Choosing Reality Over Fantasy

NOTE: I wrote this a few weeks ago when Bryan was in the middle of his treatment and I never posted it…because I wasn’t sure I wanted you all to know these thoughts. But, I’ve realized something recently - this blog is a space for truth telling. This is a place for confessing, and sharing those words that I ordinarily might not have the courage to share. Because there is value in admitting my hidden thoughts. There is value in letting others in on the parts of me that are less than pretty, the parts of me that I am less than proud of. So, today, I’m sharing this post and I’m trusting that you, my beautiful readers, will hear my heart in it and not judge me too harshly. I know that you all have enough information to trust Bryan and my relationship even after reading posts like this. So, here it is. My confession for the week:  

 

My husband is in the middle of an aggressive cancer treatment and I am checking out the cute doctor. No, I’m not one of those girls who’s always checking out some guy. My hair is rarely done, I haven’t worn make up in years, and watching me flirt is sort of like watching an awkward elephant try to do ballet. That’s just me.

 

I have happily been married to a man that I adore and who adores me for eight and a half years. So, why am I checking out the doctor while my wonderful husband is shivering under the influence of drugs that are little more than poison?

 

The answer is simple: I fear loosing Bryan. I fear having to live without him. In fact it has been one of my worst fears since the day we got married. Long before all of this I would often work myself up fearing that we would somehow be separated and I would loose him. There is a lot wrapped up in that fear, but part of it is the fear of being alone.

 

Before my husband and I got together I remember bemoaning to my dad about how I would never find someone interested in me.

“How come other girls find it so easy? I know girls who always have some guy chasing them - often more than one. But, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked out on a real date!” I complained and compared in true woe is me style.

“You put off a different vibe.” Was his simple response. “Other girls let guys know they’re available. They flirt. They respond. They have an open posture. You are closed off. You communicate disinterestedness.”

I remember being defensive and not really understanding what he meant. But, I think I understand a little better now.

 

I also understand more clearly why I put off a “closed vibe.” I was afraid. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being alone. Afraid of loving and loosing. So, for quite some time, I closed myself off in a little walled castle and didn’t let anyone in. Letting someone in would mean being hurt. Bryan came along and broke down all those walls, but the foundation of my castle - that fear of being hurt and left alone - that remained.

 

Now, as Bryan sleeps weakly in a hospital bed and his body is overrun with cancer that fear roars out from the depths again. And the result is something I hesitate to admit.

 

As I walk down the hall to get my husband a pitcher of ice (the one thing that has brought comfort amidst nausea) I catch eyes with a young man passionately talking with his father. His father is hooked up to the same IV’s and medications that flood my husband’s body. That simple eye catch is all it takes for my mind to start spinning an elaborate fantasy. A fantasy in which we meet in the cancer ward, bond through tragedy and grief slowly turns to love. Sounds like a movie right?

 

The on-call doctor comes to check on Bryan and I can’t help but notice his strong shoulders, chiseled jaw, and gentle eyes. I drop my head and overt my eyes, filled with guilt, but my mind is already off running in vague school-girl style fantasies. What if this happened and then this happened and then this and we live happily ever after.

 

I check Instagram and see a picture posted by a single guy friend. “We have a lot in common” I think to myself. I wonder if he could ever be interested in me? I wonder if I could ever think of him as more than just a friend…and suddenly my mind is off running again.

 

Sometimes it takes even less than that to push me into fantasy and away from reality.

 

I shudder even to admit this to myself, let alone to publicly say it before the world. Oh, the mountain of sin within my heart which I have only just begun to mine! Lord, have mercy on me…please have mercy.

I know that all of this is ridiculous. It’s childish. It’s not based on reality. But the truth is I don’t want reality right now.

 

I want a fantasy in which I cannot be rejected, cannot be abandoned, cannot be left alone, and do not have to face pain or hurt. I prefer a fantasy that distracts me from the reality of a goodbye which feels like it will press in upon me at any time - a goodbye which feels like it would break every fiber of my being if I had to utter it. I prefer a fantasy that takes me out of the moment and distances me from the love that I have right in front of me in Bryan.

 

My day dreams are a coping mechanism and an attempt at protecting myself. I fear the story that I am currently walking, fear being alone, and so I make up a new story in my mind. A story more tolerable. A story in which I fall in love right away again and don’t have to be alone. A story that is based on nothing real and so has no risk for rejection or hurt.

 

Why is it that I fear being alone so much? Fear it so greatly that I would taint the love I have, the love that lays painfully in a hospital bed, for pretend stories and made up images? Honestly I’m not sure. I just know it’s not the first time I’ve done it and I know I don’t want fear to have this much power over me. I don’t want to build walls between Bryan and I. I don’t want to live in a fantasy future instead of embracing all of the love and pain that rests right here in the reality of this hospital room. I don’t want to allow fear to have the last word.

 

So, I confess. I confess my fear. I lay bare the wandering thoughts of my heart, my flimsy attempts at self preservation. And I hope that doing so will diffuse some of the power this fear holds over me.

 

I choose every moment to take captive every thought. I choose to embrace the greatest risk - the risk of responding with my whole heart. The risk of loving fully. Loving realistically. Loving in the present moment, however painful that moment may be. Right up to the end - whether that end comes a month from now or fifty years from now.

 

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

 

MelanomaBethany Stedman