On Wednesday, I woke up earliest, as usual. EJ works second shift and JJ is a night-owl so they go to bed later than me and sleep later in the morning. I had to wake EJ and JJ at 9 a.m. so we’d have enough time to get to the lab for JJ’s blood test. We arrived at the lab at the perfect time–there wasn’t anyone ahead of us. When JJ’s number was called a minute after we arrived, I went in with him to distract him while his blood was being drawn. JJ has always been healthy and until last month he had never had any blood tests or surgeries.
The blood test was quickly over, and then we drove to the meat market where we buy our meat. After a bad experience at the market we used to go to (that market wasn’t all that honest and we saw a worker hugging cuts of beef to his dirty apron, which turned our stomachs), I searched the internet and found this one a couple of years ago. They raise and butcher their own cattle, are very clean, and have many awards on their walls. We bought some ground beef, all beef bologna, and a few patio steaks
Thursday was a tough day for JJ emotionally. His illness stressed him, he was discouraged that he can’t go to work or college, he is frustrated that he can’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds, and he felt lonely. I had told him to expect to have a few bad days as he deals with this, but it’s still difficult when they come. Difficult for me too. I have been through some tough situations, and I got through them so I know he will have to learn to deal with and overcome his own trials, but it’s tougher to watch my son struggle then to go through difficult situations myself. When life seems terrible a person isn’t always ready to hear advice, so there’s not a lot I can do except hug him and tell him I love him.
By the next morning, JJ was doing better even though he hadn’t slept much the night before. I asked him if he wanted to go to the store with me for a change of scenery. He said he did, so we drove off for a drive through the beautiful autumn countryside to the store. I love car rides because they provide such wonderful opportunities to talk. An Internet friend had told JJ that he was “boring.” Honestly, I had a brief moment in which I felt like punching that Internet friend. JJ doesn’t need stuff like that right now.
However, I restrained myself and I told my son that I had just had some awesome insight the other day that “everyone is the star of his own life” and they all interpret everything from their own perspectives. This means that their own desires and needs seem more important than those of others. This sounds–and can be–selfish, but really all we have is our perspective to see things through. A healthy person can understand that just because something isn’t important to him, it doesn’t mean it’s not important to another person, and to also value what’s important to others. A healthy person will also understand that there must be a balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves. I mean, it’s possible to put others first to an unhealthy extent. I think it sounds really spiritual to say “always put others first” and I used to try to always put others first, but after many years I realized that there is no way I–or anyone–can meet all the expectations and demands of others and stay sane. No one can please everyone all the time. The key is balance. For example, last weekend was EJ’s mother’s birthday, and a sister-in-law emailed us to see if we were going. I recognized that it was very important to her, more important, at that moment, than anything else. Normally, it would have been very important to us to go too. However, right now our most important focus is JJ’s health. Doing what is best for him comes first above everything else. We won’t go to functions if we determine that JJ can’t handle it. EJ would have gone to the party without us except he had to work last weekend. So in this situation we put our own family before others, even those we love deeply. I know that some people get upset if others don’t do what they think is important, but I’ve come to believe that most people do the best they can and when there is different desires and expectations and choices, people have to determine what they can or cannot do. I tend to not get upset if others make decisions that do not agree with mine. In fact, I try to encourage people to put their own families first, and I respect their rights to make their own decisions.
Anyway, I told JJ on our drive to the store that if someone is “different,” people often call that one “weird, stupid, boring, or not funny.” I had a sister who told me throughout my childhood that I was “boring” because I liked to read. I did other things too, but any time I did something she didn’t want to do–like read–she told me I was boring. She told me so often that I believed her and for a long time I didn’t think anyone would like me because I was “boring.” But eventually I realized that I was boring only to people like her. There are plenty of people, including my husband, who think I am interesting and who appreciate that I read and ponder–because they also love to read and ponder. Through many of our adult years, this same sister told me that I wasn’t funny. She even said loudly at her birthday party a few years ago, “See, TJ? This is what it’s like to have fun.” It got very annoying, but I refused to let it define me. We are different people, not the same. I have lots of fun, and plenty of people appreciate my sense of humor, but my sister never really understood me. To her, because I was different from her, I was “less.” I think her humor tends to be more goofy, which I think is delightful, while mine is more witty, which is also delightful. So, I told JJ again, people don’t always understand others, and they label them odd or weird or boring just because they are different. Appreciate the differences in others. “Different” does not mean “wrong.” Realize that we all have some undesirable traits, and we always have areas in which we need to improve, but don’t always take what others say as “reality.” It’s only their perspective. People will come into his life some day who truly appreciates and love who he is: a compassionate, intelligent, and witty young man. It just takes a while sometimes to find compatible friends.
JJ and I had an enjoyable time at the store. On the way home, he was so tired that he fell asleep. I dropped him off home so he could go to bed, and then I drove two blocks to our grain elevator to buy some cat and dog food.
As I was arriving home, I got a text from my friend who lives in another state. She told me that she had googled to find Chubby’s, JJ’s favorite restaurant in own town. She called them up, asked them if they knew JJ (to make sure she had the correct restaurant) and then paid for some meals there. She said she didn’t live close enough to bring us a meal, so she bought some meals for him at Chubby’s. I thought that was incredibly and creatively sweet. I have some very sweet friends who have given us some wonderful gifts: a fragrant candle left at our door, money sent to buy groceries for JJ, a delicious homemade apple pie brought to us by a dear neighbor, a friend’s visit and the lending of a favorite movie, a donation can in Chubby’s to help with medical expenses. We are all very touched by such expressions of love. “See?” I told JJ. “People really love and care about you.”
Every Friday morning I make Challah Bread. If we don’t eat it all, I always put the leftovers outside for the birds to eat. The bread is so special that I hate to just throw it away in the trash. It won’t be long before snow starts to fall, and I didn’t want the bread crumbs to get lost in the snow, so yesterday afternoon I built a simple pillar out of stacked bricks outside my kitchen window where I can watch the birds as I do dishes. Then I put the bread crumbs on top. This morning I saw that the birds were visiting the pillar. I might move the pillar though because it is somewhat blocked by the post the birdhouse is on.