Tag Archive | life

Abandonment

As I’ve written about in previous blog posts, I have a chronically ill husband.  It’s not a disease that will go away.  It’s progressive and incurable at this point.  It can be manageable, but it’s also unpredictable, and some days are good days and some days are bad days.  Chronic illness affects families in many different ways.  Patients and spouses go through many emotions at different times.  An ongoing theme that I’ve noticed affects both my husband and I, and has a ripple effect on the people in our lives, is abandonment.  We abandon and we feel abandoned.  I can’t speak for my husband, but I can share what it’s like for me.  I have always kept this stuff bottled up inside me for many reasons.  I feel like I have to be strong and be able to handle everything.  But I can’t.  I don’t want people who leave me out, to know I feel abandoned because I don’t want them to feel bad.  So, I feel bad instead.  I feel guilty for having less than stellar emotions.  I don’t know why.  I’m human and entitled to be negative at times, and feel sadness, and feel upset with people.  Mostly, I don’t want other people to worry about me, or have my hard times affect their happy lives.  I know in my head that I shouldn’t feel this way, but since when does that matter?  We feel what we feel.  That is one of the reasons I write.  It’s therapeutic for me, and I think it helps other people who are going through the same thing.  Writing lets me get out my feelings without having to say them.  It’s easier for me.

One of the hardest things that I have gone through over the past 6 ½ years, is the feeling of being abandoned.  There are people who I have thought would be there for me who have not.  I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional, but nothing hurts more than people you care about becoming scarce when you are left to hold together a family affected by illness.  There have been many people who have stepped up and been great supports to us, and for that we will be forever grateful.  But there are others who have not.  My husband has told me that he feels left out of things, and he says it doesn’t bother him, but I think it does.  I know it bothers the hell out of me when I feel left out.  It happens frequently.  We aren’t sure why.  Maybe people think we can’t afford something, or he won’t be up to it, or maybe we just aren’t as fun because we can’t do everything everyone else does.  We wish people would invite us to do things and leave it up to us to decide if we can or not.  Sometimes we will be able to, and other times not.  I need to get out and keep living my life and do fun things.  He is still living and he should get out and do things, too.

Abandonment goes in both directions.  I work, take care of a household, and I’m busy with three older children who have places to go and activities to do.  I’m also looking for a better job.  Thankfully, my husband is still at a point where he doesn’t need me to be a caretaker, but there are days he doesn’t feel well and I do take care of him.  I spend a large part of my life doing for others, and there are those times when a crisis happens and suddenly there is a trip to the hospital.  Out of necessity, I abandon those things that aren’t of vital importance.  My house tends to be messy…who wants to spend a free day cleaning the stinkin house?  I do whatever amount of laundry needs to be done in order to give us clean clothes for a couple of days.  I’ve also abandoned certain dreams…buying a bigger, nicer house…spending my older years traveling with my husband…retiring, in general.  There are those times, when I don’t feel like doing anything on the weekends, so I don’t seek people out to do things with.  When you spend your weeks always doing, a day off to do nothing is a luxury.  A day to myself, doing anything I want to do is almost unheard of.   Because of this, I have done my share of abandoning some people.  One of the people that I don’t spend nearly enough time with is my Mom.  But she is the one person in my life who I know will NEVER abandon me, no matter what.  It’s not fair to her.   I am going to change that.  The irony of all of this is that I feel abandoned, and the one person who has never abandoned me is the one I leave out.  Sometimes, I just feel like I have nothing left to give.  I’m tired.  There are also times I feel like I’ve abandoned my husband, but again, sometimes I feel like I am depleted of whatever I have to give.  I have also abandoned some of the people who have stopped bothering with us.  That was hard to do, but necessary for my peace of mind.  Sometimes, you just have to let people go.

