Sunday, September 16, 2012

imagining a future

First, I feel to need to mention that sleep is incredible. It seems to that sleep, in addition to exercise (as I wrote about in a previous post), is also essential to obtaining any sense of normalcy in my life, that is, in terms of my ability to cope and function on a day to day basis. It is wonderful to finally be able to sleep again. James has been discharged from the hospital, and I suppose that all I needed was the comfort and security of knowing James is safe (and sound asleep) beside me.

I have been working really hard to re-frame my thinking, and I suppose, to some extent, to challenge the intensity of this grief, or in the least, to make more sense of it. I mean, I understand that that some degree of anticipatory grief is within reasonable expectation. James and I are navigating through a very scary time in our lives. We cannot avoid end-of-life discussions and decision-making. It is impossible to completely negate these fears (without knowingly lying to ourselves). Rather, James and I make all attempts to speak with a language of hope and optimism. I try to dissuade my feelings of grief with a focus on gratitude for each and every day I still get to hold James in my arms. James is still alive. I also allow myself time to grieve, because I believe in honoring a need to truly feel the true extent of my emotions. That being said, I need to be cautious about my tendency to become overwhelmed with emotions, and the depression that seeks to engage with any or all opportunities of vulnerability and fragility. 

I think that I am also grieving for a fundamental change in our relationship. This involves the ability to imagine a future together (as the title of this post alludes to). This is hard to explain, and I'm not certain whether I will be able to accurately articulate or express it, but I will make an attempt. I also believe that it is not something that is lost. It is a change that James and I can control. We just need to find a way to re-claim it within our current realities. We need to allow ourselves time and permission to grieve for the future from our dreams, but at the same time, there is need to create a different dream for ourselves. We may still be processing all this rapid change, but James and I should not limit the ways in which we imagine a future together.

Let me explain further. When I met James, I really had no ability to imagine a future for myself. I truly could not conceive of a future without the throes of depression. I didn't know that this level of love and happiness was possible. On the other hand, James was oxygen-dependent and struggling to gain enough weight to qualify for a double-lung transplant. James depended on the dreams of a future for survival, but it was difficult to remain positive with recurrent hospitalizations (and not to mention, the loneliness of being a in a foreign city). We both struggled to find hope. James and I did something incredible for one another: We imagined a future of our dreams together. We created dreams based on a hope for a shared future. We gave each other reasons to live. (I think it is important to make a distinction here. We gave each other reasons to live. This is different than being each others reason to live). We gave each other reasons to keep fighting. Thus, I truly feel as though imagining a future together is a fundamental aspect of our relationship.

This photo was the first of us taken together, a few months after James and I met, and already imagining the possibilities:

Here we are again in our first photo together post-transplant with endless possibilities for our hopes and dreams to become realities:

Our wedding was a testament to the possibility of these dreams. It truly was a celebration of life. The future of our dreams never felt more possible. It was only two short months ago, but James and I have spent few days since outside of hospitals. We went immediately from entering the next phase in our lives (and the beginning of our lives together) to a devastating crisis of potential death. I do not believe that we were naive, but there was certainly an illusion of health, or in the least, a sense of stability. James had an incredible year post-transplant with few to no complications. We were not prepared for his rapid deterioration.  

We both agree: We feel simultaneously very old and very young. We have had a lifetime of experiences in our two years together. 

That is also another important part of all this to place in context. In many ways, I think James and I were still recovering from the trauma of his first transplant (and the following year of long-distance relationship). I had emerged from the severity of my depression in our first year together (and the ECT that left permanent blanks in my memory), but the recent death of my Bubie left me feeling fragile (and vulnerable to another episode of depression). There was a lot of transition and change (to say the least). We were still putting the pieces of our lives back together. 

Now, James and I must create new dreams for ourselves, for each other, and most importantly, together. Some of these dreams may be the same as those from the past. We can find a balance between living one day at a time (and from one moment to the next), and creating a world for our future together. We don't need to let go of them all. It is the hope for something different that makes imagining a future together possible. We need that hope to the same extent that James and I need to focus on gratitude for every shared moment.


  1. This is a really beautiful post, Adena. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us.

    ~ Sarah T.

    1. Thanks Sarah. It is a strange feeling to describe (and even stranger to do it in public, but James and I want to share our journey). We still have a future filled with hope, but it is different this time. We almost have to re-learn how to focus on living and being alive. It is all too easy in crisis to lose track of gratitude for each and every day.