Monday, January 17, 2011

Obligations and Guilt - Now That's a Catchy Title

I'm finding it a little ironic that I am actually doing fairly well with resolution #3.

It is the peripheral characters in this here story I am ready to strangle.

After years of successful extricating myself from most family drama - I live here. You live there. I don't need anything and don't ask for it. I hope you return the favor - I am full on up in it. And not really digging the role.

Both parents are dealing with some significant health issues right now - not that they haven't before - that's what happens when you place no value on physical or mental exercise - but this, this feels different. This feels like, "you'd better get used to this m, cuz it ain't getting better." The fact that one is here and the other is in Delaware - why? great fucking question - is not making things any easier.

I am a sucky caregiver. I mean, SUCKY. I get resentful if you don't get better, bitter if I feel you're not even trying. And I have a huge attitude problem if I think your ills are self-inflicted. Seriously folks, if I even contemplated a nursing career they would laugh and send me packing before I cracked open the first book.

But, in this particular instance, I feel like I am holding my own. Holding my breath, counting to ten, juggling all kinds of shit to get to and from places (not easy with one car and two adults who work and I would hope that on some days some relatives would take that into account) and making it work. Kind of. I am sure there are some who feel I could be doing more and are saying as much on various social media. Bottom line: I am not the kind of person who enjoys someone else depending upon me.

Unlike others in my family. But whatever. I am Polish. I can handle the embracing of martyrdom. I don't like it. But I can deal. Especially if those folks are shouldering a significant portion of the drama. (Seriously, if you're reading this and think I'm talking about you, thank you. And I mean that. I'm venting, but I am truly thankful.)

What is making me grind my teeth are the hangers-on, the "friends" and neighbors who feel its their duty to call nightly, to post on facebook, to spin their OWN versions of what they think is occurring and share that with the world. M. is doing his best to be my own personal dalai lama and fill me with teachings that should make me refocus on myself, what I can do and how I react and not obsess about others. Some days it helps. Others not so much. But bless his heart, he is trying. And I am sure I am stretching his last nerve.

As a communications professional, I understand the value of phone trees, of communication strings, of getting the word out, of passing along information.

I also understand the value of staying on message, of not adding your own commentary to a factual account, and of being a reliable source.

At what point does it go from "I am a friend and I am concerned" to "I am a nosy b*tch and I need to know the latest news so everyone else knows I'm in the loop and I can hold court at the expense of this family?" At what point? Where is the line between "I am worried" and "I gotta watch this train wreck and be the first to report it"??

I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type this - which is why I've put off posting for so long. I know this is my problem. I know that line is not always a clear one and that my perceptions and preconceived notions cloud it as much as anything. And I know any rational being would say, "who gives a shit about the hangers on - worry about yourself and your family. It's your parents that matter right now. Not anything that anyone says about them or you."

Because you just know there's some shit being said about me right now, right?

And here is where M inserts himself a little more forcefully to say, "NO, YOU DON'T KNOW THAT and even if there is, WHY DO YOU CARE?!?!"

Argh. I don't know. I just do. Because no one likes being judged. Especially by those who are outside of the situation. No one like to have their own stabs of guilt of not doing enough reaffirmed by whispers saying, "but isn't m. there? couldn't she...."

And I guess there it is. Smack. I am in a situation where I think I could do more. M disagrees and points out all of the reasons why our lives and our marriage and our jobs would crumble if I tried. And that's not even getting into logistics. But still....


This whole aging parent thing. I hate it.

Strategies, daily mantras, words of wisdom, some "I've been there's" - I'll take anything you got.


Danielle said...

I've been there. So much so that I was laughing all the way through your paragraph about what a lousy caregiver you are because I say the same things to myself all the time. I have empathy for people who are in hell- people who are in a hell partly of their own making, deny that they're in hell, and then ask me to keep them company there make me batsh*t crazy.

