Feb. 19th, 2013

aamusedinatx: (dorothy)
In the face of all odds I choose happiness. This is not the easiest task. People think that 'Pollyanna' types are unrealistic simpletons who don't have a clue, much less a grasp of the enormity of 'real life'. I'm not even suggesting I'm as happy or as cheerful as Pollyanna. It is just that I have learned the hard way, over the years, what the other choices cost me. They cost me confidence, momentum, schooling, employment, contentment and peace of mind. It cost me friends and it cost me companionship.

I can and do choose to be happy in life. When incidents, people or tasks crop up that create stress and unhappiness, I examine the root cause and make determined steps for myself to address that unhappiness:

solve problem X; address a conflict with person Y; recognize stress as transient or recognize the duration so that I can apply counter measures which give me joy and balance the stress with more positive things.

If you read along on my FB you know that many things geographical, social and political outrage my sense of what is right and what is fair. I do not let that turn me bitter (I'm already cynical). In my own pragmatic way I try to channel that outrage into direct action that can bring something better to myself and people around me. I don't just sit here and strangle on my outrage as a victimized martyr. Being upset by inequality or human rights abuses, or political/financial stupidity does not mean I get to sit back and simply say "this is horrible, poor me."

But what about when that unhappiness and sense of 'this is and has been just WRONG' (and unchangeable) in my personal sphere? I came across an interesting article in SLATE today. It asked a question which looms large in my mind these days. What do I owe my abusive Mother now that she is in sharp decline?

My thought is this.

I sacrificed my happiness in a never-successful quest to please my mother for nearly 30 years. I am not going to re-sacrifice my happiness, my peace, or my sense of self to her now.

I WILL ensure to the best of my ability that she has the compassionate care I think human beings deserve, but I do not have to be her nursemaid to provide that.

Her sense of entitlement ("that's what I gave BIRTH to you for") does not make me obligated.

Her assumptions, when proved false, infuriate her. Trust me when I say crazy and mean do not improve with age.

In truth, my Mother would rather walk in front of a bus than be dependent upon me for anything, other than money. I think she fears being dependent upon me. What she fears is retaliation for all the years of abuse and derision she heaped upon me. On the one hand she should fear that. She sowed a very bitter crop and now is the harvest time. On the other hand, what she expects of me is what she herself would deliver if she were in my shoes.

Only I am not her.

Revenge is an easy road and not a noble one. Taking revenge now on an old, crazy and feeble woman is not a noble act. It doesn't obligate me to bury the past, but I obligate myself to provide for her as I can, through controlled, short interactions, keeping things polite, and making sure she has access to skilled care as she needs it. I am not her nurse, but I can make sure she has one. I am not her chauffeur but I can make sure she has transport when she needs it. I am not a martyr to her bitterness, she covers that just fine on her own.

My mother has long made the assumption that after my father dies, she will simply move in with my sister and live out the rest of her days happily ever after. Fact Check: My sister doesn't want her either. Oh, and by the way--that's my fault. :D

When I told my sister of this plan (a plan my Mother has been telling her siblings and I for a decade) My Mother has never asked or even opened that discussion with my sister at any time in the last 20 years; and certainly not in the last 10 years that my Father has been declining. Why not? This is a fairly important discussion! The reason why is because in my Mother's head this move was a foregone conclusion. She'd raised and trained and programmed my sister in a particular way in order to ensure that my sister was in perpetual need of my Mother's presence, advice and nurturing. Only something happened along the way; my sister grew into her own person, shedding her programming and training, and learning late in life that she needed to choose what made her happy instead of sacrificing her happiness and peace of mind so that others could be happy instead.

And now, she's struggling in her 40s to learn the hard lessons I struggled to learn in my late 20s/early 30s: to be at peace, to be brave, to confront insecurities, and to not let the heavy chains of 'obligation' define her. My Mother's assumptions and sense of entitlements from and of my Sister are not HER obligations or responsibility. I cheer my sister on as she struggles with this. I try to let her pick her own battles with Mother--because they are similar but not the same as my battles with her. I step in and run interference only when necessary and simply back up and re-emphasize that my sister's choices and actions are her own and are the right ones for her. That she is an adult capable of making those choices. That she needs to make choices based on what is best for HER because no one else is making those choices

And daily, I remind my sister of how empowered she truly is, and how happiness is her choice, and how she is so much bigger and more capable than any of her many challenges.

In spite of the looming issues of dealing with an aging bitter parent I continue to choose my happiness. In this situation it is the joy of being a big sister and helping and supporting her as she grows. It's in drawing my boundaries carefully and consistently when dealing with my Mother so that she has less avenue to poison my world with her own outrage, fear, entitlement, and unhappiness over the bitter harvest she reaps. I hope to mentor my sister as we continue and keep her from being overwhelmed by the backwash/backlash of my boundaries. Now that she has some physical distance from my Mother that should be a bit easier. Moving to California and giving myself that physical distance 20 years ago, helped me greatly in separating where my mother ended and where I began.

Meanwhile, even when I'm having a sucky day, or I'm incensed by some corporate demagoguery or political asshattery, I still draw a deep breath and smile because...

I CHOOSE happiness.




May 2013

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