Friday, July 2, 2010

The Fall and Rise of the Swords-Woman

I.
Once upon a time, when I was looking for direction in life, I took a battery of psych and vocational tests. Just off the internet--I did not want to pay whatever the Psychological Examiners charged.

I told a co-worker, a clear introvert, that I was taking a test on whether I was an extrovert or an introvert. The co-worker smiled a tiny smile and walked out of the office.

I called her back. "I just realized, if I was an introvert I would never have told you that." The introvert could not stop giggling. Darn it.

Another thing about this test? I am a crusader, an Extrovert Ntuitive Feeling Perceiver. It's the NF that makes the crusade. We fight for the underdog, but we are not ourselves underdogs. Or at least, I think it makes us lonely but active people. When we are active, the lonely doesn't matter as much.

And perhaps inexplicable on the MBTI test: I frequently believe that true morality lives at some distance from certitude. Maybe that's the Perceiver initial--as opposed, in the test, to the Judgment. I'm just about half and half there.

II.
Those days of looking for direction were right after my husband died, and I was living hand to mouth before the probate was completed. Good thing I had a job: all hell needed to be cleaned up. After that, I had a future that had to be addressed. All in all, I'd had several scary years, and they didn't stop being scary after that.

As Hagakure says, you must be inward and outward. I also think you have to be in the right culture, one that will cut breaks for merit, and I wasn't. Everybody just needed more, or, they had dropped off early during the course of the fight (his family (except my 87 year old F-I-L, a  perpetual exclusion from this generality) and our friends), or had kept their distance from the start (my family, his colleagues).

But I knew how to look for help. I just thought I wouldn't need it this time, or I didn't have time for it. Help would eventually show up, or I would get enough sleep or through the briars eventually. Bit by bit I walked into the shadows and didn't realize how infinitesimally less light there was at each step.

Self-help and high standards were not good enough. Neither was flexibility or acceptance.

III.
My husband had recently undergone surgery for brain cancer. He had been scheduled for a post-op MRI. Afterwards, we were eating at a lunch counter.

"Today's my fortieth birthday," I reminded him. That was the first anyone had mentioned it. We were in a crisis--you know we were.

He raised an eyebrow and gave me a supercilious look. It perfectly conveyed: So What.
He had a point. But I didn't like it. It hurt my feelings. And it was not a good sign of my husband's ability to win allies for his recovery.

I have celebrated my birthday alone for over ten years.

IV.
When my husband died, it had been two long years of never knowing what would happen next, and two years of not knowing what was wrong before that. I never slept more than two hours at a time and I never cried except when I woke up from a nightmare. I had a full time job and that kept me sane. I worked mostly afternoon shifts, the three to midnight, so that I could take care of details during the day, go to doctor appointments, work the finances, keep the house, manage my husband's aftercare, listen to his frustrations, persuade, nag, trick, or prepare him into doing whatever had to be done, and give him room to choose, as an adult can, whenever it wasn't life and death. My days off were planned around chemotherapy or emergency repair of bad decisions during the week. I did heroic work, and I did it alone. I know this and I knew it at the time.

He hated me for it. I don't exaggerate this, but it wasn't an adult hate. I don't blame him for that emotion. He made sure his family was dissatisfied with me, although they were free to hate at leisure. (He did or said something to his mother that ensured she would never visit again. I don't know what it was-she wouldn't say. She just took a cab to the airport.)

They were wrong to buy into it, but I don't blame him for the trashing. You have to understand that he wasn't himself, and whatever straw he could grasp to make it, I wanted him to have it. I didn't want to be hated, of course not. But it was not a fixable condition. I was what he could no longer be: the responsible party, the lucky one. The closest, most visible reminder of what he had lost. And the safest target.
A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation.  --Bertrand Russell.
This quote leaves me  nowhere to go and no way to feel that I loved him enough. It's true for my husband's side though. I understand what Russell means. It also doesn't cover everything, because patient resignation is too static a description for a caregiver. And my husband couldn't really tell if he was liked or not. 

He retained all his intelligence, but he could never use it wisely after that. He could remember being fully competent, but he couldn't add new competencies or use the ones he had struggled to master. Now you think about how horrible that would be.

He couldn't access the mood in a room to understand distress, tension, lies, truths, scams, or signs of new developments. He retained small glimpses of sweetness, like a boy's sweetness, but the considerate man was gone.  His personality did not survive. His brain was compromised.

And I think my brain paid. I think it lost some physical function from over-use of neurotransmitters and lack of sleep. I lost psychological wellness. I think I used my inside up. And even a 65% extrovert can't function without an interior, so I dropped the sword, too, eventually. I was incapacitating and couldn't see the wounds well enough to note the severity.