Sometimes I don't know which is worse- seeing the people I love go through all kinds of rottenness, or hearing the other people I love sound surprised, hurt and (though they will deny it) incredibly judgmental about the fact that I don't talk to the first people every day. Even though, ummm, I work until 9 2 nights a week, am trying to have a marriage, and have a bit of crap of my own going on.

So, yeah, I hear you, though the health problems in my family are less physical than emotional. When the emotional stuff is inevitably joined by the physical- and that's coming sooner rather than later- I will be in some serious therapy.

The best I have come up with is this: You can only dialogue with people who can dialogue with you. You can only help people see a different point of view (either yours or one that might actually improve their situation) if they are capable of taking a perspective other than their own. And some people simply can't do that- or they are so uninterested in doing that that they basically can't. And then the conversation is really between you and you.

Sorry for hijacking your space. I wish you, amongother things, roomto take a nice, deep breath.

m said...

Dani - I love your first paragraph, that's it, really. Oh and the 2nd and 3rd and 4th...girl, you can hijack this space any day.

Thanks so much for this sound advice. And you are so right - I need to figure out when I'm just talking to myself and when a real dialog could be useful. Excellent, excellent points.

Nadine said...

Oh yes, I get the not being so sympathatic with those that self enduced illnesses. Really get it. My sister has eaten herself into being sick (she's like over 300 pounds) so I sorta got zero pity that she is sick all the time. She did it to herself. So you aint alone there girl.

As for those hanger ons, those who will be a chattin about you, f-em.
I know that they are saying that stuff about me (but what about your daughter etc etc).

Hang in there. Keep your head up.

still life angie said...

Boy, do I get this.

My father, who I don't much get along with and was always kind of an asshole, got sick with MS when I was 18. I left home, moved far away and came back to help care for him at age 25. I have spent that time--the time after I got back, listening and dealing with the judgment of people, family and family friends, who think and thought I should be caring for my father full-time, doing more, giving up more, being MORE.

That simply would mean I would have no husband. No children. One relationship of four years eventually broke up from my caregiving. I spent every weekend between the years 25 and 32, save four a year, caring for him. No dating on weekends. No waking up late and doing crosswords with some hunky long term relationship. I worked fifty to sixty hours a week and then spent the weekends caring for someone I didn't much like. And still, it was not enough for others. I am not getting all martyr-y here but I am making a point. AT some point, we have to only use our own moral compass. At some point, I thought, I only resent this man. This is not helping him.

m, you are doing all that you can. All that you can means that you are putting on your own oxygen mask by not going every day, not calling every day, or whatever limits you have put on. You cannot help or be useful to someone else without putting on your own oxygen mask. My husband told me when we started dating, "I'm sorry. You can't go every week to your father." And it was the first time in seven years, I gave myself permission to be a single, successful woman. All I am saying is that those people see one thing, and it is not the truth. Taking care of yourself first is the best thing you can do for them.

Here is my only humble caregiving advice, which you may or may not find useful--If you are feeling generous, you can sit down with them, and figure out what they need and how much you can give. Please factor in stuff like going out for beers, and watching friday night football games. THOSE ARE IMPORTANT FOR YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING! Be clear in your mind before you get there. Then, when you write everything down, help them hire a maid, get a nursing aide, find people to drive them, or a driving service. This will be far more fruitful than kind of peppering them with your time. And I think, at least it worked this way for me, it helped me feel less guilty in my mind, knowing that things are being taken care of.

I hope that wasn't annoying, just my perspective as a young-ish caregiver. Love to you, as always.

still life angie said...

Jiminy. I had no idea it was so long. I am so sorry.

m said...

dudes, I am drinking down your words like a much needed gin and tonic (is it 5 yet? Almost! yes!) Please, no apologies for space-taking. THANK YOU FOR THIS. All of this.

See, I guess my dilemma Ang, is that I have NO problem building in time for football-watching with M or other sanity-saving activities. In fact, cruel as it sounds, those are my priorities - me. M. Us. There is no recognition that we are still healing and that we still need the comfort of each other. That event is SOOOOOO long ago. What is their problem, god...

