Monday, August 22, 2011

When self-preservation creates more chaos, it's okay, and to be expected

Someone reminded me today that times of transitioning are when we need to have the most patience and compassion for ourselves. I tend to be rather hard on myself about "handling" things in these times. I have high expectations of myself when it comes to managing life's little dramas. I think I was conditioned by the Drama Queen herself to anticipate the daily dose of crap and now I'm on high-crap alert status all the time. Which doesn't make much room for experiencing the joys of freedom!

So recently I've been making efforts to dial back the contact with my remaining parent. Some might think this cruel and not what a "good daughter" would do. People who think like that were blessed with a normal childhood and loving, normal parents. Yes, all five of you out know who you are! Don't you go projecting your blissfully drama-free relationships with your parents on me!

Anyway, non-contact is not a viable option. She's almost 83. It's obvious that some form of dementia is setting in. And she's royally pissed about it. She needs someone to help her keep house. (We hired someone for that and she's awesome!) Her home is aging right along with her and Dad isn't around with his handy duct tape, wire ties and Super Glue to keep it all together. (We've hired gardeners, who seem to be on the cusp of getting fired every other month. I don't think they get paid enough!) It costs money to maintain her life as in the manner to which she was accustomed, and she doesn't want to pay for it! She's acting more and more feeble, but we can't tell if it's real or something she's invented because she thinks being feeble gets her something, mostly our attention. She seems to be okay with gardening and walking down the driveway to get the mail, doing her laundry, light housekeeping and cooking. And then, she suddenly quits doing it because she wants someone to do it all for her, but she wants it done her way, and for free.

Her narcissistic tendencies won't let her admit that my sister and I can't help her the way she wants to be helped at this stage of the game. We can't give up our children and our own homes, our jobs and our relationships just to hover by the side of her bed to usher her into the beyond where our father waits for her. First of all, she's not physically sick! She's just decided she's done living, and she really doesn't care to participate in life any longer. She's mad that God isn't doing His part to help her out of this situation she's in.

My sister and I keep telling her, "Maybe God wants you to live! To participate in life! To be happy!" She completely ignores that kind of talk. It makes her angry. She can't seem to articulate what she wants, at all, but whatever it is we do for her is always, ALWAYS, grossly inadequate.

So, I'm done. On Saturday, after spending the afternoon shopping for her, and after spending the week taking her to two medical appointments, running down new prescriptions for her, other errands, paying her bills and managing all her financials, working things out for her home health aide (Mom stiffed her! Paid her with vegetables from the garden. Don't know how PG&E and the telephone company would accept that as a form of payment, but apparently, the housekeeper/helper should?!)...after all that, plus daily phone calls every day except Friday (I had appointments), I was told that I hadn't spent any time helping her all week. And that if I really cared for her, she shouldn't have to tell me how to help her feel better (medically speaking), that I would already know what to do. Then she insulted the work that I do and she's mad at all my clients too. (Would that be the only one client I barely have time to work for because she's taking up all my time and creative energy? Or was that the client I had to drop because of her?)

So I told her I guess I didn't really care for her, and I am acting accordingly. I'm not calling her. I'm not going to visit her. I have to go over tomorrow to meet with a someone about my father's estate. Her next medical appointment isn't until the following week, and I don't have to take her anywhere else. My sister is going on Friday to run groceries over to her. She won't listen to reason about anything. She won't make decisions about her own life and tells me that I'm now in charge of everything, but when I do make decisions, they're all wrong. She's insulting and toxic. She's a manipulative liar. She marginalizes me, my sister and our families, keeps tearing us down. This behavior started years ago and has only increased with time. I will no longer subject myself to this abuse. I am one of the executors of my father's estate, so I have duties there and I'm performing them. Beyond that...DONE!

I'm also done talking about her. I'm done writing about her. I'm done rearranging my life for her. I'm done taking time away from my children because of her. I'm done feeling bad for not being a good enough daughter to make her happy. I don't want her to know anything about me or my kids. She's not invited to my home. And I'm not taking calls either. If she leaves one of her messages about how she's dying and she needs help now, I'm calling 911 and sending the ambulance to her house. There will be hell to pay for a while. She is going to do something really drastic. She is going to really pour on the drama. And I'm not going to respond to it any longer.