All of these feelings lead to that old cycle of guilt and resentment.  There are millions of people who are going through an illness with a family member.  We have become a caretaking society…people take care of parents with Alzheimer’s, children with autism and other disabilities, cancer patients, chronically ill family members.  It’s not an unusual thing to have someone in your life that needs to be taken care of.  Someday, YOU may need to be taken care of.  Or you may be taking care of someone.  Take a moment to reach out to someone who is going through this.  Please understand that a lot of times, the person may say no to an invitation.  Keep asking anyway, because it makes a world of difference to know that someone thought of them and took the time to at least ask.  It helps people to not feel abandoned and isolated, and that goes a long way.

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Grandma

This blog post will be a little different today.  I am writing about my grandmother who is celebrating her 90th birthday today.  While most of my readers don’t know her, I wanted to write about her because she has been one of the greatest influences on my life, and one of the ways I can honor her is with my words.  I will be giving her a copy of this post, in a card at her upcoming party.

 

Dear Gram,

Today, on the occasion of your 90th birthday, I want to express to you all the things I love about you and the ways in which you have influenced me over the past 46 years of my life.  You have been there for me since day one and you have always been like a second mother to me.  I don’t remember the first two years of my life when we lived right next door to you, but going to your house, even today, makes me feel like I’m home.  You are always so happy to see me and always willing to make coffee and have a bite to eat and spend time visiting.  I feel like I can talk to you about almost anything and your words of advice stay with me.  Some of my favorite memories from childhood include sleeping over at your house and staying up late to watch TV with you while Grandpa fell asleep on the couch, and the shopping trips and errands we would go on where you would always buy me “a little something.”  I remember all your roast beef dinners, and the holidays that were always celebrated at your house. Christmas will never be the same anywhere else.

I love to hear your stories about France, your childhood, your parents and especially the World War II stories when the Germans occupied France.  Of course, I also love to hear about how you met Grandpa, and the night my Mom was born on your mother’s dining room table.  You are a master story teller with a gift of description that brings your listeners to the place and time of your stories.  You are always willing to share your personal stories, even if it means making fun of yourself or sharing something embarrassing that you did.  Your story telling is one of my most favorite things about you.  My children also love your stories and I love that they will remember you and your stories.

One of the things I admire most about you is your incredible artistic talent.  I don’t know anyone who has a knack for decorating like you do, and I don’t know anyone else who takes it upon themselves to walk into their daughter’s or granddaughter’s home and make adjustments to the decor without being asked.  We never minded because it always looked a million times better!  And you did it from your heart, and to help us love our homes as much as you love yours.  You are amazing with a sewing machine and I know over your many years you have made wardrobes of clothes, but most impressive and meaningful are the many wedding gowns, head pieces, and hats you have made.  I hope someday one of my girls will wear the beautiful head piece you made me for my wedding.  Then there is the knitting.  There have been many babies who have been blessed with the baby sweaters and hats you have made over the years.  I cherish the sweaters you made for my babies, and all the hats and scarves that kept my children warm over the years.  My favorite thing, though, is that every year you take a baby sweater to the hospital on Grandpa’s birthday and donate it to an underprivileged newborn baby.  You are always so generous with your love and talents.

Your generosity is another quality you have that I admire.  You have always been willing to help out any of your children or grandchildren with anything…whether it was a home cooked meal, or an item from your home that someone could use, or even cash to help someone get by during a rough patch.  You have a way of giving without making the other person feel bad or guilty, and you have no idea how much that is appreciated by all of us.  You also are willing to help strangers.  I’ve seen you help elderly people in stores, or assist a child with something out in public, or simply donate something to a stranger when one of your children or grandchildren mention they know someone in need.  I also remember several holidays when you took in people you didn’t know who had no family nearby, and let them spend the holiday with our big family and enjoy an incredible dinner.  You share your love and let your light shine, and the world is a better place for it.  I know mine is.

Your job as mother is where you shine the brightest.   You took care of your children in a way that every mother should.  Their needs were always first, they always had a hot meal, beautiful home made clothing, a happy place to live, and tons of love.  You took care of Grandpa throughout your life together, right up to his last breath.  He was so lucky to call you his wife.  You have that same love for your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Everyone knows that Mom, Grandma or Grandee will take care of them.  You taught my Mom how to be a Mom, and she taught me how to be a Mom.  I hope that my girls continue to carry it on.

