NOTE: This was written before the COVID pandemic broke out. Bandwidth takes on a whole new meaning mid-pandemic, but I think this is still relevant for many.
I know you have all been there. Your plate is so full that it is dripping off of the edges and you are constantly evaluating and scooping things back within the boundaries. Then something comes along to add yet another spoonful or even a heap and it takes all of your time, energy and focus to make sure nothing falls off of your plate.
I have often said you can only juggle so many balls before you drop one. It’s inevitable. Everyone has a limit to their bandwidth. The bandwidth of time has very specific, bounded parameters (at least our current understanding leads us to believe so). Our various bandwidths of energy can ebb and flow in their bandwidth, but each has a limit; mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
I haven’t written a blog in a while for a few reasons, but lack of bandwidth is one of them. In addition to wrapping up the end of the school year, I had a court date for which I prepared to represent myself. I cataloged every hurdle, every doctor’s appointment and communications with the school counselors, the various documents culminating in my son’s diagnosis of Autism and Anxiety disorder. I organized records of the bills their father had failed to pay, promises unkept, appointments missed, emails and text message filled with threats and condescending and irrational comments. I had records of his residential moves, first 150 miles away and now over 800. He still blames me for trying to “steal away his time with the boys.”
It was an easy win and I am relieved to have full legal and primary physical custody of my two boys, but the journey was arduous and left me feeling mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I was beginning to feel a little bit of an opening in my bandwidth when I went to my doctor for a minor issue on my ear that had been bothering me. After reviewing my records, she kindly reprimanded me for not following up on an abnormal test result from two years ago and promptly ordered a new test, that day. The test came back abnormal again and I was sent to an Oncologist for a biopsy.
An Oncologist? A biopsy? What was going on?
When I arrived for the appointment they had scheduled me on a day when the doctor able to perform the biopsy was not available (I see that as a failure on their part). Instead of having the procedure they sat me down, told me I had a high-risk version of HPV, which was a known pre-cursor for cancer and that I had been infected for over 4 years. Once again, they reminded me that I should have followed up on the abnormal result two or three years ago.
Two or three years ago I was finally finished with a long and difficult separation and relieved of a name and a life I didn’t care to think about anymore. I had been working full time with a commute of 72 miles each way. I had four children now ages 5, 7, 15 and 18. My soon-to-be-ex and I had to live in two different homes since the separation was a “nesting” arrangement (neither of us could afford a separate apartment, so we had to share the house and stay with friends to avoid being under the same roof during a separation). I was the only one working full time and the only one contributing to the cleaning of the house, the yard work and the laundry.
I didn’t have sick leave.
I was angry at life.
Was I angry at God? No, how could I be angry at something that did not exist. I know that for some people, even non-religious people, times like these would cause them to try praying to god. It didn’t even cross my mind.
I was angry at life. I had sacrificed so many years just caring for my kids, trying to make their lives better, but realizing that was an impossibility in the situation in which we found ourselves. Their father was a music minister at a cultish church which laid all of its hopes for their “prophetic calling” to come to fruition on his music. It was a perfect match really. All he wanted was to be onstage and to have people tell him what a great musician and singer he was. All they wanted was an excellent musician willing to work for almost free.
For 13 grueling years he climbed the ladder from making $100 per week (before taxes, oh and tithes) to $400 per week. That’s a top salary of $20,800. I worked on the side as much as I could while raising the children (three were born during those years). I was a night shift waitress at a truck stop, a Sonic Drive-In server, a housekeeper, a soccer referee, a horseback riding instructor and a horse breeder and trainer. I also started a pony party business and horse drawn carriage service. Still my “husband” would be angry when all of the money was gone, blaming me for mismanagement.
According to the teachings of our church, er, cult, the woman was to be the keeper at home, caring for all things related to children and household duties. Even if she took work outside the home, she should not expect help from the leader of the home.
I had done everything “god” said. I had tried to please everyone. I had tried to follow all of the rules. I had tried to be the humble and devoted keeper at home. According to the rule book, this was the way to live. But I realized those four statements were simply the four walls of my cell.
I broke out. I realized “god” was not really there for me. I realized the rules had me trapped. I realized that pleasing other people, while it has merit in many situations, could not be my default. I realized that the version of “keeper at home” I had been taught was “god’s” way was just a polite way of using me.
I went back to college, got a degree and got a job. Once I had the job, I could support myself and the kids and file for a divorce. I finally had reached that long-awaited destination, that start at a new life and now what? Now I may have some kind of cancer and may not be able to see my children through to adulthood? Would they go back into the care of their father who would teach them misogyny and hatreds of other kinds? Don’t I get some good karma for striving to pull myself and my children out of that and build a better life for us?
The biopsy was clean. It was not cancerous. I am eligible for a new vaccination for HPV for women of my age. I had been too old for the original vaccination when it came out. I suppose there was a bit of good karma for me after all.
I am grateful for a new perspective on life. I am grateful that life after my escape from my cell has been continually improving for me and for my children. I have an amazing husband and partner in life who is guiding me in finding the freedom to find me, to find who I am. My boys have an excellent example of kindness and tolerance, but enough of a firm hand to keep them out of harm's way and on a path to success.
I have space and freedom and the world is a wondrous place full of mystery and intrigue! It is so much better than my prion cell.