If you are struggling today (or any day)…reach out for help.
And also, this article is helpful:
One of my brothers lives with my father. He has always lived with my parents, though I have no idea why he decided to do so. He’s fifty-three and was born profoundly deaf due to my mother getting German Measles when she was pregnant with him. He’s been wearing hearing aides since he was a baby, and my parents made sure he went to a regular public school so he could learn to live with hearing people. The school system he was enrolled in offered individual assistance for him so he didn’t fall behind in his classes. He’s lived a pretty normal life, went to college, worked retail jobs, got his degree, and has been working in the government for many many years. He maintains relationships with lots of friends–hearing and deaf–and participates in all kinds of activities. He helps arrange and run racquetball tournaments for both deaf leagues and hearing leagues. He travels, stays in hotels alone, drives daily to work, works among his colleagues, goes to a gym, sees his doctors…etc etc. He’s a pretty smart person, though sometimes his communication skills lag a bit. Most people deal with it pretty well, and so does he.
But he’s never had a romantic relationship that we’re aware of, though he has tons of friends. He’s never wanted to go away for any long period of time, never wanted to move out, and often relied on my mother to do things for him. Things he could do–though they might take some extra effort from him–but for whatever reason he chose not to do them. My mother did the things for him out of love, I’m sure. My brother helped (and still helps) take care of their current house and the property it sits on. He would cook occasionally and would stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things when my mother asked. He’s terrible at cleaning, but he takes good care of their dog. Now that Mom is gone, he handles the majority of the bills at the house, does all the taxes for him and my father, and he helps my father with most of the technology in the house.
There are times that he lets things slide that normally my mother would have handled. He and my father, living together like bachelors in their house now, often overlook things because they don’t want to deal with them. I have tried very hard to stay out of my mother’s role, because I do not want to be her. I don’t want to follow them around and make sure things get done, or be called upon when they don’t want to handle things. When things fall by the wayside, they scramble to handle them but it seems to be okay the majority of the time. One of the last issues I have struggled to step out of is their dog. I hate to see their dog suffer because they aren’t staying on top of things, or because they aren’t paying her enough attention. She was really my mother’s dog, her companion and her shadow, especially during Mom’s cancer. My father doesn’t pay the dog too much mind, and his memory is pretty shitty. I often worry that he lets her out into the yard and then forgets about her. It has only happened once or twice since my mother’s death, and neither time did she suffer too much discomfort before I discovered the lapse. Fortunately, their dog barks hysterically if she wants to get back in the house, so there have been times when I hear her barking and I call my dad to remind him she’s outside.
We are all heading to the wedding next weekend. It’s being held less than 30 minutes from our home(s), but it’s an evening wedding. It starts right before dinnertime and we need to be there early enough to get parking and walk to the venue. That means our dogs will all need to have someone come in to feed them and let them out after dinner. Hub and I have been talking about this for weeks, and we finally interviewed a couple of dog-sitters from Rover.com. We’ve used dog-sitters before, but we didn’t really like their service as they were ONLY drop-in and they would only promise to stop in on the dogs in a two hour window. So we interviewed a couple of people and found someone who will come in and stay with our dogs for the whole evening. They have a pretty active evening routine (including dinner), so we figured we’d pay the person to stay the whole evening. It’s not terribly expensive and we’re over-protective owners, so we went ahead and hired someone.
I said nothing to my brother or my father about their dog. They’re grown men, they take care of their dog, they knew the wedding was coming up for six months. If they were concerned about their dog, they should have done something. And I didn’t want to put my nose into their life and ask or suggest they make arrangements. It sounds petty, but I don’t want to be their mother or their wife. GROWN ADULTS.
Hub and I decided to have the dog-sitter come in once before the wedding so the dogs would have a chance to get to know the sitter. We hired her for a drop-in visit (30 minutes) to let the dogs out and play with them while we were out for a longer-than-normal dinner with my family. We all drove together to the restaurant, so when we got home, the sitter was still at our house (dinner didn’t take as long as we expected). Immediately my brother wanted to know who was at our house when he saw the car parked in front of our garage. So I told him we were trying out a dog-sitter in advance of the wedding. He sort of frowned and started to ask me questions, but I only said we’d met her a few weeks prior and then we went home.