V.
There are people out there today, with spouses or children who went to Iraq, Afghanistan, the corner grocery store, and suffered trauma: an IED, an AK round, an auto or Humvee accident that induced brain injury. Those wives and mothers, husbands and fathers now have a spouse or child who is but mostly is not the same person. I know what that's like. If I could tell them anything, I'd say: if you aren't well, if you don't renew your inner self, you can't fix a damn thing for your son or husband in the long run.
"That which does not kill me, makes me stronger."--Freidrich Nietzsche.
Frankly, I think Nietzsche is full of crap on this one. It depends on how much rest you get between killer agonies.

For people caring for those with brain trauma, I know it's impossible to predict when that renewal might somehow be made available. Or affordable. You have to go after it, and you have to pay when it's not free. If you can pay, then do pay. It's cheaper in the long run. You do not want to live the un-life I ended up with for more than a half-decade, when the fighting finally slowed down, and I realized I was alone, but not that I was debilitated.

VI.
So this year. For my birthday I am going to dinner with a friend on the Board. I look better, I think I understand better, and I think every step I take is infinitesimally closer to light. I am not younger now than I was eleven years ago. But I am vastly younger than I was two years ago.

As a matter of fact, I looked damn good yesterday in my purple skirt and green jacket. Like a fox, and getting stuff done. I went to two social or semi-social gatherings last week. So,
Happy Birthday to me! I am 51 today, unbelievable! Pretty sure I'll be standing with broadsword in hand by next year, fighting for myself and whatever worthy cause may come up.

I guess this is a risky and too-personal post. On the other hand, who else but an extrovert crusader with off-center but definite morals is going to tell you these things? Maybe it will help somebody down the road. It helps me to write it out.


I like tarot cards, but I would have used a swordswoman instead. Unfortunately in the photos I found, none of the woman had any clothes on, and several looked like they would impale themselves immediately.

16 comments:

Gia's Spot said...

Ann T;
This was an especially insightful post. You have shared with us, your readers, your followers, the part of your life that brought you to us. All the knowledge you willingly share with us, tell us grows from that life that you led. I am once again amazed at your strength of character, your love for your husband and your honesty with your feelings about yourself. Thank you for allowing us, me, to join your daily thoughts, sharing a cup of tea, perhaps, while reading. I for one, look forward to the day you decide to reveal yourself in real time and we all meet for a great time!
Have the happiest birthday day, ever! As you walk your 51st year, know that you DO make a great difference in alot of our lives!
Always,
Gia

Bob G. said...

Ann:
I am so appreciative of you whenever you delve into the human condition...
Reminds me a lot of myself.

And as far as the introvert/extrovert...I used to be terribly INtroverted, but as grew up (and discovered my Dramatics teacher, Tom Quinlan), it became more "selective" in nature.
And to this day, it's still that way.

I'm pretty gragarious as those who know me will attest, and yet there is ALWAYS parts of myself that will share only with MYSELF.
I don't feel it selfish in any way, but more selfless.
I know me better than most everyone else.

Everyone has baggage in life, both good AND bad.
How we choose to carry it (or not) determines much of who we eventually will become, as well as how we interact with others of both like and dislike demeanor.

Now, then...where's MY PORTER???

And yes, I do choose my "windmills" carefully.
(maybe I should have named my cat "SANCHO"?)

:)
Have a great weekend.

Ann T. said...

Dear Gia,
Thank you for a sweet comment. I'm pretty sure this is TMI for most of my readers.

I did love him so much, and he was worth loving. The last years were hard but I needed and was happy in every single minute of the years we had before that--even the ick minutes, LOL.

Thanks for the birthday wishes too! How did I get so dang old?

xoxo
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

And P.S. I'd love to drink tea and coffee in real time and real space!

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
Thank you for the insights. I too think I have secrets, but as a true extrovert I learn more by expressing them outside myself, either in the crusade or the biography!

As for your PORTER, ROFL!!! He's headed to my house!!! I have some baggage to get rid of!!

Have a great 4th Weekend,
and thank you,
Ann T.

Yul_B said...

Did your late husband's illness kill you or make you stronger? It obvioulsy killed him.... there was no "between time".

Just sayin'....

Ann T. said...

Dear Yul B.,
Nietzshe's formulation does not include enough options. The answer is in the post.

I am always interested in thoughtful comments. You have a nice day.
Ann T.

The Bug said...

First of all - happy birthday! I'm glad you're celebrating (have celebrated? I've lost track of time up here on the lake) with a friend.

Second - I think we've discussed this before, but I'm an ISTP - Dr. M is an INFP - & boy are you guys hard to live with (just kidding - I think the I/E difference is actually pretty big). But crusader is right - you should see his facebook rants.

Third - I wish I could be there to give you a hug (you're an extrovert - I think you could handle it). I'm going to share this with Dr. M because just today he was trying to figure out why his brother hates him. His brother and his brother's wife both have incurable illnesses that will eventually kill them. And your post here goes a long way toward explaining that hatred.