I'M FREE-I'm free,
And freedom tastes of reality
Tommy by The Who

PS) I just got a phone call...the summons to drop everything to put Icy Hot on her back because she's at death's door. I called the home health aide to help. I love that woman! Not sure why she wasn't called to begin with. It's her job!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation

Oh my! I am going home on Tuesday! I've had such a lovely holiday, away from the dramas of everyday life. It was so necessary!

It felt like I needed about four days to just shake off the guilt of being away from my responsibilities. Four days and a lot of wine and shopping! I am grateful to my friend Debbie and her girls for helping me to focus on my! OMG! Such great tutors!

Still, late one night, I had to run an emotional cycle about guilt and not checking in with my mother. I haven't spoken to her since I left home. I'm having trouble shaking off her lingering judgement as I've been enjoying my time with good friends. And I've had to reread that cycle a few times to help me get back to the point of the vacation. (You'll notice themes from previous cycles...stuff just keeps coming back. I wish that once I worked through these cycles that I'd be done with the issue, but the reality of it is my feelings don't permanently resolve themselves.) :
What I'm most upset about is . . . I'm on vacation but I can't enjoy myself because I'm stressed about not contacting my elderly mother. I was fine until my sister let me know how she wasn't going to look after our mother while I was gone like I thought she was. Our mother is bipolar and narcissistic and very, very difficult. I really needed the break from her, but I'm just as stressed now as when I'm with her.
I feel ANGRY that . . . I can't stop thinking about Mom. I'm angry that my sister told me what she told me. I'm angry that now I am losing sleep over this. I'm angry that this is ruining my time away! I'm angry that I have to deal with this whole issue on vacation!
I feel SAD that . . . I don't feel free. I feel sad that I can't seem to enjoy myself. I feel sad that I can't find rest or peace.
I feel afraid that . . . I will never be free.
I feel guilty that I . . . I can't take steps to move forward on my own behalf to create a good life for myself. I feel guilty that I feel powerless in this situation.
My unreasonable expectation is . . . that choosing to go on vacation means I will be able to enjoy myself automatically.
I expect myself to...continue to feel stress and to try to do something about it, like a cycle, when it gets really difficult. I also expect myself to find something to do that will distract me.
My positive, powerful thought: I don't have to call Mom!
The Essential Pain is . . . I will be punished when I get home.
The Earned Reward is . . . I will have spent time practicing to deal with not contacting Mom…freedom!
My Grind In: I am learning to be free of Mom.
The trick will be to be emotionally free of Mom once I get back home. That means I still do the things I need to do to help care for her, and I practice with becoming guilt-free from her expectations of me with everything else. Something she will feel the need to constantly keep heaping upon me.

Many have suggested that I should just run, move on with my life and move away. That is so tempting. Really, I cannot express how tempting that is. Is there a country where one can go and be free like that? Where one can experience liberty from oppression? Wait...I think I already live there! (Thank God!) I guess I need to learn how to make that work for me.

Here's the reality of my sons really need to stay where we are. They don't need any more upheaval in their life. They feel safe and secure right where we are. They're building connections, a solid network of friends. They're engaged in healthy activities and really growing as young men. They need stability in order to keep that going. It's really hard for children to find their bearings and keep growing when they have to move frequently. They have difficulty learning to develop the skills to maintain long-term relationships. My kids need to learn that. For them, I need to stay put for at least the next seven years, until my youngest son is in college. My boys will need a place that feels like home, even when they're at university. I am very happy to do that for them.

I can do that for them and move on with my life where I am. Really, I need to stay where I am for me. I need to be in a safe, familiar place to find myself again, to find healing for my heart, reprioritize my goals and grow in the right direction. I need to learn to trust my gut, and I need to learn to let people into my life in the right way. I need to connect with normal people in the normal, everyday world of middle-America, where I live now. I need my house to be my home, a place of my own creation, where I build good memories to sustain my later years in life. And all that requires time, investment of myself, some solitude and peace, safety and familiarity. There's a lot to be said for the familiarity of feeling at home. I long for it. I need it just as much as my sons.

But I also have to stay for Mom. She should have learned how to take care of herself in the modern world a long time ago. But she didn't. It's easy to say that it's not my responsibility to take care of her just because she didn't learn how to do it for herself. Then there's the everyday reality of the situation. She and Dad didn't plan for her life as a widow. Mom didn't want to be the one who was left alone. She didn't create an identity for herself. She didn't maintain healthy relationships with local friends. She cut herself off from her family. Her grasp of the English language is limited. She is not schooled in money matters. She doesn't know how to get around town on her own. She has no idea how to live independantly, and she never had any intention of having to learn how to do that. Despite her toxic behavior causing me such anxiety on a daily basis, she needs help. She's not loaded, so she can't pay for help. My sister and I, we're it. And I'm the one that lives nearby.

