With both parents now deceased, my aged Aunt Pat is the only living relative left on my mother’s side. As you may remember from my Christmas blog, my daughter and I paid her an obligatory visit at Christmas. I am yet to write part 3 of that follow up because…well, I haven’t known how to wrap it up. Here to find out maybe it’s because there is no wrap up. A few days ago, some 4 months past our Christmas visit, I got an odd call from my Aunt. With her sight almost gone – and her disposition not improved – she had fallen twice in one week and was decidedly shaken up in the aftermath. Immediately I called my friend K, my eyes and ears on the ground there, to please go check on the old girl for me and was informed of some things my Aunt had not shared with me.
Turns out Aunt Pat’s caregiver who visits three times a day to assure food and correct medication and some friendly company was no longer coming. To fill this void, on the advice of her friend, my Aunt Pat called a private nursing agency and contracted with them to provide her with 24 hr nursing care at $30 per hour. Yes, $720 per day, 7 days per week. By the time I was informed of this, it was the end of the first week of service. After 2 or 3 days of calling to get real clarity from my Aunt, who kept putting me off with “…can’t talk now. I’ll call you tomorrow” I finally said, “Send the nurse out of the room….. Excuse yourself… We must talk. Now!!!” The conversation was brief, heated and utterly shocking. Basically, this old woman had hired a staff of round the clock private nurses without notifying me or first discussing it with me and fully expects me to pay for it. This is after what I thought was a clear discussion with her at Christmas concerning her budget and the ways I was willing and able to assist her. Folks, I lost it. After clearly stating that she couldn’t possibly expect me to just pick up those bills, there ensued an exchange of accusations and recriminations flying back and forth coupled with a heavy dose of guilting. I hung up the phone, shaking with anger.
Anger: a very useful emotion which alerts us to the presence of danger, violence and WTF!!!! something is not right here! Pay attention!!!
Who does something like that? Regardless of the extenuating circumstances, and there were indeed some, this is the 21st century. Telephones are on every bedside table. How is it no one thought to pick up a phone and say, “Excuse me, but I’m in the process of indebting you to the tune of $4400 per week!! Thought you’d like to know.”
After 12 hours of talking to myself, mostly out loud, like a crazy woman, I realized that this drama, which was not of my making, that was being offered to me on a platter, pushing every childhood button I swear I had healed in my 30’s and 40’s, this little drama was a final test. So I got very very still. I had work to do. Words like “entitlement” and “abuse” and “hijacking” and “terrorist hostage taking” flooded my brain. Sweet Jesus… I had to get very very still. I started asking myself questions like, “What part of this is mine? What part do I choose to make mine? What part of this do I drop, even if I knee jerked, picked it up?”
Our parents are getting older- if not already old. The reality is we’re all living longer and at some point, they will need our help both physically and financially. The pervading question becomes how do we help. What is my responsibility to myself, to the family I have created as in my children and my responsibility to aging family. Though as I said, both my parents are already dead. After their divorce Aunt Pat occupied the paternal void in my life. So I feel like I owe her. And there’s the rub. Who and what do I really owe in this life?
As a mother, I owe my child. No doubt about that. My child didn’t ask to come into this world, and it is my responsibility to take care of her until she can take care of herself. This is my primary and sacred responsibility. Next… as an adult human being, I do not owe a soul nor am I owed. The concept of indebtedness to each other is a ridiculously abusive one and is at the root of entitlement, a quality I loathe. Loving each other, caring for each other, helping each other emanates from an open and compassionate heart. Feeling guilty or being made to feel guilty is an act of abuse whether it is self inflicted or perpetuated by others. Guilt is an utterly useless emotion that does not interest me in the least. And I can smell entitlement a mile away – whether in myself or in others.
I was reminded this week. I am not the victim in my life. No one can ever do something to me unless I allow it. I know that bad things happen to good people and clearly there are awful acts of violence that occur which, in the moment, are not consensual and cannot be prevented. Those are obviously difficult to own. Yet even in the worst cases of violent victimization, survivors have found ways to take back their power. God bless them! But in the day to day, casual encounters where we do have a choice, where we can say “No”!!….”No, thank you”….. “This is not my shit”!!! “No, you may not treat me that way”……. “No, you may not speak to me that way!”…. “No, I will not stand still while you hurt me!!!!!” In these moments, when anger comes screaming to the surface mind, listen to it. I listen to it. It is the warning voice of my inner guardian! This kind of anger is telling me something. It has come to inform. It is screaming, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!” And I Listen.
Prayer: May I always have the ears to listen, the clarity to see, the love sufficient to surround myself, and the courage to act on my own behalf.
This week has been tough and messy and uncomfortable. I’ve had to revisit aspects of myself I thought long settled. The situation with my Aunt is an ongoing one that has yet to be fully resolved. But regardless, in the middle of it, I have sought out and found… Lovely.
Lovely this week looks like reclaiming my boundaries.
Lovely has been my sweet, righteous, protective anger.
Lovely has been the reclarifying of my priorities.
Lovely has been the deeper compassion I have accessed – first and foremost for myself for only then am I able to Grace others with it.
Lovely has been the peace I have found knowing that I choose where I place my focus.
In the midst of someone else’s drama, I choose Lovely. And this
Lovely takes me into a deeper knowing of myself.
This is where I live.
I thank God for my Lovely.