There are two (or more, but I’m sticking with binary here) reasons to go out of your comfort zone.
Mostly, we think of it in terms of growth, stretching your limits, expanding your horizons, overcoming obstacles. Things that are hard, but things that you choose so that you can end up where you want to go.
Then there’s the other way to leave your comfort zone – because you have no choice. Millions of people, right now, this minute, have been driven out of their comfort zones, by disease, by war, by poverty – my personal departure from comfort is a pretty minor one, really.
But it’s still unpleasant, even if it is a cliche: I’m becoming my mother’s mother, lost skill by lost skill. Her latest bit of slippage is especially unsettling because, in my family, it was always made very clear that my parents’ finances were Absolutely. None. Of. My. Business. And now I’m paying her bills and keeping her checking account balanced.
Monday, I’ll be getting her income tax done. Last year, I didn’t even have to think about her taxes. I don’t like it in this new world; she doesn’t like it here; we don’t have any way to go back.
(By the way: do you have grown children? Let them know where you keep your records and what your sources of income are. Now, while you remember. Don’t wait till it’s an emergency that you can’t help them with.)
It’s not that I object to helping her (though I finally realized that helping her is why I suddenly have so little free time). But it’s so painful to see a person who has always been responsible and independent become unable to cope.
Out of the comfort zone.
I feel as if I’ve been struggling to drag a huge shapeless bag – full of water maybe, so that when you try to coax it over an obstacle it just slumps into a different awkward shape – and getting nowhere at all, painfully.
Now I’ve lost hope. I can’t fix my mother. I can’t make her happy or healthy or make her days full of interest and enjoyment. I can’t make her young again.
What can I do? I can visit her every week or two (mostly with my excellent husband; thank you, Paul, for patience and driving, a hundred miles out and another hundred home again) and buy groceries and take her to the bank and make sure she pays bills and pick up prescriptions and organize her pills so she knows which ones to take each day. I can phone her, three times a day, in the morning to order her to take her morning pills, in the afternoon to chat so she doesn’t go day after day with no human contact, in the evening to tell her to take her night pills right now. I can remind her when she has doctor’s appointments. In between, I can go on with my life. I can’t fix her, and knowing that, it turns out that I can give up being guilty and fretful.
I’ll let that bag of water trickle away and concentrate on picking up one stick or stone at a time and putting it where it needs to be. Losing false hope; what a relief!
I don’t have much to say today. Just back
from driving several hours to see my mom
and coax and bully her to pay some bills
and take her pills and other odds and ends
then several hours driving back again.
The same again next week. I’m tired. I’m sad.
I am grieving for my mother.
No, she hasn’t died. But she’s dealing with a significant constriction in the things she’s able to do without help, and it upsets her terribly. And understandably. (I suppose you could say she’s grieving for herself.) Unfortunately, one way she deals with the pain is by scolding herself and feeling ashamed of her loss.
I spend a good bit of time trying to soothe her, or at least distract her from being angry at herself. Anything to help her suffer less. And afterwards I feel consumed by guilt, scolding myself for not making her life All Better and feeling ashamed of myself as an inadequate daughter.
Have I learned my lessons on how to deal with problems or what?
Project for the rest of 2011: train myself to do what I can to fix things, and when I’ve done everything in my power, find some excuse to be happy. I don’t, I really don’t, want to be in my eighties and spend my time making myself and everyone within reach miserable. And, God help me, who knows if I’ll be able to avoid doing just that once I’m old and sick.
I am grieving.