Grandma, you are one of the strongest women I know and that is one of the biggest influences you have had on me.  Life hasn’t always been easy for you.  You’ve survived a war, and left your country to come here to raise a family.  Our family has had it’s share of difficult times, but you are a pillar of strength for everyone.  You never let it get the best of you.  You have survived the worst of nightmares in the loss of your child,  Uncle Jeff.  I can’t imagine the devastation of losing a child, and I know it was devastation for you.  But you carry on, and live and laugh.  That is an incredible gift to him, and the rest of your family.  So many mothers would get lost in their grief and never be the same again, but you are still here for the rest of us.  As I go through difficult times in my life, I think of you and your strength and it helps me carry on and do the same for my family.  Thank you so much for that.

I could go on, but those were the things I especially wanted you to know.   I love you more than words can express, and I want you to know that you will forever occupy a large piece of my heart.  I will carry you with me for the rest of my days, and I will be here for you for the rest of yours.  Have a very happy 90th birthday, Gram.  I love you!

 

Renee

The Abyss

In November of 2007, the words “they found a tumor” altered the course of my husband’s life, my life, and my children’s lives.  Those words started a two year journey to find a diagnosis, followed by several years of treatment attempts, horrible illness,  multiple hospitalizations, incredible stress and strain on our family, more questions than answers, and ultimately, the realization that this wasn’t ever going away.  In fact, it would only continue to get worse…his disease is progressive and incurable.  The roller coaster of emotions never stops, but I have learned a lot about myself, the people in my life, and life with a chronically ill family member.

 

For myself, this isn’t an easy journey.  People tell me all the time that I am an incredibly strong person.  I am strong because I have no choice but to be strong.  What would my alternative be?   I can choose to give up and stop living, or I can choose to be strong, do what needs to be done for my family, and be here for my husband.  I’m strong, but not infallible. I make a choice every day to laugh, enjoy my family, find a few things for myself that I enjoy, and try not to get sucked into the abyss of never ending illness.  However, there are a lot of struggles that I endure every day that people who haven’t ever been in this situation would fail to grasp.  People who haven’t lived this may even think less of me for feeling the way I sometimes feel.  You just can’t fully understand it unless you’ve lived it.

 

There are two emotions that play a constant role in my life…guilt and resentment.  I didn’t sign up for this.  Who would?   I have a lot of days that I resent what this illness has done to me, my husband and the life together that we will likely never have.  We won’t spend our later years traveling together, or going out and doing things with friends, or staying up late having interesting discussions.  Those things are few and far between for us already.  I know this isn’t anyone’s fault, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.  I feel resentful of friends and family members who WILL get to do those things, or who can go on great vacations, or who express worries about money when they are making two or three times what we are struggling to live on. I am resentful when I see other couples out doing things together.  I am resentful when I see other families with healthy Dads, actively engaging in activities with their children when my children’s Dad barely has enough energy to get through a quiet day at home.

 

The usual emotion followed by resentment is a big, healthy dose of guilt.  I feel guilty for feeling resentful of the illness, and other people who have an easier life.  I feel guilty for yearning for more from life. I would never wish this on anyone.  I am happy for people who are happy with life.  But sometimes I still resent it, which makes me feel guilty.  I have a lot of things to be grateful for.  I have a husband who loves me, three amazing children who I love more than life itself, some incredible friends, incredibly supportive parents, and many family members who have always been there for us.  I get it.  I have many good things in my life, too.  But that doesn’t take away the resentment and the guilt for feeling resentful.  It is what it is, but it doesn’t make it easier to accept.  Again, for people not in my shoes, this may be hard to understand.

 

I tend to keep my feelings to myself, and withdraw from people during my darker times.  I am an introspective person, and usually prefer to solve my own issues on my own, and in my own time.  I’m sharing this not because I want anyone to solve this issue for me, or because I’m looking for sympathy.  These are my issues that I deal with every day.  They aren’t right or wrong…they just “are.”  I’m sharing this so that people can maybe understand what it’s like to live this type of life.  There are many people out there feeling isolated, misunderstood, resentful, guilty and hopeless.

