Sometimes I feel like Mr. Incredible.
Yes, I’m referring to the powerful superhero Mr. Incredible but, no, I’m not talking about the scene from the movie in which he was strong enough to fight multiple villains, deal with a pesky fan, rescue an old lady’s cat, and save a train full of people…all on the way to his wedding.
Of course, there are ways in which I think I have been very strong like Mr. Incredible, and very courageous, and have not been defeated by villains.
For example, although I have been confused, battered, and heartbroken by emotionally abusive family who accused, blamed, insulted, gaslighted, lied, and raged at me, they did not defeat me. Instead, I courageously fought to get free and to recover.
And although I’ve had several faithless friends whom I poured out my love to, sacrificed for, and listened to them cry about their misery for hours–only to have them disappear when I needed them most–and although I have borne friends who took advantage of our generosity, cheated us, borrowed things that they returned broken, used our truck for a chicken coop, and one even said the first thing he would do if society fell apart is steal from us–I have not given up my belief in real friendship. Although I have been learning to set stronger boundaries and to not allow toxic people in my life.
I have persevered bravely through bad health: my own, EJ’s and JJ’s. When JJ was young, I suffered from chronic sinus infections, two bouts of Mono, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–all at the same time–and still managed to homeschool him. EJ has had his chronic back pain, breathing problems, and now panic attacks. And, of course, JJ battled cancer.
When EJ was in agonizing pain from his bad back, I cared for him, and didn’t complain when projects had to go unfinished, and tried to do tasks without his help–like sneaking out to unload a wagonload of firewood and stack it in the shed so he wouldn’t hurt his back by helping me.
And I was strong when EJ’s awful company gave him the choice of getting laid off or continuing to work with a huge pay cut. He chose to keep working so we could keep our health insurance. During that time, our furnace died and our vehicles both had serious problems. We made it through with faith and courage.
I was also strong when JJ got cancer. I acted goofy so we could laughed even when my heart was breaking because my only child was suffering. I kept track of our schedules, and I rarely slept because I was up every few hours giving JJ his meds and caring for him when he felt sick or scared.
And in the last few months, I encouraged EJ to get his new job, and then urged JJ to stay with his Dad while I stayed at the old house caring for the pets, painting, packing, and finding important papers that the loan officer needed. I stayed even though my heart longed to be with my family.
And besides all that–and more–I have been hero support, comforting, encouraging, helping, teaching my family and finding their lost items, and making and reminding them of appointments and other tasks, and cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, and painting rooms and organizing. And sometimes I opposed them when I thought they were wrong.
Those things, I think, are more powerful, and stronger, and more superheroy than what Mr. Incredible does.
In listing my superhero traits, I do not mean to downplay EJ’s superheroness because he also has incredible strength and legendary endurance. He helps me not be lost, and he encourages me to pursue my interests, and he listens to me with superhuman patience when I’m wrestling with something or when I am hurt by abuse or betrayal. And he keeps going even when he’s sick or in agonizing pain. And he cared for me and JJ when I was sick. He also got us to the Cancer Center for JJ’s chemo even when the weather was awful, and he sat by JJ’s side, and he went and bought us lunch in the cafeteria, and then, after getting us safely home and settled in, he went to work at an awful company.
I think my husband is more powerful, and stronger, and more superheroy than Mr. Incredible.
And there are many other superheros out there–people who don’t give up even though they have MS and no income. Or people who have endured abuse all their lives but still persevere. Or people who are house-bound with chronic illnesses and still face life with graciousness and kindness. Or people who have lost their husband but still carry on–some even driving hundreds of miles to take their disabled child for treatment.
Those people, I think, are more powerful, and stronger, and more superheroy than Mr. Incredible.
However, in this email I am not comparing myself with Mr. Incredible when he was strong. I am comparing myself to him at the time when he knew he was not strong enough:
There are times when I persevere to do what needs to be done, even though I am exhausted. Then there are times when I am absolutely aware that no matter how much I try, I am not strong enough. My strength reaches an end.
At night, when I sit on our deck and look at the stars, I tell God that I am overwhelmed and tired, I feel pushed beyond endurance, and I can’t take much more. “You need to help us,” I plead. “We can’t take much more. We need a chance to rest.”
