The last drawing I made in the hospital
The last drawing I made in the hospital


If you had asked me last night, I wouldn’t have come, I told Mandy and Athena this morning as we sat in the Round House Cafe.

It’s my sense of being overwhelmed by responsibility that has kept me from doing many things in the past.  And now my sense of responsibility was sabotaging me.  When Jon’s doctor told him yesterday that he had a skin infection near his surgery wound, my body went stiff, I got light-headed and felt familiar pains in my right side and neck.   I was sure it was my fault, that I had done something wrong.  I let him walk too much, do too many things on his own,   I shouldn’t have left him alone to pick up groceries,  I fed him the wrong food, I should have notice the redness on his chest.

Before going to the doctor Jon was talking about how I needed to get back to work.  Now I was sure that what I needed to do was not leave him alone for a moment.  I had not been vigilant enough, not taken the healing seriously enough.

I was scared, and I knew Jon had to be too.  And I wanted to be helpful, to be strong, but I couldn’t help the way I was feeling.  And I’ve never been able to hide my feelings from Jon, it’s one of the things I love about him, as annoying as it can be sometimes.   On the way home from the pharmacy he told me I seemed really upset to him.    And out it all came, how I felt responsible for his infection.

And I’m seeing this is how it goes.  Sometimes I’m the rational one and sometimes Jon is.  I don’t have to be strong all the time and he doesn’t either.   Jon’s hospital stay, surgery and healing has thrown our relationship into an intense microcosm.  A tight ball of extreme highs and lows with lulls in between.  But we’re the same people in the same relationship which has just been skewed a bit.

And I’m realizing that my sense of responsibility is off.  For some reason I had the idea that it was all or nothing.  That being responsible means being hyper-vigilant, in control at all times, never making a mistake.

Susie wrote me a message this morning saying that I’m not Nurse Rached.  And I’m not. I’m just someone trying to take care of someone I love. Figuring out how to do that.  Which means allowing myself to be human and feel and get things wrong sometimes.  It means giving Jon the space he needs to be as independent as he can be, trusting he won’t hurt himself and allowing him to make mistakes.     It means speaking up when something he is doing bothers me even if  I think he might not like it, even if it turns out I’m  wrong.   It means allowing him to be irritable or depressed when he’s feeling that way and not taking it personally, and allowing the same for me.

So our roles haven’t really changed, we are not nurse and patient.  We are lovers and friends, two creative people trying to  find a creative way to get through a difficult time together.  And responsibility, well, I’m learning what that really means.  It’s not taking on someone else’s life or problems, it’s about me doing what I believe is right and best for me and Jon.  And knowing that what I believe to be right can and may change from one day to another, because that’s what life does.  It changes from moment to moment.

13 thoughts on “Responsibility

  1. Maria, you have written so thoughtfully and articulately on the subject of responsibility. For somebody who has been through the upheaval and trauma of your past week, is working overtime and is sleep deprived, your mind seems to be working just beautifully. You are so right to observe that responsibility doesn’t mean taking on someone else’s life. We’ve all heard it before, but at a time like this, it doesn’t hurt to reread The Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’m thinking about you and cheering you on from a distance.

    Heidi Janes
    Providence, RI

  2. I think this wonderful drawing is true of so many women. We feel responsible for everything and seem to feel that we are juggling all the balls. However, our first responsibility is to our self. If we don’t take care of who we are we will not be able to be there for others when we are needed. I think you and Jon are working this out in a wonderful relationship.

  3. Bravo Maria. This is exactly it. And personally I am grateful that you have shared these feelings just as I’m grateful for Jon sharing his process. It’s important for those of us who have not been in this position to try to understand.

  4. Hi Maria,
    Jon has written a few times about wanting to renew his marriage vows with you – reading his ‘heart’felt words about the surgery and the events that followed since then reminded me of it and I feel that the two of you are in the middle of renewing your vows right now. But this time the words originate from shared pain that touches love with unknown intensity, but they are still felt and spoken and lived by Maria and Jon.
    Take good care of yourself, love, Sabina

  5. Maria, I’m glad you’ve been able to express how you’ve felt and feel about the operation and recovery. It’s been a scary time for you both… and you’ve both done it all in a public forum and in the public eye. That to me takes courage as I’m a private person myself and yet through sharing your feelings, through Jon sharing his, you both give others courage for their lives.

    My cleaning support person, whom I’ve had for many years every two weeks, has just left. Her husband, a diabetic, had the similar operation to Jon’s and today had his final appt. with the surgeon. Like Jon, he’s not allowed to lift much. Just now, when he came to pick Mary up, he talked about the operation, showed me his scars, talked about the tube that was inserted in his tummy and how the nurse practitioner removed it several days after the operation. She told him to take a deep breath, hold it, let it out and when he let it out, she whooshed the tube out of him which was inserted right up into his throat. It’s remarkable what can be done. I always find when I’m scared, my insecurities come bubbling up to the surface.
    SandyP in Canada

  6. I like your posts and drawings of “Balance” and “Responsibility”. Your drawings are a great representation of each.

  7. The way you draw has changed ever so slightly and you leave room on the page . . . empty areas for . . .?? This is quite journey for you, Maria. I admire your open heart, your ability to change and adapt. And to remember the core thing–this is about love and kindness. Not perfection. The chance to be 100% human in a hard time. The practice of medicine is very goal oriented, not so much about this moment, and I think that’s how it works best. But this moment leads to the next, then the next. Before you know it, a month has passed, healing has had a chance to get a foothold, you move ahead to what comes next.
    In my career as a nurse, my “big” moments have been a touch, a carefully shared word and thought, a silence. Your honesty makes you a fine fine caregiver. Remember to eat well, sleep well, take care of YOU. Susie

  8. Maria, you’re doing a great job taking care of Jon. You might just be a little too hard on yourself. One thing that is great in families that have a border collie, is to put the dog in charge of the patient. I did this with my mother following her accident, when I had to go someplace. I told my dog that she was in charge. She watched everything my Mom did and kept her out of trouble. Border collies are very responsible dogs. Sounded to me that Red has had his eye on Jon making sure he is okay. My border collie does not herd sheep, she is my companion dog/service dog. Every since she was a wee pup, she has watched over me, taking care of me.

  9. Maria,
    I am increasingly seeing you as a wise teacher…for me. Truly, wish i could help with some of that responsibility, but of course, my responsibility is here, tending to my life, my choices. Thank you for all this honesty!

  10. Dear Maria, I am so moved by your honesty (and Jon’s) about, and in, your relationship together. I have never seen a man and a woman able to be best friends and lovers and live together and share life, TOGETHER! There always seem to be awkward places that just get ignored for the sake of peace. And this awkward space between couples, that they cannot even mention to one another, is not limited to any particular age group. Annie

  11. Gosh Maria your picture made me think of how I felt when I was caring for my Mother, raising my son and keeping two houses going!!! You’ll get through this period of caring for Jon, just follow what your heart tells you to do and you’ll both be fine, it warms my heart that your relationship is so strong and unshakeable, how lucky you both are.

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