This week has been emotional for me. It’s been tough and I’ve been struggling with how to be a friend while trying to make sure I protect myself at the same time.
First of all, my girlfriend whose husband got laid off last month, lost her own job this week. Long story short, she made a not-so-smart move, but had a boss that was looking for any reason to fire her. They have two young children and have zero income now. And since her and I have talked so much about finances, I know they are basically a paycheck-to-paycheck family. When she called to tell me what happened, I felt sick to my stomach, because I immediately began to spin, thinking how they are going to pay for their mortgage, bills, food? What happens when they don’t have insurance and one of them gets sick?
Had lunch with another girlfriend this week and she’s staying at her mom’s this weekend with her two children, in an attempt to give her husband a wake up call. They recently had their 5 year anniversary and he didn’t even get her a card. And in the past month, he got drunk and told her “he needed a break” and has stopped wearing his wedding ring. She fought back tears telling me what was going on and I really felt for her, as she kept saying, “I just want someone to tell me what to do.” Add to that, her mom thinks she somehow contributed to their marriage problems since she lived with them for awhile. In the midst of dealing with her own emotions, she feels obligated to soothe and reassure her mother. Then she has another friend telling her to be careful what you wish for, because she might find something worse out there than what she already has. Not exactly encouraging words for someone who really needs them.
Then on Friday, I checked in on a colleague, whose aunt was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The initial diagnosis came two months ago, and she was hospitalized this week with breathing problems. The cancer has been pretty aggressive, and her lungs are now filled with tumors, in addition to her spine, other organs, etc. They put her on hospice. My heart was breaking as my colleague told me how her aunt was heavily medicated, but when she would wake up, would yell “Help me!” to those in her room. Even now, typing these words out, my heart feels so heavy for their family. It’s both a blessing and a curse to be there as someone is dying. I know as I watched my dad die from cancer. On one hand, you are thankful for the time and opportunity to say goodbye. On the other, every time you leave, the worry is that it’ll be the last time you see them. Same thing with going to bed that night, even if you’re there. You wonder, “Is this the last goodbye? Will they be here when I wake up?” Then there’s the dread waking up the next morning, as you wait to discover if they are still of this earth or not.
I’ve tried to offer as much support to my girlfriends as I can, and I worry for each of them because I love them so much. The hard part about this though is the feeling of helplessness. I can’t get jobs for my one girlfriend, or help financially support them in any meaningful way. I can’t repair my other girlfriend’s marriage to prevent a divorce. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t wave a magic wand to make my colleague’s aunt’s cancer go away. It’s hard to watch your friends going through difficult times.
But I’ve also been thinking to myself, “Is this what our future holds? Are we prepared if one (or both) of us loses a job? Are we going to end up as a divorced statistic sometime in the future? Are we doing all we can to stay healthy?” We had a job layoff in 2016 (me!) and managed that one OK. But the divorce and cancer parts? I can’t say we are immune to either situation. We’ve had our fair share of problems ourselves and I have a history of cancer in my family.
If I can name one positive, this week has been a reminder to me to be grateful. Thankful for what we have, and that at the moment, we aren’t going through a crises of our own. Life is hard, and the moments without struggle are fleeting.