 

People often ask what  they can do to help a family or person dealing with illness.  They usually mean by actively doing things…making a meal,  or helping with a task.  There are other ways you can help.  You can help emotionally by letting them know that you are there if they need you.  You can help by realizing that your every day issues are issues they would give anything to have, rather than the stress they are living with on a long term basis.  You can help by including them in things so they don’t feel isolated.  You can also help by being sincere in your interest in how someone is doing.  Don’t ask if you don’t REALLY want to be a listening ear. It is noticed when you aren’t really paying attention to what someone is telling you.  You can help by listening without trying to give advice.  Advice is nice if it’s asked for, but mostly it’s just nice to be listened to and sympathized with.  When I feel as if I’ve been really heard, it makes a world of difference.  It makes the resentment and guilt go away for a little while.  It gives me hope.

If Adults Acted Like Kids

When hanging out with toddlers or pre-schoolers, people love to talk about how sweet and innocent they are.  They go through their days being spontaneous, not caring what anyone else thinks.  They immerse themselves in their experiences and live for self-pleasure.  I’ve heard numerous adults admire that about young children, and question when we lost that innate spontaneity.  I frequently watch young children and wonder to myself what it would look like if an adult were doing such things.  This is for my own amusement and entertainment.  I have spent a long time “researching” the behavior of little kids and what would happen if adults lived in the same spontaneous way that children do.  This is what that would look like:

 

At a business lunch:  Professionals and executives would be trying to seal the deal over chicken nuggets or spaghetti and meatballs.  At least one person would be blowing bubbles in his chocolate milk, while another stacks suger dispensers, salt and pepper shakers, and silverware in a tower.  Perhaps that would be the architect or builder of the group.  Yet another would be scribbling on his placemat.  Someone would likely have sauce rubbed all over his face and in his hair.  There may even be one well dressed woman crawling under the table, or flinging her legs over the back of the booth seat.  Never mind the potential for launching peas at each other with spoons.

 

At a business meeting:  Rolling chairs.  Think of the fun that can be had in a conference room with rolling chairs.  I’m thinking races around the table, and spinning each other until you can’t walk a straight line.  That sounds way more fun than watching some boring presentation on sales or marketing.

 

At the doctor’s office:  A husband brings his wife to the doctor.  She needs a physical.  She spends an hour in the waiting room, playing with the germ infested toys.  Once in a while, she stops to approach another woman.  She stands in her personal space, stares her down, and then looks her up and down, from head to toe, judging her by the way she looks.  Then, they start to play together…one puts a toy in her mouth, drops it on the floor, and the other picks it up, and puts it in HER mouth.  Finally, they get called into a room.  The man undresses the woman while she fights him the entire time.  Once she is in her underwear, she spins around on the doctor’s stool, climbs on and off the table until the paper is a shredded mess, plays lightning storm with the lights, and touches every last medical tool available.  The visit ends with her screaming bloody murder and fighting the nurse, the doctor, the husband, and six bouncers as they try to give her a shot.

 

At the grocery store:  Picture a mature couple walking into the grocery store.  They select a carriage.  The wife holds it still, while the husband climbs in to the back.  It would be way funnier if he tried to get into the little seat in front, but that would require a full on extrication by the fire department at the end of the trip.  So, let’s stick to the back.  She struggles to push him through the store because, as usual, she picks a carriage that only wants to go left, and of course, he weighs 200 pounds which makes it more of a challenge.  Five minutes into the shopping experience, he starts to whine because he’s bored.  He starts grabbing crap off the shelves.  He keeps standing up, so she has to continually remind him that he needs to sit.  He begs for some garbage food item in every aisle, and pitches a fit every time she says no.  The other shoppers give her dirty looks because clearly she can’t control his behavior.  Everyone thinks she’s a shitty wife.

 

In the car:  They leave the grocery store.  She tries to strap him into his seat belt and he does the whole “arching his back thing” while crying and screaming that he wants to go home.  Once they’re moving, he calms down and entertains himself by making faces at the people in other cars.  He might even suck his thumb.  Eventually he gets sleepy, and dozes off.  By this time, the wife notices a scent that indicates he needs his pull-up changed.

