You see, there are things I have never learned to cope with. And those things have to do with the fact that the wheel of time keeps turning and there are no way we can stop it. I would, if I could. Why? Because if I could, the ones I care about would live forever.
I know it sounds childish. But I really don’t care. Other peoples’ illness and death is something that has always been difficult for me to handle. Now I’ll soon be 44 and I’ve discovered I’m in that age where the generation above me is becoming quite old. Even people my own age starts leaving us. And I find the whole thing very hard to handle. Now someone I care deeply about needs a life saving operation — I just learned that yesterday. And my father was rushed to the hospital just a couple of days ago. He’ll be fine, they will both be fine, but we’re all getting older and we can’t live forever. And that is the cause of the “war” in my mind.
I’m not ignorant to why I’m having such problems with this simple fact of life. The physical reactions are the same as the ones I got that time when I was placed in a hospital at the age of eight. I spent one week there and they never told me what was wrong. I thought I was going to die. My body goes into a fight or flight mode. My weight drops a lot and my sleep is restless.
I wish I was stronger in these situations. I wish I could feel less. Be more rational. I wish that when my strengths and weaknesses were handed out, they had been spread out a bit more evenly, if that makes any sense at all. I have no problems sailing a boat alone across a stormy ocean, going without sleep for two days and nights. I know, because I have done so. I have no problems putting myself between a group of 30 angry gang members and someone I care about. I know, because I have done that too. I actually don’t even feel any fear at all in such situations, I feel alive. But when it comes to how illness and death eventually must come to us all, I am weak.
But I guess we can’t change who we are. That’s another simple fact of life.
I know I shouldn’t complain. I have everything I ever wanted. I’ll even be financially independent quite soon – I’ll be able to work because I want to, not because I have to. I have two beautiful children, both doing well at school, both enjoying their social life and their sport (they are both competitive swimmers). So I should not complain. They are far stronger than I am, and isn’t that what every father wants?
I am sure you can relate to all this. Some of us might be a bit more extreme emotionally, but I’m not pretending I’m all special when it comes to how we care about the ones close to us. Maybe it’s the coping mechanisms that make some people better at handling it, while others, like myself, seem totally lost. When I was a younger man, I tried to cope by distracting myself, which in the end broke my moral compass. If you’ve seen that movie about Johnny Cash, you’ll know he had a problem with drugs. I never had, even when it was broken, my moral compass always kept me away from drugs. But I developed other habits that were destructive and to be honest, becoming a father saved me and it fixed that compass. So now I try to cope by just walking the line that keeps me out of those dark places. I might stumble. I often do, actually. But I do my best to drag myself back to that line. One day at a time, a friend told me. Go on and eventuelly time, who once broke you, will heal you.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen