When you're on the plane the stewards do the safety drill. They say if you are traveling with a small child and the oxygen mask drops down put your own on first. It's a really perfect metaphor about the need to care of oneself so you will be able to take care of anyone else. It's the kind of metaphor that could be used in any self help seminar.
There are two commercials in heavy rotation right now. An adult with watery eyes and a runny nose leans into a room, apologizes for disturbing but they need to take a sick day. The camera then turns to a small child. When you have a baby, or a child the whole self care thing falls apart. There are no sick days. You take care of your children when you're sick and too tired and emotionally drained.
Both of these things are true. You can't take care of anyone if you aren't taking care of your self. And there are times when you're going to take care of the other when you should be taking care of yourself.
Caring for an eighty-eight year old mother with an increasingly foggy brain is similar. A silly example of this happened on the plane. Mom usually sleeps when she is on a plane but there were kids behind her moving around, banging into the seat. She was struggling with her emotions. She was worried about her future. I reached over to hold her hand. Her purse was between us and my book was leaned against it. The corner of the book was digging into my wrist but I could move it because she was finally drifting off and I didn't want to disturb her. I wasn't in danger or in terrible pain but I was uncomfortable and unable to read my book.
When I am around Mom she dictates our day, what we watch on TV, what we eat and how I cook it (no garlic). She sings when I'm trying to read. She doesn't want to go out. I've written about the mommy cut for my hair and the removal of the nose stud (she still hasn't said a thing). All of this is no big deal for a three month visit but now she lives with me. At some point she will have her own apartment in an assisted living facility but she will always spend time in The Nest. I'm going to need to find some balance.It's just not going to be easy and it is going to require constant reassessment.
Mom has always been central in her own narrative. I was raised by someone who was central in her own narrative. My narrative was tangential to hers. It's hard to explain the mechanics of how her strong sense of entitlement calls out my urge to do her bidding. To keep her happy. It began so young. The minute I grew up I moved to the opposite side of the country. I have always known that space was needed for out relationship to function at all. Now everything is different.
I'm not all torn up or overwrought. I am just aware.
I will be OK.
I imagine it will change me and I'm hoping I become more loving and patient and not a resentful ball of self pity. I'll be sorting and processing like super computer.