Proceeding With Caution

By Elizabeth Stuelke

When my hips hurt I think of my dad.

Why would I want to write about my dad, such a personal subject? To help other people when they hear his story. How could that happen? It’s such an unusual story, or he was such a non-usual person or lived his life as if he were. Or did he?

It feels strange to write about our family. On one hand, I feel we are something special. On the other, I wonder if I can lend anything to the larger discussion, have my examples make sense or help anyone else.

I am feeling a bit down today, unsure of myself. Unsure of what I am allowed, should, or want to write about. I spent the years up until now thinking that I would write when I had something to say. After I’d had a life and have something to write about. I guess that sums it up.

Age gives me a feeling that there is something to look back on and take some lessons from. Some accumulation that feels like it has something to say about what is happening now from the experiences of the past, or, at least that as I find myself where I am now these experiences make me see things in relation to those past. I am still left with questions.

I’m not sure a license to talk about my experiences is what I want, necessarily, but more that I want to feel okay about being a part of the stories I’ve lived and entitled to relate them if I want. Okay to share what I have knowledge of.

I think this fear or trepidation comes from being co-dependent. I, and my husband, Satre, as it turns out, need at least one other (and usually that is enough) with whom we feel a connection and without whom we feel alone. Being alone is a consequence of being, but in a co-dependent relationship, we see each other as always there, always part of the equation, always necessary to any movement, as if without even the thought of the other there is no you.

I fear a rebuff, which would require me to defend my choices. Which would make me an adversary. I find confrontation painful and something to be avoided at almost all costs.

There is nothing new under the sun, and even my ranting gets raves. I find that the clichés are piling up on me.

We are buying a house now. A house that we will be able to afford with Satre’s new salary. It makes me scared and it makes me feel giddy.

Today, I am thinking about my Dad and how much I miss him and how much I don’t want to write about his passing and make it concrete in that way. I realize that I am avoiding things that I think I will do, but that I might not be ready to do. I realize that I am afraid of putting too much faith or hope or thought into what is going to happen next. Even though, at each stage up until now, there came a logical conclusion, if not the totality of what we had planned for, then at least something vaguely familiar. This feels totally foreign. Like new territory. Like something we have never done before.

We have finished other parts of training. This is just another. We have purchased a house. We have found schools for the kids. We have moved. We have signed mountains of paper and made it out from under the stacks. We have been happy and sad and scared and excited.

This time feels just a little different and I think it may be all that light at the end of the tunnel that is keeping me from seeing just what it will look like out there on the other side. The parameters will have opened up so much, that at once it will feel limitless and overwhelming.

This is not that different from the last time, I tell myself. But it is, in that the training will be over and the real world waits. We are too old to be entering it and the curve seems too steep. But armed with the past as our experience we hope to make it through.

The house is great. I can’t wait to move in. I hope we like it there. We’re going to be adults now.

Elizabeth Stuelke

Elizabeth Stuelke has been living with her artist-turned-physician husband, now in his last year of training in Radiology, for 15 years. She has been writing for longer than that. They have two children: a girl age 11 and a boy age 8. They live now in Baltimore and Central PA (respectively, Elizabeth in Lewisburg with the kids). Elizabeth began her career in the arts, has worked in the corporate world, views her kids and family as her creative work for the past 11 years, and now finds herself somewhere that feels like a beginning. Contact her at [email protected], and check out her husband Satre’s most recent artwork at



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