For today’s Wallowing Wednesday post, I wanted to focus on how chronic illness can sometimes lead to disappointing those we love.
My 6-year-old daughter was thrilled about her Kindergarten field trip to the zoo. I was excited to go as well — until my right ankle decided to puff up like a blowfish.
After a couple of weeks and no response to the medications and other interventions I had implemented to reduce the pain and swelling, I prepared myself for breaking the news to her. There was simply no way I could do that much walking.
I agonized over how I would tell her and what words I would use. And how her little face would look when she realized that Mommy couldn’t go on the trip. I prepared for the tears — both hers and mine.
It’s always more difficult for me when my illness affects the people I love. I am accustomed to RA spoiling things for me. I’ve lived with that reality since I was a toddler. I can always count on RA to swoop in at the last moment and put a damper on big plans.
But when my illness affects the people I love the most and conflicts with what they want or what I have promised them, I don’t handle it as well. So I worried. I completely stressed myself out. I engaged in a little bit of that negative internal dialogue that I wrote about yesterday.
I hypothesized that I was the ONLY parent who had to cancel because of a stupid chronic illness. I launched myself further into a frenzy of concern and frustration. I braced myself for the worst. How long would she cry? Would she back out of the trip altogether because I couldn’t go?
I finally worked up the nerve to deliver the unfortunate news. I took a deep breath and said, “Mei-Ling, there is something I need to tell you.” She knew right away that this would be a serious revelation.
I told her that I really did not want to disappoint her but that my ankle would prevent me from being able to walk all day at the zoo. I let her know that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the group, so it was best for me to not go.
She looked me in the eyes and started to speak. I was prepared for the fallout that I was responsible for causing.
And then, she said something so unexpected that I was the only one whose eyes started becoming watery. She said, “Mommy, I know your ankle has been hurting. You need to stay home, because I don’t want you to make it hurt worse.”
Wow. I didn’t see that one coming. My little girl, even at age 6, was emotionally mature enough to think beyond her own feelings. Even though she was disappointed that I wouldn’t be attending, she promised me she would still have a great time.
My worries had been pointless. She handled the news just fine and better than I did. Because it does hurt more, at times, when we let others down.
She had a fantastic time at the zoo. When I picked her up from school, she ran to me and gave me a big hug. She told me how much she missed me, and I let her know that she was in my thoughts all day.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so hard on ourselves when it comes to what we think others expect of us. Maybe we are sometimes guilty of projecting our own expectations and desires onto them instead of gauging how they really feel.
That’s exactly what I had done. I had tortured myself with the assumption of how she would feel and react to my disclosure.
Last night, we talked about her trip. She shared with me all the fun things they had done. And, of course, we both still wished that I could have been there with her. But the fact that she had a wonderful day is what matters most to me.
The only thing I was guilty of ruining was the hours I spent worrying about something that never came to fruition.
Do you find that it’s more upsetting to disappoint others than it is to let yourself down?