So, on my summer vacation, I did some guilt about not keeping contact with Mom while on vacation. And then I did some wine, and then beer. And a caipirinha at The Bazaar in Los Angeles (I highly recommend both!). I did some shopping. I did laugh a lot. And I did a Coronita Rita at Joe's Crab Shack, just before I mentally did Bono at Angels Stadium on Saturday night! And then I worked through a bit more of my guilt about not being able to entirely detach from Mom without guilt while on vacation.

Good job, Geo!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I really wanted to swear!

I've been trying to be more positive and compassionate toward my mother since my father passed away. She makes it so damn hard!!!

I didn't want this blog to be solely whining about my state of life, because there are aspects of my life that I truly love. I love the home life my sons and I have built for ourselves since moving back to the US. I love spending time with my new friends and all the new things I do now. I love my work (when my mother lets me do it!). I feel like I'm really healing after getting divorced and I'm starting to see a vision for my future that I look forward to fashioning for myself. But you know when you're driving and see something in the distance that really peaks your curiosity and you know you're moving forward and you're going to get a really good look at it, but there's this giant 18-wheeler truck that keeps getting in your way and you can't seem to get around it? That's my mother!

I spent three hours grocery shopping with her yesterday. We had a nice time together. It wasn't a planned trip. First she asked me to get three things for her at the store on my way to her house after I stopped at the bank for her to get her some cash. By the time I got to the house, she had her Social Security check ready to be deposited and she wanted to go to Smart and Final to get some dried beans for her pantry (they have great pricing on their beans). So we went back to the bank, and then stopped for vitamins downtown at Sheri's, and then went to Smart and Final, and then to Safeway. I think I heard the story about how Jim (one of my father's friends who has been so incredibly kind to us and does things for my mother around the house, and lets Mom feed him twice a week...really, he's a saint!) refuses to eat my mother's offering of a sardine sandwich and how he will only eat fish at McDonald's. I'm hearing this story for like the tenth time.

I really had to get home. I had plans. Grown-up plans. Adults actually invited me out! Not me and my kids. Not me and my mother. Just me! There was going to be wine! And scintillating conversation! I needed to get home because I was going to make a kick-ass appetizer, a savory chard, onion, bacon and Gruyere bread pudding. Perfect for having with wine. And I needed a couple hours to make it, and the party was to start at 4, and it was 2:30 by the time Mom was done with me! And I explained to her while we were meandering through the bean selection at Smart and Final that I had this thing to go to...with a business 4.

And about five minutes after mentioning this thing I had to go to that afternoon that Mom started complaining about something caught in her eye, that it had been bothering her all morning, and she couldn't get it out. And she fussed about it a little more at Safeway as we looked for the organic chicken tenders. And she said she would try to flush it out with Visine just as I was bringing in all her groceries and helped her put them away.

And she mentioned it again when she called after I got home, as I was doing the prep work on the bread pudding half an hour later. And then she insisted I call her eye doctor for her to find out if she could come in and get it looked at right away. On a Friday afternoon. No, the eye doctor wasn't actually in, and I was redirected to Mom's primary care doctor, who also wasn't in. But his office said I should take her to the emergency room because that's where they had the equipment to deal with eye stuff...

(This is where the desire to swear crops's not a part of my daily vocabulary. Only two people in my life have angered me so much that I wanted to swear. I'm no longer married to one of them. The other one keeps reattaching the umbilical cord to me.)

I spent four-and-a-half hours in the ER to have two little eye lashes removed from my mother's eye. And I had to hear about how Jim wouldn't eat my mother's sardine sandwiches once more. And I missed my party. And Mom neither thanked me nor did she apologize for screwing up my plans. But she did invite me in to have some boiled greens because I hadn't eaten anything all day (I was saving my calories for the wine and appetizers). I turned her down and went home, made myself an omelet with chard, onion, bacon and Gruyere cheese (it was delicious) and I watched Numb3rs on Netflix till I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

Today I have to go get some antibiotic eye drops and go back to Mom's house to drop them off. She'll probably try to get me to stay and eat boiled greens. But I'm going to turn her down. I have a lot of work to get done before I leave for my trip next week. She knows about the trip. But she won't talk as if it's really happening. She says things like, "When are you taking the boys to the airport?" And I remind her that the boys and I are leaving for three weeks. And then she says something about how she's probably going to die next week. Or that Dad came to visit her in the night and told her he'd come for her to take her with him. I don't doubt that sometime just before I leave she'll have a gallbladder attack. Or some other life-threatening event. Every time I have to leave to attend a class or a business conference, she's about to die. She's not abandoned. My sister is available. My godmother is available. Jim is available. I'm even hiring a home health nurse to check on Mom every day. But she'll still be on the verge of death, and I'll still get scolded for not calling her every day while I'm gone.

