Can Anyone Cry Job's Tears? (A Tragicomedy)

Dear Henry,

Have you ever felt like your story was just way too much, and so you chose never to tell it?

Fish and I suffer from that scenario, and most of the time, we won't tell our story.

Lately, though, because of the (obvious) physical limitations imposed by my accident, I have been asking many questions about how I handle chronic pain and PTSD because, most flatteringly, people seem to think I manage my conditions well.

Unfortunately, it is complicated to talk about "just" the issues I have from that one tragedy because, really, there has been far more than that.

I will try to be brief.

Fish and I both had extremely challenging parents. Fish's story isn't mine to tell, and I will leave the story of my childhood to my parents' public records (I would never be able to run for Congress; the media would tear my parents to shreds). I will only mention that this was a hard taint for both of us to overcome. Terrible parents rarely teach appropriate "how to adult" skills, nor do they teach appropriate boundaries, coping mechanisms, or even how to behave in a normal, responsible, and likable manner. Learning these skills as adults, with children on our own, was difficult.

All four children were born premature, my three sons (34 weeks, 29 weeks, and 26 weeks) and my daughter (25 weeks), who died in utero. The boys all had a rough go of it, medically speaking, for the first couple of years. It was expensive.

One of our children caught a flesh-eating bacteria in one of his hands. That was a terrible week of touch and go. This was also expensive.

Fish was attacked by a dog, and because dogs lick their behinds, the bites turned septic. So that was another terrible week of touch and go. On a side note, I admitted him to the hospital on a wedding anniversary. Do I need to mention that this was expensive?

One of our children was attacked by another child at school with a pair of scissors.

Fish and I watched two of our children go to Afghanistan, one twice, and while they both returned, it is difficult to know that your children were in firefights that resulted in mass casualties and that one of your children lost his best friend and spent several weeks in a hospital recovering from the fight that killed him.

Threaded throughout these events were the day-to-day challenges my accident caused.

At the end of it all, Fish and I have lowered our expectations. We now consider a situation a success if no one dies or goes to jail.

It took the story of Job for me to find peace. I had never heard of Job growing up.

I have a love/hate relationship with the story of Job. It is the story of undeserved tragedy, the story of an innocent suffering. A story like that changes the narrative of our suffering. It made me realize that we did not deserve our tragedies and that we have been deeply wronged by those who implied otherwise. But, of course, Job also tells us that really bad things happen to really good people and for no particular reason at all. That's a big bummer.

Still, accepting that you are not responsible for your drama is one thing. Learning to live with it is something else, and it is a daily struggle.

One of the ways that I have helped me find peace with my scars is the practice of gratitude.

I must constantly remind myself of the things I have been given.

I am eternally grateful for Fish.

I am eternally grateful for the boys and that all three turned out to be good people, despite my help.

There were many other blessings I have received throughout my life as well. My mother's second husband stepped in to fulfill the role of father (and it is to this man that I am usually referring to in stories involving "my dad"). I was fortunate that his second wife was a kind enough woman to allow our relationship to continue, despite how challenging and uncomfortable it must have been for her. I am also grateful to the handful of other people who were kind enough to help "parent" all of us throughout our lives.

Developing an allergy to alcohol at the same time I was struggling, overwhelmingly, with both the mental and physical pain of my life was undoubtedly a great blessing. It was this blessing that prevented a scorching case of alcoholism.

I have a couple of natural talents for which I am eternally grateful. First, I love to read and read a lot, and I always seem to have been blessed with always finding the "right" book at the "right" time to navigate a troubling situation.

Finally, I am grateful for my ability to see light. It drives my art and has seen me through some pretty dark moments.

I still look toward tomorrow with hope because, in the end, Job found peace and happiness (and wealth; I am holding out some hope for that, too!)

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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