Be well - & rejoice in how far you've come!

the observer said...

Ann T:

More in a minute, I read this post this a.m. and was just blown away in a good way, and I need to reread it but I wanted to make sure that I said this...

I hope your birthday was fabulous in every way!!


The Observer

the observer said...

Ann T:
Well, I'm back and blown away again.

I don't think people understand what impact anything physically traumatic happening to the brain can have. Just these past days, news has come out that Chris Henry, a 25 year old football player who died in a fall had the kind of changes in his brain matter usually seen in a much older retired athlete. Mr. Henry has had all kinds of troubles during his early 20s, related to decision making, impulsiveness and executive function and only in the last six months of his life had been able to handle things well. Perhaps his brain having healed a bit? (Nervous tissue can heal, especially if fed the correct nutrients.) It is unfortunate especially that those important to you and your husband did not/could not understand this and roll better with the behavioral punches. Their memories are marred with these last days.

The role of the caregiver is only now beginning to be appreciated, as our population ages. The rules that apply to EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors apply to non professional caregivers too. You must take time to care for yourself. For the caregiver to confess a need, or a hurt, or just being tired--well, some around the family unit may find that self indulgent--but it is the right thing for sanity.

When stress is done, we are not the same as when we started, we are changed. It's what we do at that point that makes us stronger. Nietzshe is too closed here, you're right.

I'm glad you posted this--it does help. For all of us walking through the valley of the shadow of death or have walked through and now are trying to figure out what next.

I think that covers it--another epic comment brought to you by
The Observer
INFP--by the way. I can look extroverted, but it costs me. I need my recharge time. The "P"? I'd rather be a "J" but I just can't get organized! (Why I am not a full time ICU nurse...)

Ann T. said...

Dear The Bug,
Yes, I am just done celebrating. I had a great dinner and best of all witty company! He is a very nice man.

Second, yes, i think we crusaders ARE hard to live with! just when everyone's ready to zone, here they come, with some new tempestuous problem and in the extrovert case, they will not shut up about it. In the introvert case, i bet you know what they are thinking just as plain as day. Here's where you get your hug back!

If it helps even as a springboard, then that helps me feel I have not been self-indulgent. So go for it!

Many hugs back,
and Happy Fourth of July Weekend,

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Thank you very much for another epic comment!

This is what my first therapist said, and what I suspected, that my brain was not the same. It's one of those miracles that you can actually fix it by talking, reviewing, journaling, and trying again. So far I have had no luck on meds and refuse to use them ever again.

For my husband, the talking, reviewing, and journaling were not an option. So there are limits to this too.

I am afraid as the population ages, the fatigue we feel towards those that need us is only going to grow as a society. The resources available might indeed be better, I don't know.

Anyway, as I said to The Bug, if it helps, then good. I want it to be more than just about me. And it helps me to know that what I learned might be of value!

Last of all, us Perceivers are disorganized b/c the Judgers have already set up the categories! It is not that we can't fit most everything into their categories, and useful categories they are!

However, there is always some stuff left over, and it accumulates into the "wrestle with this one" pile instead of the "dustbin" pile.

We need those judgers, of course, I think they see similarities and perceivers see exceptions.

Just as some introvert has to giggle at some extrovert with a secret from time to time.

Thank you very much, as always a lot of thought. I wish all my electronic neighbors could meet in one great place! What a conversation! Maybe I will get to So. KC someday.
Ann T.

truck6alpha said...

Ann T.,

Sorry for not visiting in a while; it appears as if there was a lot to read on my return. You write so beautifully and I like reading it (and wish I were nearly as creative).

I thought I'd share my Myers-Briggs: I'm an ENTJ. One of my colleagues said that I'm on a quest for global domination. I don't think it's that bad of an idea, but I'm a realist.

I really like the memorial, by the way, and you're right; sometimes the best things are just left alone (we don't want the rest of the world to know they are there).

Keep writing and Feliz Compleanos a ti!

Mick

Ann T. said...

Dear Mick,
I'm always glad to see you when you get here. Door's open whenever you can make it.

That quest for world domination or even good leadership from others takes a lot of time. As a crusader, I understand this perfectly!

Thank you for all the kind words. I'll be writing and coming by to read on a regular basis.

It was a happy birthday.
Sincerely,
Ann T.

peedee said...

Oh man. I missed this. I'm so sorry. Like I said, I love celebrating others birthdays and this one is a celebration of recovery, recognition and so much other stuff.

You know I love you Annie. Thanks for all you do for me....all the time, everytime.

Happy Birthday Sister!!

Love,
Me!!

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
You were on your way to Operation Rock n Roll or RNR Tinker. We're all good!

Anyway, thank you!

Love,
Ann T.