 

There are many scenarios involving children that would be way more entertaining if adults were the key players and not the kids.  Picture an adult stripping off his clothes and running naked through the playground.  Wait, that would just be creepy.  Bad example.  Picture adults playing in the dirt, or tossing stuff in the toilet and swishing it around with their hands.  Picture them running everywhere, and falling on their faces like a two year old.  Picture them riding the dog, climbing on the furniture, having a tug-of-war over a toy, or sticking a metal object in a socket to see what happens.  You can switch the players no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  It really is funny.  Next time you’re stuck in a board meeting or some mind-numbing adult activity, switch the players.  It might be a social faux-pas to act on these ideas, and you would likely appear to be mentally ill or at the very least socially immature for doing any of it.  But nobody can condemn you for simply thinking about it, and honestly, as long as you’re entertaining yourself, that’s all that really matters.

How Not To Raise An Unlikable Kid

I’ve worked in an elementary school for the past 6 years.  It’s probably the single most entertaining job I’ve ever had.  Kids crack me up, and I am that person who is likely to giggle for a little too long when someone’s little darling innocently makes some innuendo filled statement that only an adult would notice.  Kids can be adorable, and wise beyond their years…or they can be little dicks.  I’ve had multiple conversations with multiple adults about how disrespectful children can be these days.  You used to be able to count on one hand how many kids were poorly behaved and disrespectful.  Unfortunately, the tides have turned and it’s more likely that you can count well behaved, respectful kids on one hand.  With this in mind, I give you my advice on how to prevent your kid from being on the ugly side of that statistic.

 

1.     Teach them that it’s not amusing to be a little punk who ignores the directions of adults.  Believe me, we know they find it amusing because they tend to have a smirk on their face that makes even the most even keeled of adults want to slap it off their face and into next week.   It’s not cute, it’s not because they’re young, it’s because they haven’t learned to respect adults.

 

2.     Teach them that the adults at school are NOT blind.  When we see them do something right in front of us, it means WE SAW IT!  No matter how many times they say they didn’t do it, WE SAW THEM DO IT!   This might be a good time to start teaching them accountability.  When they punch a co-worker in the ribs in front of their boss someday,  they won’t get away with saying they didn’t do it.

 

3.     Teach your child some independence.  Show them how to open a friggin straw, or wipe their mouths.  For the love of all that is great and holy, teach them how to wipe or blow their nose!  It’s unbelievable how many kids need help with EVERYTHING.  It’s not because they aren’t capable, it’s because they never have to do anything for themselves.  I’ve seen parents come to school for parties or lunch, and they literally spoon feed their child!  PLEASE, let them do things for themselves.  They will be okay.

 

4.     Teach them not to be wimps.  Seriously.  Life is a lot easier when you can suck it up and move on.  There are so many kids who whine over trivial injuries, invisible cuts,  and act like they are crippled for life when they have  microscopic booboos.  Then you have the kids who suffer daily with hourly stomach aches.  A lot of this is for attention, so for everyone’s sake…especially your child’s…give them the attention they need.

 

5.     Teach them to be a good friend.  Nobody likes a tattletale, and there are kids who make it their job to rat out every other kid in sight, for even the slightest of transgressions.  Unless a classmate is going to get hurt, it’s usually okay to let things slide.  Teach your kids that manipulating others, talking behind people’s backs, ranking friends, and being visually disgusted when someone sits next to them, is not going to win them friends.  Teach them to be kind.  It’s not okay to be mean and hurt people’s feelings.

 

6.     Teach your kid that not every damn thing that is said and done “hurts their feelings.”  A lot of kids like to use that phrase to get other kids in trouble.  They tell the adults at school that so-and-so hurt their feelings, usually with an annoying smirk on their face. Refer back to rule #4.  Tell them to get over it.

 

Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list.  It’s just a starter guide, if you will.  It boils down to teaching kids that school is a place for learning, and that teachers and other adults are to be listened to, responded to, and respected.  Stop babying your kids, stop assuming they are always innocent, teach them how to do for themselves, and to treat other kids the way they want to be treated.   Ultimately, it will make your child a better member of society, a better friend, and a better person.  It will also prevent you from being the parent of the kid that nobody likes.  Don’t be the parent of THAT kid.

