O woe is me! (Watchers, we are not Victims)

“Oh look at all those other people with their lollipops and rainbows, skipping hand in hand in a luscious field of poppies. If only that was me. Instead here I am in my dark corner with my pet spider and my burden of responsibility.”

Which character would you be in a novel?

The hero?

The villain?

The love interest?

Some days it’s easy to feel like the victim. The character that gets smacked over the head with a tonne of Tragedy just so the hero can realise that yes, the world does need saving. I’d better find my cape…

You might not struggle with your health on the same level as your friend or family member with a chronic illness, but it can still feel like you’ve got the raw end of the deal.

After all, your life has been disrupted too! You have added responsibility, added financial strain, added demands on your time and energy. On top of all that you spend a lot of time in close quarters with someone who is unwell (and the truth is, unwell people aren’t always as much fun as ‘well’ ones – I personally turn into a monster when I have the flu).

When you feel overlooked and depleted it’s easy to imagine that your identity is not in being a Watcher, but rather a Victim (yes, with a capital V).

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What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness

There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.

For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.

It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.

If you are a Christian, it is also part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour”.

Yet illness can get in the way of even our most passionate desires to serve. Being available for a Loved One struggling with their health can mean we are unable to give of our time or energy.

So what do we do?

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Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)

I’ve been absent lately.

I’ve discovered that it’s quite difficult to type with a broken wrist!

I’m also settling in to what it looks like to be at home, loving someone going through chemotherapy.

It’s not easy. Patience and domestic duties have never been my strong points. Far from it actually. Some days I want to give it all up and become an “impartial observer”. It hurts much less when you fail and takes far less effort!

Nevertheless, God has called me to be a Watcher right now, so I pray and know He will equip me in all the ways necessary (and probably in a lot I’d like to pretend aren’t necessarily, like the ability to  ‘see’ what needs  to be done around the house or remember to pick up my own clothes from the floor).

ALSO an exciting piece of news: This is the 100th post on Called to Watch! Is there someone you know who might find this blog helpful? Take a moment to send them the link, or sign up for email updates!

Being a Watcher is hard, and instead of ‘really’ caring, it’s tempting to disengage emotionally. When this happens, we become “impartial observers”.

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Help! My sick friend is not very sick…

Our Loved One is too healthy.
On the surface this doesn’t really seem like an issue, does it? More like an answer to prayer!
And yet, I’d like to propose it can be a problem too.

As we Watchers know, chronic illness is unremitting, that’s the nature of it. But the reality is, chronic illness, like everything has it’s ups and downs. Some days are better than others, some weeks are worse. Sometimes we can joke and other times all we can do is cry.

This ebb and flow is good. It helps us survive. It brings us hope, it gives us relief. But it can also be a hard reality to communicate.

‘How is your Loved One?’ Someone asks.
‘Not well,’ you say.
‘Oh, but I saw them at the grocery shop the other day, they looked so good!’

This, my friends, is why it can be just as hard when our loved one is well as when they are not.
Continue reading “Help! My sick friend is not very sick…”

Talking about suffering: When we miss our chance to have the conversation

I know I should talk about it,
I want to talk about it,
I planned to talk about it,
I prepared to talk about it…
But I missed my chance.
Am I a failure?

When we miss our chance to talk about illness

Why is there suffering? My friend asks. Does God care?

I open my mouth – but don’t reply.

Perhaps I was afraid. Perhaps I couldn’t find the words in time. Perhaps someone interrupts, or I misjudge the situation and think it would be best not to respond.

Has this ever been you?
If so, you know about the disappointment and guilt, when you later realise that you’ve missed your chance to speak truth with love.

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Talking about suffering: Why answering ‘That Question’ is so difficult

Are you a chatterbox? Bring up ‘Sherlock Holmes’, the latest book you’ve read, or something God’s been teaching you… and chances are, I won’t be closing my mouth for a while.

Although I’ve written before about thinking before talking, and even (on occasion!) not speaking at all, the truth is…

I rather like talking.