Two days later–this is now ten days before the wedding–my brother sends me a message via googletalk to ask me how the dog-sitter had worked out. I said she was good, the dogs seemed to like her (but they like everyone!), so we were set for the wedding. His next question was, “Can she handle three dogs?” Because he hadn’t made any arrangements and he figured he would just leave his dog at my house and so he’d be all set without having to do anything! Again, I felt petty, but I don’t want him thinking that he’ll just let us always handle things and he’ll tag on. I told him that it wasn’t appropriate for our sitter to take care of his dog when she hadn’t met the dog. This was exactly why we had interviewed people in our house to see them with our dogs, and then did a trial-run before the wedding. Also, his dog is not the easiest to handle, especially when she’s in OUR house versus their house. And I told him all of that. I said he needed to find his own sitter, who would come to his house and take care of his dog. So he said there was no time left (TEN DAYS), and so he’d just have to come home early from the wedding to take care of his dog. Guilt and manipulation…because he hadn’t bothered to do the responsible thing for his dog and his plans. Six months they’ve known about the exact time and date for the wedding.
I felt badly. I had guilt so built up that I didn’t sleep that night thinking about it. I knew he was mad at me, but I didn’t want to teach him that if he didn’t do what he was supposed to, I would clean up after him. I didn’t want him to think that he could let things slide because he figured I would step in. Teaching people how to treat you is important, and I was teaching him to treat me like his sister, not his mother.
TWO DAYS LATER he asked me to help him get a dog-sitter. I had already given him the Rover.com website, so I didn’t understand why he needed my help. He opened the app on his iPad and through every step he asked for my input. HE’S A COMPUTER PERSON. He’s been in IT in the government for probably 25 years…why the hell did he need me to stand over him to help him with an app that I’ve NEVER EVEN USED. Hub and I were using the Rover.com website, not the app, so I’d never seen the app before. *sigh* We contacted several people, set up two for interviews, then he wanted me to be there at the interviews. As it turns out, the first person who came the very next night was the person he hired because the second person flaked out on us.
So he’s got his dog-sitter. We’ve got our dog-sitter. I persist in teaching him and my father that I am not their mother or wife, and that I am not going to step in and take care of things for them. I persist in reminding myself that I am teaching them to be independent human beings, capable of handling their lives. Obviously, if they seriously need me, I am there for them. But these simple, every-day things? They need to learn to handle their business like adults. And if they don’t handle their business, they are going to have to deal with their consequences.
Still, I feel petty and mean. And guilty. And I resent my brother’s attempt at manipulating and guilting me into doing what he wanted. The sooner he learns that he needs to handle things on his own, the better our sibling relationship will be. I hope.
In preparation for the wedding, I am getting my hair color fixed on Tuesday. I have my fingers crossed it goes well, because I’m not sure I could get it fixed again in between now and the wedding. I also have PT for my impinged (and frozen!) shoulder along with a neurology appointment this week.
And then I see a psychic medium on Friday. Should be an interesting experience and I’m not entirely sure I believe in them. I hope to report back on all the goings-on next week.
Do you listen to yourself talk? Do you have an internal editor who sifts through what you say before you say it? Do you tell people the truth when they ask you questions?
I don’t remember when this happened, but one day I remember listening to myself talk as if I were watching the conversation from outside of it. Not in a derealization kind of way, just in a way of WTF am I doing? Someone had asked me something and I was answering them, and the words coming out of my mouth were–technically speaking–lies. I wasn’t lying with malice, I was lying because I didn’t want the person to know how shitty I was feeling. I was lying because I didn’t want to have to deal with the eventual questions of why and have you seen a doctor and have you tried x. I was lying because I didn’t want the person to pity me, or to worry about me, or to think less of me for my health issues.
I’m in pain almost every day, from various parts of my body. Possibly from my mind, who knows. I feel lousy the majority of the days in recent years…not pain specifically, but sometimes it’s anxiety, sometimes it’s due to a known illness, sometimes it’s what my mind conjures, and sometimes it’s some unknown ailment. I get tired of telling people how I’m feeling when they ask. And for the most part, it’s not about them, it’s about me. I don’t want to deal with whatever the blow-back is, as I said above.
And on this particular day, I came to a realization of how often I lie (without malice) to people. Clearly I do it without forethought or planning…and in some cases it seems to be an automatic response. I try not to do it with Hub (he can often see through me anyway) and I definitely try not to do it with my therapist. Sometimes I will edit the “truth”, even though I suspect both of them know it. But with everyone else? I lie. I give fake answers. I edit the things I’m saying to meet the person I’m conversing with.
I hate how are you? I despise how are you feeling? I always feel put on the spot to answer in a manner that the person asking can understand or respond to in a manner that works for them. I absolutely abhor when Hub asks me what hurts or does something hurt? Again, no one else’s issue other than mine, but this is the truth.
I don’t remember a time when my body didn’t harbor pain. I don’t remember a time when my body didn’t report some form of illness–real or anxiety-induced. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t lie to people about those things.