Because I'm not going to call her every day. Because I'm going to be on vacation!!!! From her!!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My son made me breakfast in bed - no foolin'!

I'm staying home today, sick, or struggling to not let this cough and sinus thing I've been battle for over a week turn into bronchitis. Last night, I felt a big lump in my throat, my ears were plugged, I was wheezy and my face hurt. I think the fresh dose of pollen in the air exacerbated the problem. I stuffed myself with cayenne pepper capsules, cranberry pills and herbal cough syrup, sprayed my throat with colloidal silver and went to bed. This morning, still felt bad, but not quite as bad as last night.

And then Rhyan came in, felt my forehead to see if I was feverish, took the dog with him, and then later returned with a tray bearing hot Good Earth Original tea, scrambled egg whites cooked in olive oil on a piece of Julian Bakery Sourdough toast. (All my favorites!) And he told me to stay in bed and get well and he'd take care of me today.

To be honest, this is all new to me, so I was waiting for the April Fools joke. But it didn't happen! He scolded me for getting on the computer to do some work, but since I'm singing his praises, he's letting me stay on for a little bit longer.

Quinn is almost done with the Spring Cleaning in the kitchen. I think he's actually going to finish the job today! He even cleaned out the toaster!

April Fools Day 2011 totally blows away every Mother's Day I ever had!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today was a pretty good day

This morning the sun was shining, the skies were blue and cloudless. Temperatures are warming. Good workout at Pilates this morning. Even Rhyan had a good workout and I didn't have to force him to do it.

Mom had her physical later in the morning. Doctor says she's doing great! All her blood work was within normal parameters, she happened to not experience any pain today, and was in a fairly affable mood. She didn't want to have to undress and wear the hospital gown while getting her backside examined, but the doctor talked her into it. And everything was okay.

The new gardener started today, and he was doing a great job! Mom sat in the dining room and stared at him through the window. It was like reality TV.

I did have to spend two hours with her and two hours running errands for her. It's really hard to get work done for my clients on days like this. My creative process gets hijacked and the ADD brain can't seem to get back to work later on in the day.

I came home to a very clean kitchen. Quinn got it all done! Even the floor!

I had time to make a lovely potato salad for dinner.

Chloe was snuggly and playful and she's fallen asleep on my pillow...time for me to go to bed too.

A non-dramatic day. I felt the need to record it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mom called...

It's been raining quite a bit in Northern California for the last few days. There was a break in the clouds yesterday afternoon, just long enough for Mom to have a look out her kitchen window. Then she called me.

"Can you see the sun," she asked.

"Yes! It's gorgeous! Are you enjoying it?"

"No, can you see the sun from where you're standing?"

"You want me to go look at the sun?"

"Yes, go outside and look at it."

"Okay, hang on...Yep, there it is. It's going down soon."

"Do you see the clouds just on top of the sun? The long ones?"

"Yes, I think those are called cirrus clouds. The storms are done!"

"No, those are the poison clouds that the government sprays from the airplanes to try to kill us all."

"What? Why would the government try to kill us all?"

"I don't know why, but that's why we're all so sick. They're doing testing on us."

"How do you know this?"

"Ask any doctor and they will tell you that."

I don't quite know what to do with those conversations...

Irresistable Immovable Object

I got out of bed at 10:30 this morning. Yes, a definite sleep-in Sunday for me. It was lovely!

By noon, my 13-year-old still hadn't gotten out of bed.

"Rhyan, time to get up. Please, you've got a paper to finish writing for class. It's due tomorrow." A slight stirring under the covers, followed by a long, impatient-sounding sigh. Rhyan's laying on his stomach.

"Chloe, come on, get that boy out of bed!"

I love that dog! She hops up on the bed, reaches in and licks Rhyan's nose, right in the nostrils (ick!), and he jerks his face up. His eyes still closed but he's definitely scowling. Chloe proceeds with the wake-up facial, and finally one of Rhyan's eyes flutters open. Then she tucks her head under his chin and burrows in, flipping over onto her back and then pushes his chest so that he rolls onto his side. He finally fully opens both eyes and looks up at me.

