(Part three of four musings on vanity’s role in my life.) I have always enjoyed being a person who is useful, who gets things done, who follows through on details, who is handy, who helps others more than needs help herself. I can still be that person in some realms, but not others. I am riding out some big changes in what I do with my life energy and trying not to let them get me down or make me feel less of a valuable person than before.
But. I am a Certified Professional Midwife but no longer attend births. That is big. I gave up being the primary midwife for homebirth clients just a few months after my diagnosis; I had one pregnant client when I was diagnosed and was committed to seeing that through, but I could tell I would not have the space in my new life to keep that up. I assisted at a few births here and there after that, but the last one was in January. Now I am not healthy enough to get up and go to a birth in the middle of the night. And whether I would have the energy and focus to be someone’s midwife, even for a prenatal visit, is not predictable from day to day. But it’s not just on that level that I can’t practice midwifery right now; being someone’s midwife means taking responsibility for someone’s care and prioritizing their needs sometimes over one’s own. Being seriously ill means I can’t hold that space for someone else; to do it with full intent and generosity requires emotional and practical and what I think I have to call spiritual dedication that I just can’t afford.
So I am no longer serving women and families in the way I planned to do.
For the last 10 years I have worked with Eric as project manager of our shared Web projects and also as a junior programmer (learning as I went along from him). But the stretches of time when I feel able to dig in and write code, or debug code, are pretty few these days. When I had chemo in 2006, it took me 8 months afterwards before my brain was clear enough to really start programming again. So maybe some of the same thing is going on, or maybe it just takes a level of focus that is hard to attain in between appointments, taking medication, various self-care tasks, and feeling too bad sometimes to concentrate on anything much. So in the realm of programming I am not useful right now (even for my favorite project, the MANA Stats Project).
I’m unsteady on the stairs so I can’t carry a laundry basket up or down, and right now I’m too weak and out of breath to carry our big salad bowl to potluck. I am no longer the person who carries a visitor’s suitcase up the stairs. In fact, I seldom carry my own backpack.
I am always looking out for things I can still do, like empty the dish rack or dishwasher, pay the bills, make calls, deal with the junk mail, and fold the laundry (while seated on the couch). I like to find favors to do for people with the skills and abilities and time that I have–like fix an earring, or superglue a mug back together, or do the paperwork to sign a friend up for EZ-Pass. It’s important to me to still be useful–somehow. I am vain about, or overly attached to, being that person in the lives of others. When I can’t be useful, and the flow of help is even more one-way than it is now, will I still be as accepted and as loved?
P.S. Friends say that having the opportunity to help me and love me is the favor I am doing them, the gift I am giving them now. I hear that, but I think I am maybe not big-hearted enough to really understand it yet.