How are you? Shitty.
How are you feeling? Shitty.
What hurts? Everything.
Giving those answers…what does it do for me or for the person asking? Nothing. It puts me on the spot to explain, clarify, defend, respond…and I don’t want to anymore. I would very much wish that I wouldn’t need to anymore, but in lieu of that, I lie.
How are you? Fine, thanks.
How are you feeling? Good days and bad days.
What hurts? Nothing new or different.
If you can’t beat ’em, fake ’em?
I wasn’t sure what to do this year about mother’s day. Last year I sent Hub off to his mother’s house without me, and I spent part of the day with my brother and his then wife (now ex-wife). I talked with T about this on Friday, because I feel some guilt about not going to my mother-in-law’s to be with her, but I just am not ready yet this year. I know she understands–as does Hub–but I am at heart a people-pleaser, and so the guilt sat heavy with me. In the end, though, I couldn’t make myself go.
My father had mentioned to me Friday evening that he was going to go to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave and he asked if I wanted to go. I didn’t answer him at that point, but Sunday morning when I saw him, he brought it up again. He said he knew it made me feel “uncomfortable”, but he wanted to make the offer for me to join him. I tried to be gentle in responding when I said to him, “I don’t feel uncomfortable about going, but the truth is, I don’t feel a connection to Mom there. I don’t feel it to Nana and Papa, either…it doesn’t work that way for me.” (my grandparents are buried in the plots next to my mother). For real, I feel more of a connection to my mother in her “den” closet, where she had a bunch of books stashed on a bookshelf…gardening, trees, cookbooks…I stumbled on them at one point and ended up crying. Because that’s my mother. The cemetery is just a marker for her physical body’s last resting place, but it has no history for me with her. My father only said OK and that he was okay to go alone, which I had to trust was true.
Somewhere around ten a.m., I texted my brother (the one with the ex-wife) to see what he was doing that afternoon. He said “nothing”, so I asked if he wanted to do something. What I really wanted to do was go back to the nursery where Mom and I used to go all the time, and where he and I went after she died. I also offered up the opportunity for him to come to my house to help me bake peanut butter cookies, which he (and my other brother) scarf up as fast as I can make them. His response was a preference to go to the garden center, so in some corner of my mind I knew it was the right thing to do. Even Hub said as much when I told him my plans for the afternoon while he was with his mother…he said my mom would be happy to know I was spending time there with my brother.
So after lunch, my brother and I set out for the nursery, which is about 20 minutes away. We talked a lot in the car about how he’s been doing with his depression and his medication, as well as some other health issues he’s dealing with. But once at the nursery, we talked about plants. We walked around the big place for about two hours–which leaves me exhausted and in pain today unfortunately–just chattering and touching plants and gagging over the high prices. We bought absolutely nothing, but it was worth the time and energy and pain, because it felt right. This brother and I, we have always been the closest of the siblings–with the exception of his married life where he withdrew from the whole family…and even then I tried to stay in touch with him as much as it was possible–so this connection felt good to renew. I know he’s struggling with his depression and his newly single life and his desire for a partner and…well, lots of stuff. And part of today was to remind him that he’s not alone. Doing that for my mom and for him made the day work for me.
I miss my mother so terribly. Every day. I feel like my identity without her has been lost. I don’t know how to get it back…yet. I’m still searching, and maybe someday I’ll find my purpose again.
I described (to T and a friend) the run-up to mother’s day as “being poked with a cattle prod when you’re already on fire”…and it’s true. That’s so much how I felt with all the television commercials and the holiday displays in all the stores and the radio commercials and facebook and instagram and on and on. I worry that it will always feel this way, this painful, this sad, this lost. Living without my mom has changed my life and changed me at my core. I don’t know how to adjust to that, or that adjustment is even possible. Somehow, I have to find a way forward. Last night I watched Bad Moms on television while Hub was still at his mother’s. There’s a point in the movie where Mila Kunis is talking to her movie daughter and she basically says, “I know you can make it through this because I’m your mother and I know what you’re made of.” It was such a dumb, funny, stupid, crazy movie, but that scene and those words (which I can’t remember exactly) really hit me hard. I know my mother believed in me and believed in my strength and my ability to persist. I hope I can find a way to continue to make her proud in that aspect as I try to find my way.
As a minor update, I finished all my bactrim pills successfully. I don’t know how much I feel better, but so far it seems the smell is gone, so I take that as success. I wasn’t too much more itchy the last day and half, so that was good. My stomach isn’t entirely back to normal yet, but I know the bactrim stays in your system for several days following the last pill. So hopefully another couple of days and my stomach will be better.