A dear friend of our family passed away last week. Well, the father of a dear family friend anyway. He was an upright, honest, kind, and caring man who was loved by many, but particularly his family. Needless to say, a lot of time was spent this weekend helping make arrangements and planning and preparing for the open house following the burial.
I am a soulful person. People’s pain touches me deeply and I feel a need to protect people from physical and emotional harm that goes against every paranoid bone in my body. If I see a woman struggling to push a cart to her car, I offer to push it for her. If someone drops something in a crowded hallway, I’m picking it up and running shouting after him. When I see people suffering, I offer the best gift I can give them, which is a warm comforting embrace. I’ve been told that my hugs are particularly good. I am a firm with my hugs, I let them linger a bit, and I put my whole heart into them. For me, it’s a way of connecting spiritually and physically with a person and trying to transfer some positive energy that will soothe their pain. What I have always longed for is my equivalent in the world, someone who hugs with that depth of sincerity and honesty, who puts everything in to it and accepts everything the other person is sending his or her way. My husband gives that kind of hug. He doesn’t have the capacity for dishonesty in his emotions because he’s just very sincere with his feelings about people. When he hugs me, I feel the whole world melt away and all of my pain and suffering goes with it. He is my safe harbor. He is my rock. And I really needed him today.
First off, I want to say that I love my mother. She’s cared for me when I’ve been sick and helped me learn to work hard and be loyal to those you love. She has always supported my pursuit of an education and the career choices I have made thus far. But lately she has shown a side of her which I knew was there deep down even though I pretended it wasn’t. Mom’s broken shoulder has turned her into a shell of her former self. Rather than rising to the challenge of having physical impairment, as she’s always expected of me, she has emotionally crumbled. She is frustrated with the limitations that have been imposed upon her, as is expected, but instead of taking things as they come, she is lashing out at anyone and everyone whose ear she can bend. When people ask her how she’s doing, she puts on that brave face and says how much progress she’s made and that things are improving each day. At least with people other than family, that is. At home, she is practically snarling on a constant basis. She drones on about how much she is not able to do and how no one is taking on all the responsibilities of the house. She yells at my father because he’s in failing health and hasn’t done anything to help himself in years. I know she loves him deep down, but I hurt for my father as she berates him and belittles him and beats him down. I tried to get her off the subject today, but she later yelled at me for supporting him when he had “done this to himself”.
My dad has never taken very good care of himself, but he doesn’t do it out of spite. He just loves food and being social and has let himself go over the years. He’s had a bad heart his whole life and his lifestyle has finally caught up with him in the past few years. A quintuple bypass about seven years ago scared him into shape for a while, but when he left to work in Pennsylvania, he ignored the council of his doctors about increasing exercise and eating a healthy diet. He’s gained weight steadily, like the rest of us, but his health conditions make the weight much more dangerous. I have cautioned him against eating too much and tried to get him to take more walks, but my dad is my dad. He hears what he want to hear. Even now, when he is standing at death’s door, he doesn’t understand the seriousness of his errors. He still thinks a pill will make it all go away. She is eternally frustrated with his attitude about life and she makes no attempt to hide her contempt for him. When she talks about the mess he’s put her in, I have a strong desire to give her a piece of my mind. My father is depressed and has been for some time. Years of verbal abuse from my mother is enough to get anyone down. I know firsthand. I think she will still put him down while he lies six feet under in his grave. She will have to go back to work. She will have to support herself instead of depending on her sick husband to make ends meet. I know, I’m supposed to feel sorry for her.
Today she pushed me over the edge. She had the gall to tell me I didn’t understand what it is like to be physically incapacitated, as if my accident didn’t land me in the hospital practically unable to move for 3 weeks, as if I hadn’t endured surgery after surgery trying to get back on my feet. There’s no one waiting on her hand and foot, like she did for me. There’s no one helping around the house that she is solely responsible for, according to her. My grandmother, who tries endlessly to help her and keep her occupied, is old and feeble and can’t do enough to satisfy her needs, or so she implies. When she started in on me about a comment I made about giving up three days to help her, I couldn’t contain my anger. You think breaking your shoulder hurts more than falling off a bridge? You think your suffering is more important because you’re no longer able to weed the beds or clean the pool filter? No longer able to socialize at church as much or drive around freely? Welcome to my world, mom. Her ignorance enraged me. She doesn’t see the pain in my soul and in my body because I hide it. She doesn’t understand what it’s like to be me. To hear voices and still act normal in front of people. To be the only twenty-something I know with a handicapped parking pass. To struggle with pain, frustration, and exhaustion on a daily basis. No one really understands a schizophrenic’s life except a schizophrenic. My normal urges to soothe and comfort her went out the window this afternoon. I lost all compassion for her and I blew up like a bomb. All of the years of pain I have endured at her hand flowed freely from my soul and I willed that pain her way. I walked out the door feeling abandoned and wronged. Sometimes things are better left unsaid, but sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. I will no longer lose self in order to fulfill and satisfy her. I will no longer abandon my own feelings because I fear her anger. I am my own person, and with or without her support, I will live happily on. Or maybe I’m just angry and need a day to cool off before begging her forgiveness. Either way, I know more about what I’m made of after today and I wont forget it for a second.