Relax, it’s not the dreaded post saying Beth has flown away. I wanted to share the emotional weekend from my perspective as it affected me differently from Beth. Beth asked me to post it here as she thinks it is important for you all to hear it and not every one goes to A Girl’s Gotta Fly.
I need to back up and start with Wednesday’s entry “A Signal for help: In distress.” This blog made me teary-eyed and my heart ached for Beth. Well, it also caused panic when Beth asked everyone to put out the word to let the sick, the lonely, the needy know that she’s out there and wants to let them know someone cares by sending a postcard. OMG, how am I going to pay for this especially with the exchange rate so low? That’s a lot of postcards, stickers and postage (although Cheryl pays for most postage). And more selfish thoughts… never mind the finances, all we’ll ever do on weekends is postcards. I’ll never be able to catch up on all the other stuff I need to do. Less selfishly I wondered how is Beth going to have the time and energy to do all this – searching for more cards and stickers to buy and then putting them all together.
But back to the blog, Beth asked for help, not just for names but actual help in getting her through the rough time she was having. And I’m not sure how many got that it was more than just names. She’s a strong person but some days the burden is too much for her to carry. And I am guilty too, of thinking that Beth will bounce back, she always does. But it is getting harder and harder for her to do that. Not just emotionally but physically too. Her body is weak and she’s wasting away – her legs are sticks, her butt is non-existent, her pelvis is sticking out in the front and back and her upper body is all bones and hollows. I want to get her some new goth tank tops from her favourite store – but they won’t be XL’s this time – probably mediums.
Friday night she gave up eating and talking – it was too much effort. She also stopped taking her meds to see what life was like without them. It’s a scary place – within 12 hours Beth was just an empty shell. She was fading in and out of consciousness continually, she couldn’t move, her heart beat erratically, not subdued by the beta blocker. Her whole body was in extreme pain.
That night she slept a really long time. But it wasn’t a recuperative sleep. When she woke she was unable to lift her head or arms. I usually just have to lift up her legs and swing them to the side of the bed and she does the rest. That morning I needed to sit her up, wrap her arms around me and lift her onto the indoor chair. I also needed to push her to the bathroom and put the toothbrush in her hand and help with all tasks of getting up. Normally she does this on her own. It takes a while, but she’s independent.
I wondered if this was how the rest of her life was going to be. And how much longer did we have together? I saw Beth slipping away from me and it was completely out of my control. It made me scared, it made me sad and it made me angry. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Friday…
One of the most difficult things for Beth during the previous 48 hours was watching the emails roll in from people saying variants on ‘XX told me about you, you can send me a postcard, here’s my address’ like they were doing Beth a favour. Or the one reader, who although probably having good intentions, posted in a forum asking readers to ‘give this woman a purpose.’ Like Beth had nothing to do and was listlessly wasting her days. WTF??? This really pissed me off. Don’t they think Beth has a purpose? Do they think she has time to kill? Do they think her project is a ‘nice little hobby?’ Beth doesn’t want to fill in some time (she doesn’t have nearly enough of it). She doesn’t want pity. She wants to make a difference in the lives of people who need someone to care. It’s a precious gift of caring, time and energy wrapped up in a postcard that she wants to share.
After telling me about the ‘pity call’ Beth stopped talking. A couple hours later she wrote “Don’t blog angry.” Now I have a love/hate relationship with the postcard project. I enjoy stickering and stamping postcards. I love that it’s a way for Beth to make a difference in people’s lives. But I am also jealous of the project (a new revelation to me today in my counselling session). Most of the time when I am not at work or sleeping, Beth is working on her blog or her postcards. And on weekends it seems like postcards are all we do – and I can’t fit in all the other must-do’s of daily living like buying groceries and even preparing meals. Take this weekend for example. Beth and I worked out the math – a total of 59 hours were spent this weekend working on 55 postcards – and that doesn’t include the many hours involved in sourcing the postcards and stickers online. Sure, it’s not one person, and if it were, it would take Beth a heck of a lot longer with her less nimble fingers. The reduced ferry sailings mean we have about 30 hours with Cheryl – not a lot of time. In fact, this weekend Beth matched postcards with people while Cheryl and I did all the stamping and stickers and then Beth raced the clock to write the messages before Cheryl had to catch the boat. Beth didn’t get to do the fun stuff like deciding which stamps to use, what story could be told, or perusing through the box of stickers to find just the right ones. It’s like an old-fashioned quilting bee where we talk about the recipients – what do we know about them, what are the best stickers/stamps to put on their card. Beth was so busy matching that she couldn’t be part of the discussion. But I digress.