Be A Quitter

Be a quitter.  It’s okay.  If you aren’t enjoying the book you’re reading, go ahead and shut it, never to pick it up again.  Really, the world won’t fall apart.  You could even go bigger than quitting a book.  You could quit the hobby you don’t enjoy any more, or quit hanging out with people who no longer have a positive impact on your life.  You can quit eating food that isn’t good for you.  You can even quit your diet.  How about your job?  Is it draining the life from your body and soul and wasting years of your life?

 

I recently made a decision to quit a certification program in surgical technology.  In the beginning, I was very excited to start a new adventure in the medical field…a field I always wanted to be a part of.  I yearned for it.  I quit a job that I loved, so I could do something new.  It was a huge risk.  My husband and I made the choice to live on a measly disability paycheck that he gets every month.  It was a risky move, but the idea was that I could ultimately get a better paying job, doing something I loved, within a year.  I enjoyed the academics of school, but when it came to working in an operating room, it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t like it…at all.  The operating room is very high stress, I found myself looking at the clock every five minutes while at the hospital, wondering if it was time to leave yet.  I absolutely dreaded going in to the hospital on clinical days. So many people were happy for me when I decided to go to school and it was so great in the beginning.  People would ask me if I love it and I would say yes, while thinking to myself that I didn’t think I did.  It took me awhile to admit to myself that this wasn’t right for me.  How could I spend the rest of my life doing something that I already dreaded?  Four months into the program, I quit.  I didn’t consult with anyone about my decision.  I made it myself.  It was okay to quit.  Guess what?  The world hasn’t fallen apart.  In fact, I’m at peace knowing that I no longer have to live with the regret that I never went into the medical field.

 

I left school with a game plan.  I would apply to substitute teach in the school system that I quit working for to return to school.  While doing that, I would look for something permanent.  Again, it was a risky move.  The job market isn’t great, and substitute teaching is only as needed.  So far, it has worked out.  I look at this time as a transition period.  I am working, and waiting for the right job.  I’m 46 years old and don’t want to settle any more for what’s available.  I don’t want to settle for a crappy job that bores me.  I don’t want to settle for a job that other people think I would enjoy or a job that I should take because I’m not working a permanent job right now.  I have three kids and a sick husband to think about.  While I need something that can pay the bills, I refuse to be miserable to do it.  Some people may understand that, some may not.  I don’t need them to understand.

 

I am now in a place in my life where I realize how short life really is.  This is MY life, and while it affects others, I am the one who ultimately has to live it.  I have responsibilities to my children and husband.  I would never sacrifice their well being in a selfish way.  It’s better for them to have a happy mother and wife, not a miserable one who is living like a robot, doing what everyone else expects of her.  I’ve spent most of my life, doing what is expected by others, all at my own expense.  I am now choosing to live authentically by doing what is right for me, based on my own feelings, desires and needs.  If I do that, my husband and kids will be better off.  I will have more energy for them.  I will be happier, so they will be happier.

 

I’ve heard so many people say so many times that they “can’t” quit something that no longer serves them.  They started a book, they don’t like it, but they feel they have to finish it.  They started a karate class, or learning how to knit, or training for a new job, and they can’t quit.  They are hanging out with someone who brings them down, or treats them as if they are only a friend of convenience, or they blow them off when something better comes along.  But, they can’t stop being friends because they don’t want to make them feel bad.  Really?  Obviously, people like that aren’t too concerned about your feelings.  Let them go.  My point isn’t to live selfishly with no regard for others.  My point is to be honest with yourself, see when something isn’t serving you, and let it go.  There are no prizes for finishing that book that bores you to the point that your eyes are glazed over.  Close it and get a new one.  The prize is much bigger if you quit that which you hate.  It frees up your time to do the things you really enjoy, that bring positivity to your life, and maybe give you a feeling of peace.  Life is too short to waste time on things that aren’t right.