Yesterday, at work, my girlfriend started our day pondering why we both have the need to be there for our parents day in and day out. Her dad is in a nursing home and my mom is in rehab. What really resonated with me was when she mentioned something a friend of hers had said. This friend mentioned, ‘C, you are living the life of an 85 year old. Your dad has lived his life. You don’t need to be there 7 days a week. You need to take time for you.’
Throughout the morning, I really thought about why I felt obligated to be the caregiver of my mom and also my dad. At lunch, I started writing down thoughts, based on the conversation with my friend, such as
- Am I doing myself a favor?
- Am I a martyr? And if so, what am I gaining?
- Who is benefiting?
- What’s missing in my life I am trying to grasp or resurrect?
- Why is it necessary to be ‘the one’ all the time?
- What is likely to happen if I put my needs first?
And then this thought occurred…
- Am I justified in feeling resentment and anger towards my siblings or are these feelings being directed towards them because I really feel resentful and angry because of the situation I have put myself in by being the ‘main’ caregiver?
In a flash, the angst, the anger, the resentment, the turmoil I have allowed vanished. It was then I realized I did feel resentful. I did feel anger. Not towards my parents but definitely towards the situation.
When I got divorced, my parents were still healthy, very independent and didn’t require a lot of extra care. Being single again, I had plans. Grand plans! Plans to take some college classes, engage in some art classes, volunteer, write more in my blog, finally get up off the couch and get back into exercising, travel on a whim, etc. But in choosing to help my parents, those plans were put on hold. So why did I choose to stop my life to help my parents?
I realize now, when I got divorced I felt abandoned. Instead of communicating to fix the issues we had, my ex went out and found himself another love. Ten months after the divorce was final, he was engaged. A year later, he was married. His life continued. I thought mine was continuing too but subconsciously, I had more than a broken heart. I had a hole that needed to be filled.
As a result, I stepped in to help my mom and dad. In the beginning it was awesome! I was gaining the love I hadn’t experienced in a long time while married. Instead of saving myself, I turned the tables into saving my parents. Anytime they needed something, my mom would call. Eventually, my dad plowed through his pride and would call me as well. My life was back on track again! I had purpose. I had self worth. I was being recognized because once again I was the good daughter coming to the rescue. Sometimes resentment would creep but I would wave it away, telling myself, it was my duty to care for my parents, payback for what they had given me growing up. Yet, just when I believed life was hunky dory and my hole was full, life took a turn. And death took my dad.
It was when death stepped in, the resentment began. And it grew and grew and grew. Till anger also joined the dance. When my dad died, I once again felt abandoned. Except this time, it was by the one male who accepted me as I was with unconditional love, who understand me more than I did myself and who could always tell when I needed a hug or a shoulder to lean on.
For 7 months, my conscious made me believe I was doing great. But my subconscious kept poking me, slowly at first and then as the months crept by, harder and harder till it woke me up to face the truth.
I wasn’t doing okay. Every morning I was smothering my grief with my daily makeup of a smile, a laugh and a positive attitude. You see, the root of the problem wasn’t and isn’t with my siblings. They are living their lives, just like my ex. I was living the life of a 89 year old not of a 50+ person who had wished for a brand new start and gotten it.
It’s funny how finding the root cause of my resentment and anger made the weight I have been carrying instantly disappear. Hindsight can be a bitch but it can also provide the lessons we need to learn, when the subconscious knows deep down, life is not all roses.
I’m not saying I’m ready to rush to my siblings and reestablish a relationship. There is a whole history of not being close with them. A history I am not sure I am ready to fix right now, especially after the past two days of ruminating.
The main thing is fixing myself, which I believe starts with
- not feeling guilty when I put myself first.
- being more open with my mom in letting her know I need time for me.
- taking time for me to do the things I desire. Even if that means putting them on a calendar so I actually do them.
- living the life of a 50+ gal, instead of the life of an 89 year old. That time will come soon enough.
And finally, listening to my subconscious self. Like my intuition, it knows what my heart and my spirit are singing, despite anything I do to quiet them. And it won’t stop persisting till I learn what I need to be taught in order to move forward with the life I was meant to have.
P.S. Thank you C for being the friend who is more like a sister. I am honored to be a part of your life and grateful you are in mine.