Tag Archives: marriage

You’ve Gotta Laugh!

laughingI’m not sure whether the expression “You’ve got to laugh” originates from the north of England or is more widespread, but it’s often used when faced with a trying situation and means, “not sure what to do about this, but it helps to see the funny side!” In other words, a sense of humour can lighten things and help us see a situation in a right perspective.

My wife says jokingly, that one of the inscriptions on her gravestone will be “He made me laugh!” Surprising, as one of our small granddaughters once said that I have a sad face, but on the other hand  friends have said they like my smile! It seems then, that lurking somewhere in the melancholic/sanguine mix of my temperament, is a gift to make others laugh? Continue reading

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The Thirty Nine Steps

My wife is the Guest Blogger this week and writes about living with an illness long term:

The Thirty Nine Steps

We really welcomed our move to Cornwall. There had been some delay. We headed an ever-growing chain of interested buyers, so made the decision to arrange a bridging loan. It was risky, but John had to start his new job. We were separated for a time, but eventually moved on 5th November 1972 in the rain.

Our children – six and three – thought our new house was great, with bedrooms downstairs built into the hillside and 39 steps up to the front door. They ran up and down and in and out excitably. The beach was just down the road – a new adventure to be lived. Continue reading

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Carer or Sharer

This is a personal account of how I have lived with chronic illness for over thirty years and how it has been used to change my life. A husband’s viewpoint.

My wife was a real carer. It was part of her make-up. She would have made a good nurse, but gave herself sacrificially to being a mother, wife and home-maker.

After about nine years of marriage we moved to the Cornish coast because of my work. To live by the sea was like a dream come true. We saw it as a new start. Within the first year however, things began to go wrong.

My wife was already experiencing pain in her feet and not long after arrival, she was diagnosed with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive and disabling autoimmune disease. This ‘sentence’ came as a shock for her and she was quickly admitted to a hospital in Bath for three weeks specialist treatment. Within days of returning home however, she had news of her mother’s deteriorating health and travelled up country to see her. Her mother had painfully struggled for years with rheumatoid arthritis and it was our plan for her to come and live with us, once we had settled in and prepared a room for her.  Unfortunately this wasn’t to be, as she passed away ten days later. Continue reading

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I’m a Broad Brush

We are in the middle of what we call ‘de-cluttering’. My wife has spent two long spells in hospital over the last two years. That, together with the thought of moving house sometime in the future, has helped bring to our attention the clutter in our home. The vast amount of stuff we’ve accumulated over the years is just amazing. All squirrelled away, just in case it may be needed some day. Somehow it had crept up on us. We’d got used to it. Piles of old magazines waiting to be read, obsolete electrical appliances kept for spares, old curtains and material off-cuts that could come in useful, long-playing records, children’s toys and games, boxes and boxes of books .. You know the sort of things?

It seemed an overwhelming task: crawling into the loft, forcing a way into the basement, and sifting through cupboards and drawers. It called for a planned and structured strategy. The problem was, that it highlighted our differing approaches. My wife is a ‘detail person,’ she carefully and methodically sorts through each and every article, and after a thorough spring clean, tidily replaces most of the things. The remainder are set aside in neat piles, until a loving home is found for them.

Now, my approach is just the opposite. My way is to hire a skip and after a rapid radical assessment, tip most items into it, enjoy the extra space and get on with real life!

You see, I’m what I call, a ‘broad-brush’ person, something of a visionary. I get the overall picture of where we are heading firmly fixed in my mind – not ‘the big picture’ I leave that to God – and get there as soon as possible. Never mind the journey, I just want to get on with it, without any irrelevant diversions. I’m also an artist. I’m at my best working fast with a big brush, so I can finish and wait on my next inspiration. I have always wanted to get on to something new. You gather from these remarks, repair jobs are not my cup of tea. Give me a new extension or a garden landscaping project any day. Out comes the drawing board and I’m all fired up. But a dripping tap or sticking door, they can wait!

Now the thing with broad-brushes, they spend so much time dreaming and looking into the future, that they don’t always have their feet on the ground. This is where my wife comes in handy; she brings me down to earth. I’m a good starter, but not such a good finisher. You could liken it to a game of chess. I have a brilliant opening strategy, my middle game is err.., middling, and my end game is disastrous, I’ve usually lost interest by then.

Now detail people, often get so taken up with the nitty gritty itsy-bitsy routine things that they can miss out on the big stuff. They can’t see the wood for the trees, as the saying goes – for readers who may think bigger than this, substitute ‘forest’ for ‘wood’. But my wife is thorough, a marvellous finisher, and will see something through to the end, regardless.

So back to the de-cluttering. Maybe I have something to learn here. There’s room for negotiation, to find a middle way. My wife needs my foresight, my long arms and my limited strength and I need her thoroughness and sensitive persistence.

