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!!!!