In spite of

I thought about whether or not to acknowledge my hiatus here, but truth is I’m just done clawing my way out of my own personal hell and have only just recently played the piano since the last post in November. “You’re so resilient” is a phrase I hear often from friends and colleagues. I really wish I didn’t have to be. Sometimes though, life doesn’t give you the easy or happy options and you, as my work coach phrases it, have to operate in spite of it all.

That’s where I’ve been the last few months, operating in spite of all that life is throwing at me simultaneously.

Before the pandemic I thought of life as two buckets – work and life. I can only handle one of them being on fire at a time. After the pandemic, I realized there was an unrealized global bucket that up until now in my life had been semi-stable. So I broadened my hypothesis to three buckets (the world, work, and personal life) of which I could probably only handle 1.5 being on fire (2 would make me tired or sick, 3 would burn me out).

Many parents back in March of 2020 made the decision that was right for them of whether it made more sense to send their children to school or homeschool them. I favored predictability over disruption and chose to homeschool for the last three semesters. My father is a two-time cancer survivor who gets pneumonia almost every winter, and the thought of not being able to spend time with or help my parents for an entire calendar year or more was too much.

That brings us to November 2020 – January 2021, during which time all 3 buckets contributed to an inferno in my world.

Noise & more work in my personal life – I love my kids, but they don’t want to do homework. Also, when a child has a book report… if they don’t know how to type, momma has a book report they dictate. Or maybe it’s 3 reports like this week. Between two kids, 5-6 subjects each I’ve somehow managed to make divorce and technology work for me. School emails pipe into Slack. Each parent or stepparent takes the subject(s) they love or graduated in. It’s still a mess of constant 12+-hour days, Alexa notifications “reminder: Science class zoom”, and tears or pep talks when something isn’t right and their capacity for dealing with it is gone, and losing weekends when said children lack the motivation or technical skills to complete the work on their own.

Change and high stakes in my work life – When you see a duck on the surface of the water it looks peaceful gliding across, but underneath is a fury of feet paddling and maneuvering to get it to the right destination. Seamless, transparent, prepared transitions are a thing of beauty and I have been striving for those for my customers and my teammates this past Fall. I love my work even during an election year when the global news, local news, and key election sites are depending on us. It went so well, but a lot of coordination went in to make that happen.

I was in the middle of a 4-day virtual workshop when I learned my dad had been rushed via ambulance (again) to the hospital. Things moved fast and changed every hour for what felt like the next 2 months. The doctors suspected a third cancer in his spleen, which had grown so large it was pushing stomach acid into his throat making him cough violently and stop eating. “You can fight this or go into hospice.” He was in and out of the ICU and oncology ward with frequent covid tests because they all thought he had it from the cough. Conversations were impossible even when rephrased as yes/no questions he could nod to. We located the power of attorney papers from the last time he had cancer just in case. Covid restrictions only let one family member visit each 24 hour period. The night before his biopsy (which the doctors and staff were afraid would kill him since the spleen bleeds a lot), the charge nurse in the oncology non-covid ward allowed my mom, brother, and I to be in the room at the same time in case we wouldn’t get to see him again. To have that happen just days before Christmas was unfathomable.

He eventually made it to a rehab facility we could only visit him from outside.

That brings us to January:

Which brings me to last week:

My dad had a PET scan on Friday to see how’s he’s responding to treatment for his 3rd cancer. He met with his doctor to go over results that morning. His doc said it showed significant improvement, to the point where the doctor said he’s technically in remission. They gave him repeated spinal taps to inject painkillers and the chemo straight into his spinal cord. He’ll still do the last 4 rounds of chemo to drive the remission deeper and hopefully have it last longer. Things are looking better. But! simultaneously during that appointment my mom passed out during the procedure and was rushed to the ER because slurred speech and heart rates in the 30s could be indicative of bigger problems. I spent the rest of the evening driving or parked in the hospital parking garage calling various staff for updates on both parents and trying to be two places at once. My brother made the hour drive to get my dad and bring him home. I stayed in the parking garage waiting for my mom and brought her home. (She’s fine thankfully.) That took me up to about 9:30/10pm my time… just in time to drive home, put two kids to bed, and start the chaos again the next morning.

So with all that I just wanted to say, “I’m back.” I’m a little shell-shocked, but feeling supported by my friends and family and coworkers. Most of all I’m just glad we get to be together again.

Published by Andrea Lee Bishop

Andrea (pronounced On-dree-ah) leads Automattic's wpvip.com Support Leads and works in hiring. She's a fixer, traveler, mom, math geek, aspiring-polyglot, musician, and coffee lover.

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