But in MY mind, my obligation is to my husband and our marriage and the memories of I and J. Everything else is secondary. Everything.

And I guess I just feel like a jerk about that sometimes.

But you are right and M has been saying the same thing - you are trying to be everything to everybody and ending up with nothing so just drop the shit, do what YOU think is right (there's that moral compass) and everyone else can sod off.

I just really appreciate hearing from those of you who have walked this road. Thank you for sharing your own.

Anonymous said...

In our group of friends there's this running joke about what every couple's Rule Number 1 is. The couple with the baby - If it ain't broke don't fix it (if the baby fell asleep in a wierd convuluted position, leave her there). The couple battling for the baby - It's all about me (don't even think it's about anyone else). I know this is off the subject a bit, but sometimes for a weekend or whatever, I think you should institute that second Rule Number 1 - and make life all about you. Then there'll be so much MORE of you to dole out to other people if you need to!

Anonymous said...

I had no idea you were dealing with this. So sorry.

Right after we got married Mike's dad was very very sick and was in the hospital for 3 months. We were very unsure of his condition (there was no diagnosis for much of that time) and I'll never forget one Saturday getting two separate calls from his coworkers, one of whom was quite snotty that we weren't updating her properly. (Ummmm, sorry lady, but I don't know what the hell is going on, and if I did, you wouldn't be the first one I'd call.) I feel for you. Hang in there.


BBS (Notorious BIB)

dana said...

I don't have much to offer by way of personal experience, but a few things

I am a horrible care-giver. I hardly ever get sick, so my empathy (and sympathy, lol) chip is missing 99% of the time. And that doesn't just extend to the ill, even the healthy don't get much from me.

I've not been in your situtaion, however, when I started dating my husband, he was taking care of his grandfather on their family ranch. Long story short - he gave up a football scholarship and a college degree to care for his grandfather, something that no other family member was doing. About 6 months into our relationship and after 4 years of him doing this, his aunt came over one night and just went off about how everything he was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong and blah blah was awful. He realized at that point that the time for his sacrafice was up, and it was time for someone else to carry the load. She admitted later the blowup stemmed from her own guilt in *choosing* not to take care of her father. And that's what all the chatter, if there is any, is about...the guilt of others, of what they're not doing or saying or offering.

YOU do the best YOU can, when YOU can, and how YOU can.

I commend you for doing as much as you are, I wouldn't be able to. Most wouldn't, which is, frankly, why you are carrying the brunt of it. You know this. They know this.

Hang in there!


ps I apologize if I'm waaaaay off base and completely missed the mark on your post. it happens ;)

Celia said...

Hey, I stumbled across your blog. Three years ago my mom's liver failed( one guess why) and they told us she had days/weeks/months to live. We brought her from Florida to Jersey and she was on hospice. She is stable now but it was insane and very stressful. There is a website called Caring Bridge where you can make a site for your parents and update that so you are not calling people all the time with updates- which I know can be exhausting.

I would hide those annoying people on Facebook. Ugh.

Kami said...

Hi m. I haven't been exactly where you are, but similar situations - enough so that I am not at all surprised. Hang in there. I hope some of the advice helps. Do what you can and let the rest go.

ezra'smommy said...

I don't have much to add, particularly when you already have the wise words of Angie and Danielle above, but just a note to say, YES it SUCKS. Both D and I are the eldest children and both of us have been left with ALL the caregiving responsibilities when our parents were sick. Somewhere in there you have to preserve yourself...your time, your relationships, your emotions, your sanity...because there's no end to what you 'could' be doing. I say ignore the turkeys and their judgments and do what you are able.

Anonymous said...

Ive been there with my grandparents. The thing is, it doesn't matter how much you do, its never enough and there will always be some nosy wanker who believes you should do more (when all they are doing is flapping their mouth).
What helps?
Admitting you can love someone without liking them or their behaviour.
Prioritizing for yourself. Ridding yourself of those (facebookers) who bring you down.
I feel you, and i get it.

stacyb said...

hi, just checking in. Used to reading your new posts often...thinking of you.