"What do you want for breakfast?"

...Silence, coupled with continued scowling.


A slight movement indicating a negative response.


Same response. I continued getting the same response as I ran down the list.

"Eggs? Oatmeal? Cereal? French toast? You want me to fly in some beignets from New Orleans?"

Another disappointed sigh, then, "Pancakes, I guess."

"But I already said pancakes."

"I just wanted to hear the whole list before making a decision."

I'm going to beat him! "Okay, pancakes it is."

"And I want an egg, over easy, on toast with butter."

He ended up having four pancakes, three with whipped cream and chocolate chips, and maple syrup, one with an egg on top.

"Where's my toast?"

I had to take a moment before answering...

"Go to your room, get dressed, AND TAKE THE DOG OUT FOR A WALK!"

"Geez Mom! You don't have to overreact! I'm going, I'M GOING!"

A lot of the time, Rhyan maintains control over his environment by not emotionally connecting or enthusiastically participating with people in his life. He's not a "bad" kid. In fact, he's a very good boy. He's helpful. He participates in family life at home. When he loves what he's doing, it shows. He's slow to make friends, not because he's shy, but because he wants to make sure the people he brings into his life are not erratic trouble-makers. He exercises his personal freedoms with responsibility.

Rhyan doesn't like to try new things unless he knows he's already capable of doing it, and doing it well, or he's assured of not looking bad when he does it. Or it doesn't cost him too much effort to get up to speed on it. It's been really difficult getting him to step up to the fitness level to which he aspires. He wants to be an athlete, a football player. He also wants to be an automotive engineer and a businessman. But he neither wishes to train like an athlete or study like a college-bound student.

He's in taekwondo, and he loves it. This week, he achieved his blue belt. Only four belts left until he's a black belt. But the hardest training lies before him. He knows he's going to have to work really hard to strengthen his core. He's a big boy and it's not so easy for him to accomplish some moves that require a lot more agility and core strength. He's chosen to attend Pilates class with me, three times a week, in order to achieve his goals. He's getting personal training from the instructor, but at home, he doesn't really want to do the training he's been asked to do.

I'm trying to find things that are fun for us to do as a family. I'm trying to turn us into an active family. It's really difficult, because I'm running my household as well as my mother's affairs, I'm trying to work and go to school. I have so many personal goals. Taking time to get out on the weekends is hard when there's so much to get done at home. But I'm going to have to do it anyway, because my kids aren't going to achieve their goals until they learn they have to start working on them now. And we're not going to go anywhere as a family unit, or achieve any sort of family cohesion unless we make efforts toward that end.

This morning my BFF sent me a link (yes, many vie for that position, but only one wears that tiara, and she knows who she is!) to the Merrell Down and Dirty National Mud Run Series. It looks like fun! It looks like something we've never done before. It looks like something we all may need to train for together, although we will not be "in it to win it." We'll be in it to achieve cohesiveness as a family and have fun! I'm up for it!

I presented it to Rhyan. I was thinking that by the time the race rolls around, Rhyan will be 14 and have to race under the adult class. We can certainly train for this and can even go to this year’s event, but he wouldn’t be ready to participate for this, especially emotionally/mentally, until 2012. I know my kid. He's going to want to see it first, and then participate. Maybe.

I looked at the training schedule and can see that it’s totally doable! But Rhyan wouldn’t be able to do some of the obstacle course work by this October. I know I wouldn't.

And I’m asking him now, and he’s repeatedly saying, “I’m not going, I’m not going…”

“What about next year?”

“I’m not going, I’m not going…”

“You could totally do it, dude! I would train with you, for next year’s race!”

“I’m not going…”

"Quinn would do it. Would you do it if Quinn did it?"


"What about if your friends came along?"

"They won't do it."

I'm going to have to figure out a way to get him to participate. I'm going to have to figure out a way to get him to walk/run with me, everyday, for 20 minutes. Because that's what I'm going to have to do to train for this.

So, gotta go. Gotta go over the five-paragraph essay Rhyan's been writing for over a month, that's due tomorrow. About his dog. His favorite subject. After gaming. Who takes a whole month to write five paragraphs about the family dog? Rhyan does.

And then we're going out for a 20-minute walk. Maybe we'll walk to the movies, the long way.