Back to Beth saying she wanted to quit the postcard project. Part of me was sad that Beth wanted to wash her hands of the project which did good work. I think the ‘pity call’ turned the project sour. But also, with a few exceptions, she didn’t know whether she made a difference. The rate of return on her investment was negligible – and even though she doesn’t ask for reciprocation, those packages and/or postcards she receives gives her validation. She doesn’t ask, but I believe it’s what she needs. Her time is marked by weekends – consistent visits from Cheryl who comes bearing mail – orders she’s placed for supplies and mail from her readers and adopted family. She is excited to receive postcards and packages. It gives her something to look forward to, and she’s one sad girl when there’s nothing there except from Wendryn who faithfully sends her a postcard every day. (In case I haven’t mentioned it before, you’re one special lady, Wendryn.)
But then there was another part of me who was happy that Beth was going to pack it in. She’d buy less supplies which means less time she spends surfing the net. We’d also have a lot more time to do other stuff and there wouldn’t be a constant weekend pressure to get xx cards done before the boat leaves. I started thinking about things we could do instead as I knew stopping the postcard project would create a vacuum.
In amongst all these thoughts a question popped into my head – what if Beth really only has 30 days left? How am I going to make those days count? Should writing postcards and all that goes with it take up so much of Beth’s time and our time together? It’s a noble project but what about the relationship I have with Beth? What have I done about nurturing that? Are we so busy that we don’t have time to just BE? Watching movies on the couch holding hands, feeding the squirrels, sharing dreams and feelings seems more important to me. So, this is something that Beth and I need to figure out – how do we want to spend those 30 days or the next 30 days or the 30 days after that?
I think we’ll still do postcards, and I’m cool with that, but maybe not so many of them. And fingers crossed, we may even take this weekend off. Have a romantic weekend or hang out in our PJs all weekend watching TV or maybe have some of those deep discussions about how we want to spend the rest of our time together.
I’ve written this entry over the course of two days. Yesterday I made a list of things that you can do and some of you have already offered to do these before I even posted it. But in case you’re still wondering…
1. If you haven’t already done so, let Beth know whether the cards she sends you makes a difference in your life. She would love to continue sending cards if they do. If we don’t hear from you either online or by snail mail you may find you’ve been put to the bottom of the list.
2. Return the favour and send caring messages on postcards to Beth. Physical messages are the best but please don’t spend money on her if you can’t afford it – no giving up grocery money or anything like that.
3. Continue to send Beth names of people who need postcards but first weigh how much you think the person needs a card against the energy it’s going to take Beth, Cheryl and I to make them.
4. Contribute supplies if you are willing and able. We use US and Canadian postage stamps for domestic and international shipping. Who knows, if you live in Britain or Australia and want to be our courier services send us your domestic stamps and we’ll put all the postcards for your country in an envelope and send it to you so that you can pop them in the mail box. Hmm, might need to have you sign a confidentiality agreement or something as you’d have people’s addresses. Might have to rethink that one. Postcards and stickers are always welcome – particularly ones suitable for kids like baby animals. The kids are near and dear to Beth’s heart (and are so much fun for us to do). This week we sent 6 post cards to a therapeutic riding school for kids with disabilities. They see about 200 kids a week and since we couldn’t do cards for them all we instead sent a card to each horse, or rather the riders of each horse. So each batch of riders has a postcard they can read and enjoy and leave for the rider after them. Now that’s making a difference!
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