And then more problems hit.
Today I paid bills and worried about the drain on our finances. Besides the expense of moving, we have to get set up for winter, which has involved getting vehicles that can handle snow. We also have had to get good tires and fix a few other problems. And then there’s the generator we need to buy so we can have heat if our power goes out during winter storms. We’ve also had to pay taxes and insurance on the old house, as well as continue paying utilities so there are lights for prospective buyers and heat in the winter so the pipes don’t burst. And now there is the driveway.
I urged EJ to call the gravel place this week because each time it rains, our driveway erodes a bit more. As tired as he is, it has to be done and I am not knowledgeable enough about such things to do it. I thought that if we could get this done, it would be something off our To-Do list. I handled other things this morning while EJ called the gravel company. I expected delivery to take a few days, but EJ said they were going to bring up gravel this afternoon–which made me sigh inside because EJ would be at work and I know nothing about dealing with gravel companies. When the dump truck came, the guy got out and looked at our driveway and said that we don’t really need gravel as much as we need stones to fill the gullies along the sides of the driveway. “The gravel will just wash down the hill when it rains. But stones could cost real money.” I told him we just moved to the area and we didn’t have any idea of how to fix the driveway problems. He said, “And you just had to have a house on a hill….” No, I thought but didn’t say, we needed to have a one-story house so we don’t have to climb stairs as we age, and a house that was not a beater so EJ wouldn’t have to damage his back working on it, with a garage so he could have a place for his stuff and I could have a house without his stuff, in a beautiful, peaceful setting not too close to neighbors because we are exhausted and need to rest and recover. We didn’t care whether it was on a hill or not. Duh. He asked what we were going to use to spread out the stones. “Shovels and rakes,” I said. “And a guy with a bad back suffering from too much stress, a young man not fully recovered from cancer, and a woman who is totally exhausted and stressed,” I didn’t say. He gave a short mocking-sort of laugh. I thought, but didn’t say, that, duh, we don’t have a bulldozer or grader or all the expensive road-building equipment that construction companies have and we don’t have the money to rent them so we have to use what we have.
I had no idea what I should tell the guy to do: dump the gravel? bring us stones which I feared would be as expensive as diamonds? give up and buy burros to transport us up and down the hill? EJ doesn’t work at a job where he can talk on the phone so we always just text rather than call. However, I felt completely inadequate so I called EJ to ask him what to do. He said, “I don’t have time to talk on the phone. I have to get back to work. We will talk later” and he was gone. I felt so lost and overwhelmed and inadequate. I said aloud, “I have no idea what to do.” The guy said, “Look, you will need gravel to cover the bad place in the middle of your driveway and in the sandy place at the bottom. I will spread some gravel there and come back tomorrow to talk to your husband.” Fine.
Then I went into the house and cried. I sobbed aloud to God, “I have been strong all this time, and I have kept going even when I was exhausted, and I have not given up even when things were hard, and I have had faith in the most difficult situations, and I found reasons for my family to laugh when JJ had cancer. But now…I am not strong enough. You need to help us because I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH!”
Then I checked my email and found a bunch of forms from the realtor that I needed to print out so we can sign and send back. Earlier today I had to send her last year’s utility bills. I cried, “After all the tons of papers I had to find and sign and send when we were buying our house, I am too tired to do it again now that we are selling a house!” But even though I am not strong enough, I did it anyway.
The move up here is very, very good. It is beyond good. But I’m not strong enough to endure more exhausting long trips down to the old house, or to watch EJ wearily and painfully groan as we try to load things that are too heavy. I’m not strong enough to take on more tasks so EJ can relax and not have stress-caused panic attacks. I’m not strong enough to endure anything comparable to an epically terrifying journey with a beater truck. I’m not strong enough to endure more sleepless nights filled with anxiety about EJ’s health, and worrying about JJ getting his life back after cancer, and stressed about whether or not our old house will sell (starting price is less than we paid for it), and trying to find us doctors, and keeping the schedule in my head of all the things that need to be done here before winter hits. And even though I totally understand that people are overwhelmed with their own lives and problems, and I don’t blame them for not being able to help, I am so not strong enough to have to keep do very difficult things without help.
But I have to be.
I just want to rest. But as they said, “There is no rest for the weary.”