Yet there are other topics which are less guaranteed to set off an avalanche of words. I suspect it’s the same for you.

I also suspect that one of these might be: ‘why does God allow suffering?’
It’s an important question – so why do we find it so difficult to talk about?
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Talking about suffering: Why pure motives don’t always make things right

Why am I sick?
Will I ever get better?
What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
It can take courage to ask these questions. But sometimes, it can take even more courage to answer them.

Today’s post is the first in a series of articles called ‘Talking about Suffering’…

Talking about suffering is hard! (how do you know what to say?)

Figuring out the truths about illness, suffering and the big problems of life is difficult.

It’s a different sort of hard when you are not sick yourself. How often do you feel helpless in the face of such questions? How often do you feel ill-equipped to answer your sick friend’s frustrations?

Even if you ‘know’ the right response (whether that’s an answer, rebuke or piece of advice) you might not know ‘how’ to say it.

Is this you? It’s often me!
Continue reading “Talking about suffering: Why pure motives don’t always make things right”

Planning your own future when you have a chronically ill family member

Sooner or later all of us want to look into the future. The time comes when we need to sit down with pen and paper and plan out our next few years. The problem with doing this as a Watcher is that chronic illness extends into the future too! It’s a big part of our life and we can’t ignore it or naively pretend that it will simply ‘go away’.

How then do we plan our future, keeping in mind our Loved One’s chronic illness?

How to plan your future while thinking of your sick family member

1. We admit it is hard

I think we’d all admit that planning our future is hard anyway. Whether you have too many possibilities or not enough, it’s difficult to figure out what something we have never experienced will look like. Most of us have dreams we’d like to see become reality, or at the very least we dream that one day we will have dreams.

Considering your future in the presence of chronic illness is even harder. The reason for this is that chronic illness is unpredictable. We can’t say how long our Loved One will need us, or how soon they will take a turn for the worse or for the better. We want to be realistic, but we also want to be hopeful.

Of course life is unpredictable for all of us. I could die tomorrow. And yet loving someone with chronic illness means that my future plans will impact them. Whatever I decide there will be some ramifications in their life – and so the burden to ‘choose right’ becomes even heavier.

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Help! I’m jealous of their chronic illness!

Imagine this. Or perhaps you don’t have to…

Your Loved One has lived with their chronic illness for ten years. There’s been highs and lows, but you’re just beginning to understand what life looks like for them and also for you.

Then a close friend receives a diagnosis. They’re sick. Chronically sick… perhaps with the same illness as your loved One, perhaps a slightly different one.

Everyone is dismayed and shocked. They surround the newly-diagnosed one with gifts of love and support. Maybe they look at you, and assume you too will visit and offer your help. After all, you and your Loved One are ‘old hands’.

Perhaps someone nudges you and quips that maybe the past suffering of your Loved One was preparation for loving this person – that all that agony was raising you up for “such a time as this.”

You know you should help. You know you should love. But instead you feel… jealous.
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How to write about Chronic Illness (Watchers, we are not Biographers)

Are you ever tempted to sit down and try and order the pieces of your life?

As you love and care for your sick Loved Ones, do you ever wish you could straighten your hardships out into a coherent narrative, one with a tidy moral and neat conclusion?

Do you feel that if only you had a polished version of your life, it would be a enough to redeem your suffering, because then it would have a purpose?

In short, do you ever neglect your role as a Watcher in order to become ‘Biographer’?

This is what it looks like:

You are often on the look-out for a purpose or a theme behind your Loved One’s suffering, or in day to day occurrences

You have a yearning desire to put each new experience into words so that others can learn

You are tempted to dismiss parts of life which don’t lend themselves to ‘story’

You are drawn to those areas of life which seems just a little bit more dramatic, heroic or exciting

You feel that your life and experiences are wasted if nobody reads about it and learns

I’m going to switch to ‘we’ now, because this is something I am guilty of at times…

Continue reading “How to write about Chronic Illness (Watchers, we are not Biographers)”