Unmet Needs and Irrelevance
“None of us can know much about second-half-of-life spirituality as long as we are still trying to create the family, the parenting the security, the order, the pride that we were not given in the first half.” Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, p. 42
I have many unmet needs from the first half of life: pride, parenting, role modeling, career success, order, you name it.
And then Barry got cancer and everything changed. Suddenly life was all about wills, advance directives, final arrangements, and that kind of thing. I figured I would need an education for after Barry died…and then got a questionable mammogram myself. My assumption that I would outlive Barry was gone. Eventually, I got a normal mammogram, but it didn’t have the power to reinstate the old assumption.
I feel humiliated by life. Few of my goals or hopes have come to pass and now it feels too late. Right now, nothing is even about me.
Even after Barry dies (if he goes before me), how do I care about a career? How do I pretend it matters to me anymore? The unmet needs go nowhere, following me around with no promise of eventual fulfillment. I can try acting like these needs don’t matter, but I suspect my lack of aggression getting these needs met is precisely why they never got met in the first place. I didn’t place enough emphasis on what I wanted or cared about when I was younger and now it may be too late. I do not have the satisfaction of a life well-lived.
I told Barry yesterday about the lump on his neck. I’ve been watching it for a few months and it is not shrinking. I thought, “Maybe it’s not cancer. Maybe it’s just enlarged lymph nodes.” A few days ago, I remembered what the surgeon said after the tumorectomy: he removed the tumor, sliced a large nerve on that side of the neck, and removed a bunch of lymph nodes. I am uncertain Barry has lymph nodes on the right side of his neck anymore. Even if he has one or two nodes, having permanently swollen nodes is not a good sign. But it’s not like we would treat anyhow. I told Barry because I got tired of wondering if he noticed and of carrying the burden of this alone.
I may be becoming the angry, bitter type of person Rohr warns about. Being conscious of my unmet needs (from the sheer grief I feel regarding my life) doesn’t magically fix things. The downside of awareness is that it is not necessarily empowering to address the issues. The upside of awareness is that I no longer waste time and energy on people, relationships, and organizations that make promises they have zero ability to keep. To not waste time is always a good thing.