Things really changed when we came to sort out boxes of photo albums and slides. We came across wedding and honeymoon photos that hadn’t seem the light of day for many a year. We sat down and reminisced together with tears and laughter. So even the memories were de-cluttered and we could move on.

So the broad-brush and detail need each other. They go together like a horse and carriage, strawberries and cream. What seemed a daunting mundane task, proved to be enjoyable in part, even intimate. I’ll be glad when it’s finished though!

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How We Slayed Smaug the Dragon

How my wife and I, despite the restrictions of chronic illness, attempted the 2.3 mile walk through our local country park. A walk that for most people would be an amble, became for us, an expedition of Tolkienesque proportions.

It had been our ambition for a while and so there we were on the hottest day of the year, setting out on our adventure! Make no mistake, it would be a real accomplishment. From the car park to the front door of the inn at the other end, was twice the length of anything I had walked in the previous three years. It was a challenge, comparable in relative terms, to my climb up Ben Nevis, when I was fit! So not only were we praying for strength to get there and a lift back to our car, but for there to be no ill after-effects! It was going to be interesting – me with my chronic fatigue symptoms and my wife with her walking finally balanced in her custom-made boots.

We set out, like two excited children, with our ali-folders strapped to our backs and my vest pockets stuffed with wallet, mobile phone, drink, emergency rations, camera, keys and sketch books and pencils. Even though the sun was full and hot, there was a gentle breeze from the sea and the going was level and smooth. This was familiar territory, but even so, we marvelled at the abundant greenness and the occasional wild flower that escaped our detailed knowledge – well my wife’s at least!

It seemed no time at all that we arrived at the first pond. Ready for a rest, we unfolded our seats and out came the sketchpads to record what we saw. There was a single open lily on the water and two ducks with their fledgling offspring and a brand-new bright red fibreglass rescue apparatus. Not being so good at drawing birds, I concentrated on the view back to the sea. After a swig of the water bottle and a cereal bar off we set again.

We rounded the bend along the straight to the next seat overlooking the large pond. This was a real picture, with a mass of lilies in full bloom and the reflections glinting in the sun. We took note of the several strange plants, with a view to looking them up back home. I made two calculations; we were just over a third of the way and the pub stopped serving food soon after two! I wasn’t sure how these conflicting facts equated, but we continued with added stimulus.

The next stretch seemed longer than expected and even though the sun was slightly veiled in wispy cloud, we were feeling the heat. However, the bridge came into sight with the signpost for the Otter Trail, indicating just over a mile to go. We crossed the river and swung right along the opposite bank towards the entrance to the woods.

We passed the point of no return and were into unknown territory. I was reminded of the book “The Hobbit”, as it felt like we were leaving Wilderland and entering Mirkwood. There was no air of mystery though, just a warm shady coolness and the gurgle of the murky river, with the occasional fallen tree interrupting the flow. We kept a lookout for otters or even a kingfisher, but had to be satisfied with the occasional dragonfly.

Up to this point we had walked side-by-side, but because of the narrow path and our different attitudes to the physical demands, we were tending to ‘string out’ somewhat. We met several fit ‘oldies’ appropriately dressed in boots, shorts and Tilley hats, striding out with purpose, but we persevered in our own way. My wife had to be more careful to avoid exposed tree roots, steps in the raised decking or the occasional stretch of mud. Whereas I was aware of my aching muscles and trying to find the right pace between full stop and a headlong adrenalin race to reach the end.

We were definitely slowing down and made several stops. I took the odd photo, but neither of us sketched anymore, we were too focussed on reaching our destination. A passing couple informed us that it was only five minutes to the end. We mentally multiplied that by three and sure enough we emerged from the delightfully cool woods to the searing hot sunshine fifteen minutes later. That was the most difficult stretch, short as it was, it was very, very hot and the road busy. My dry tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and my eyes were on that pub doorway!

So we arrived at ‘Rivendell’ for our rest and refreshments. We pondered over the lunch menu as Ann the friendly and cool waitress hovered. I made for the bar to order drinks. I drooled over the tempting list of beers on draught, but dismissed the thought on considering what a pint of Tinners might do to my digestive system. I made a mental note however, to carry out a test in the next week or so, to see where I currently stood in that department! Just to sit in the cool bar room was a welcome relief and the hot chicken and bacon baguette made a real difference. I felt my limbs come back to life as my sugar levels rose. A lemon and lime, tomato juice and two coffees later we were ready to re-harness and hit the road back.

We set up our position in the searing sun. My wife was to do the thumbing, as I reckoned drivers were more likely to stop for her. In a few minutes several passed by, but weren’t inclined to stop. As I wondered if anyone would recognise us, a friend pulled in, wound down her window and called out. She turned the car around and took us all the way back to ‘Hobbiton’ and dropped us at our car, with just two minutes left on the ticket! How about that – we did it – praise God!

We felt like we’d been to the Lonely Mountain and slain Smaug the Dragon!

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Filed under Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, healing, health, health & wellness, lifestyle, personal, spiritual

Chronic Fatigue and Family

tn_family.jpgMy viewpoint as a husband and father – I’ve tried to keep it brief!

Chronic illness is a daunting challenge to a marriage relationship and family unit. Some say it can be make or break. In our case, we had a double whammy! Over thirty years ago my wife contracted a particularly aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis and was told she could be in a wheelchair inside four years. Years later, long after our children had left home, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

My response to my wife’s diagnosis wasn’t surprising, as my upbringing hadn’t fitted me out to deal with illness. In my childhood, any suffering or indeed any expression of emotion within the family, was kept mainly under wraps. My way of dealing with these things was to do something practical to try and hold things together. I put everything into my work, family and helping out where I could within the community. I did most of the shopping, including, for a time, buying my wife’s clothes and became an expert in the intricacies of M & S’s lingerie department. Our children attended the village school and we became involved with the some of the other parents and attended the church. I ferried our children and their friends to the various activities.

My wife made her role of wife and mother her topmost priority and gave her all, often sacrificially, she had high standards. She was a good listener and it was quite usual for me to arrive home to find the pile of ironing still untouched, because she had given several hours to someone in need. I found that difficult, as she was the one needing physical help. But apart from several notable exceptions, there was little of that.

As the rheumatoid activity increased, she became more physically limited and fatigued. It was easy for me to leave for work in the morning and bury myself in my work while she often spent the day lying down. This was the side most people didn’t see. She found the pain and physical limitations were hard to bear and there were frequent outbursts of expression. I found it increasingly painful to watch my wife, my loved one, in so much pain and distress and I felt so horribly helpless. One night when it got so bad I went down on to our beach in the dark and in desperation reached out to God from the depths of my being, imploring Him to help us.

I felt trapped by the illness and restricted, held back. Once, I was asked if I had thought of leaving and I can honestly say that was never ever on the agenda. We married because I loved her and was committed to our marriage. On the other hand I wanted to escape from the illness, I hated what it was doing.

In our search for understanding, we were led over the years along a path of Christian contacts. We learned new marriage communication skills and how to deal with the emotional pain that was bubbling away just below the surface. I also found healing and release from the grief and loss I was experiencing. Our attitudes changed and in particular people were noticing how well my wife was walking and the courageous way she was dealing with her illness.

Then I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS and I had a new battle to contend with. For the first time I was able to understand first hand what fatigue was like and I benefited from my wife’s experience. The effect this had was to draw us closer together than ever before.

So far as our children are concerned, yes, they did miss out on some things, they can hardly remember their mother well. But I believe the experience has enriched them and we are proud of the way they now handle themselves, their marriages and children.

The last two years have been the most difficult for us, our lives being battered by accidents and illnesses. But in it all we have continued to experience wonderful strengthening and enabling to do what seemed impossible. I don’t know what the future holds, but we know God is with us and the best is yet to come!

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Thank You for Chronic Fatigue

tn_thanks.jpgPlease do not misunderstand me. Chronic fatigue, ME/CFS/CIFDS is a horrible illness and I would not wish it on anybody. I found it devastating at first. In trying to find a way through the illness, I have experienced a whole gamut of emotion; loneliness, anger, helplessness, anguish, grief, including some feelings I didn’t think I had and I’m sure there’s more to come.

However, in looking back, I can now honestly say ‘thank you for chronic fatigue!’ By this I could be implying that God gave me the disease which He certainly did not! But He did allow it or He would have stopped it. He gives me free will, I’m not a puppet on a string. I’m quite sure that to some extent I brought the illness upon myself, because of my adrenalin-fuelled lifestyle. Whereas I don’t minimise the effect of my current difficulties and restrictions, there is a growing underlying gratitude within me because of the benefits. Benefits, that I just do not think would have happened outside the illness.

These are some of them:

  • Our marriage has benefited and there is a greater understanding between us. My wife and I have more time for each other and are closer together than we ever have been.
  • I believe I have grown closer to God and learned, in my weakness to lean more on Him for strength and enabling. I have become more dependant upon God.
  • My creativity has developed, especially in writing, painting and photography.
  • I have learned more about myself and who I really am in Christ. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me.
  • In the darkness, discomfort and pain I have discovered and experienced surprising blessings that I never would have otherwise.
  • I am learning to ‘flow’ and pace myself, which uses far less energy. I have developed new ways and am more of a human being than a human ‘doing!’
  • I can more easily tune in and identify with others who are experiencing brokenness, hardship and disability.
  • I have experienced a degree of physical, emotional and spiritual healing and several emotional hang-ups have gone. Also, and this is hard to explain, but God has done something ‘concrete’ inside me. I am expectant for more.
  • I am much clearer as to my real purpose in being alive and feel more prepared for the next phase in my life.

The challenging and sometimes scary journey continues.

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