Monday, July 26, 2010

A couple of things I have been struggling to accept

  1. I may never be a noteworthy writer. In fact, I might not ever even publish my own book.
  2. I may always be sort of sick, low-energy, unable to get strong no matter how willing I am to get up and exercise.


I can’t tell you how much these two things affect me, how I keep circling around them, dodging them, trying to prove that they cannot be so. There is great fear involved, and as I try to analyze what it is I’m afraid of, I come face-to-face with prejudices I have had about myself and others, about where value comes from. My greatest hope (besides of getting completely well) is that I can figure out how to access the source of true worth—God’s love, and my value as His daughter. The more I become able to feel His love and approval, the more I can learn to find joy in simply being the best wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, visiting teacher that I can.


I’m not saying I’m giving up on writing (or on finding a diagnosis and cure, for that matter). But I am sick and tired (and I mean those two words in their very literal senses) of the quest, the constant reaching, and the accompanying guilt, shame, depression that comes in each day of not making progress in either.


I’m determined to find a way to focus on the present, and on the many tiny (and some huge) joys I already have in my life.


Some examples:


--Through all of this, I have always slept well. I know that most people who struggle with any kind of chronic illness don’t sleep well. I know I’m truly blessed. I also don’t have pain. These things are HUGE.


--I will never stop loving to read, and God has blessed me with a return in ability to concentrate. I can read and judge and discuss what I read with great satisfaction.


--Even though I get too easily exhausted, I CAN walk. I know people who can’t, because of knee issues, etc. I can take a mosey with my husband at twilight.


--I couldn’t have a more patient husband.


I had a tough week because of some interactions with people who didn’t understand. It’s so easy to say the wrong thing when you are healthy and strong, especially if you feel you have earned your good health and strength—by getting up early, working out, etc. I guess that’s one lesson I can say that I’ve learned from this: what not to say to sick people--or to anyone at all, really, since you can’t always tell by looking whether someone is struggling with a health issue.


And here are a couple of poems just for you, loyal readers, which I wrote about dealing with an illness. Maybe they will help you understand. Thanks for sticking with me, my friends.


In Their Fifteenth Year of Marriage, Illness Strikes

copyright Darlene Young—don’t copy without permission, please (but I almost always say yes)


Loathe the smell

of myself, these

sheets, the constant

ragged termite whine:

I might die and

leave things undone . . .


or, a thousand times

more harrowing:

I might live

and leave things undone

trailing behind me

in the dust

like a lame limb.


Loathe the walls

and ceiling: my own

body inside out,


this body that you

still, strangely, reach for,

loathsome, fickle

prison that you



stroke with reverent



Love was once

the lightning;

it has become

the bread.


While loathing clots

my lashes, coats

my teeth, grits

between my fingers,



holds my hair

back from my face

as I wretch,

appears before me

despite my raging:





Fierce Passage

copyright Darlene Young—don’t copy without permission, please (but I almost always say yes)


Today I was researching my ancestors, sifting through the nested

petals of internet pages for names that belong to me,

people who’ve left their bloody signatures in my genes.


I found Melissa, some sixth great-great of mine, tucked into a corner

of a census under her husband’s name, with only one word to describe her:

invalid. Besides her children, that one word is all she left behind.


It’s been three years since I first got sick--three-and-a-half,

really, but who’s counting?—long enough that when I meet

someone I wonder if I should tell them. “You really don’t know me,”


I could say, “unless you know this one thing.” Instead I play

with being a different person, one who is whole in the eyes

of strangers, simply a human being, anyone. After all, three years


is hardly any time, is less than a tenth of my life, is not my life.

I am not my sickness. I won’t wear the label or watch any kindly soul

lower her eyes while filing me into the box marked invalid.



while I’d like to be considered complete, I can’t deny

that any account of me isn’t complete without


an accounting of those days, those long afternoons

listening to people talking in other rooms, people

walking by outside the window, people on talk shows who,


while full of other problems, still have energy enough to jump

around the stage--which simply shows how easily we forget what matters.

After so much time in bed I have no time for weight-loss ads,


wrinkle creams, advice columns, tips for success. How much

of a relationship is based on what we think we know?

Which toothpaste tips the scale from “glance away” to “come closer”?


Those pea-green, seasick days in bed have changed forever

the flavor of my days, helped me see that it’s a sin to assume

anything. We can’t ever see at first the whole of anyone,


and yet we each and all have come through some fierce

defining passage. Everyone has come from somewhere.


Joey/Denny/Emma said...

You are such a gloriously gifted writer. Thank you for writing your blog. Wishing you health and energy.

Kathryn said...

Those are beautiful. Thank you, Darlene.

Anonymous said...

I relate to a lot of this.

Really believing in and trusting Heavenly Father's love for me seems to be something I'm going to have to learn over and over and over and over again.

I'm very fortunate in that for the most part, all of my ailments so far have been diagnosable and treatable. Still, it seems every time I think good health is on the near horizon, another health obstacle pops up. I very regularly go through a cycle of berating myself for all that I haven't accomplished, but then once again reminding myself that for the past ten or more years I've been sick or pregnant or nursing or some combination of those things. I go through this same cycle on a smaller scale, too, berating myself for low-achieving days and then remembering I'm anemic or had been up with a sick kid all night the night before.

I also struggle with how much to talk about my various sicknesses with those outside of my immediate family. (My family does hear about them ad nauseum.) It's such a big part of my life, but I'm either afraid of boring people, or the details are gory, so it's hard to be vague enough for politeness, and yet not seem evasive.

Anyway, I relate to a lot of what you said, even though I haven't even tried to write anything for publication. I could be unkind to myself and say the reason I haven't made any serious attempt at publishable writing is because I'm afraid of failure, or I could be generous and say it's because I've been wise enough not to pile any more challenges or commitments on my overfull plate.

Either way, I do still hope to have good health and maybe even write a book someday. Since so many of my health problems have seemed to come in the wake of pregnancies, I guess I'm hoping that when I'm officially done having babies, I'll become a new woman with a fresh abundance of health and energy. I'll probably be very disappointed if and when that doesn't prove to be the case.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Speaking of not-quite-polite topics, I can't remember where I saw a guy saying that women shouldn't worry so much about having an ideal physique, because most men don't care and are "just grateful." :)

Melinda said...

Wow. Darlene. I LOVED these poems. The first one totally made me cry. So Beautiful!

I'm so grateful to know you. Let's do lunch soon.

Mark Brown said...


I think the first one is the best thing of yours I've ever read.


Darlene said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. Even if I never go where I dream to go with my writing--it's still worthwhile when people tell me they enjoy what I've written.

Praise from Professor Brown! Thank you!

Zina, I'm sorry that you know how I feel about this. I wish you didn't.

Ang said...

Darlene, those poems are amazing. Some of your best stuff ever. I agree with Mark.

You, my friend, are gifted. And I love you.

Angie said...

I'm in love with your writing, as always (please say you will publish a book, just so I can have your poems in one place).

I also love reading about this topic, because it has defined my life of late, and because so few people understand.

Linking yet again.

Cheri said...

I'm amazed at how you weave so many different themes together. Profound and true--we all have come from somewhere. And the final two words of the first poem, with the comma, take my breath away. Makes that word "still" hold so much.