was tough on my big brother and me as well but the truth is, we never really knew him before he was sick. Dad (very poorly) had to rewrite his story from vital husband and Navy man to a declining, weakening, falling and failing man who lived the last few years of his life bedridden. Mom (very courageously) had to rewrite her story from classic mom and housewife to essentially single parent to two growing boys and 24/7/365 care provider to a sick, sad, depressed and physically failing husband. It was a hard rewrite for both of them and for everyone who knew what was “supposed to be” for Ernest and Betty Kincaid.
Maybe their story has helped in forming my own story in that I try to help as many people as I can to manage their own rewrites and to do so with courage and hope. My friends, it’s hard when life throws you a future altering event but I can tell you from my work and from up close observation that it is possible that the rewritten story does not always have to remain a tragedy.