Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Complicated

I was the counselor on site this past weekend therefore I stayed home from the shore. Truth be told, I probably would have stayed home anyway because my father-in-law who is up from Florida became sick and was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia. Becoming sick has only increased his dementia so there are some discussions that need to be discussed and some decisions that will need to be made. Right now, he is medically stable despite the fevers.

Working on a weekend is a challenge physically and emotionally because the counselor on site on the weekend is responsible for all the patients and it can be pretty daunting at times. Add three classes that one teaches on Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and the week is jammed packed so there is very little time for one self let alone the responsibility of others.

I find myself at the stage in life where I have some responsibilities on both ends. I have little grandchildren and I have elderly parents especially my father-in-law who is failing physically and mentally. I worry about him and I also worry about my husband because I can see the impact his father's health has on him. He has not been sleeping, spending many hours at the hospital, trying to work a fulltime job and the inevitable denial and fear that comes with the knowledge that your parent may not be around much longer.

And then I tell myself that despite the stressfulness of the current situation, we have experienced much worse and we managed to survive intact.

And there is much to appreciate.

Coming home from work or the hospital this past weekend and seeing your sweet little granddaughter breaking out in the biggest widest smile when her eyes meet yours and seeing the excitement radiate through her entire body as she anticipates you reaching out and picking her up for hugs and kisses is an amazing feeling.. I was so happy to have Aubree visit this weekend with her parents.

I do not believe there is a better feeling than holding a small child in your lap singing, playing and rocking to sleep.

Well. Perhaps that feeling is a close tie with sitting, walking and exploring with an older grandchild. It is so wonderful to experience things through the eyes of a child. I think that is one of the many reasons I like to vacation/travel with my older grandchildren especially the eldest who shares my love of exploring "everything" history.

When I started out writing this post I titled it "It's Complicated" and true to form when I write what I feel within I tend to write some of the conflicting thoughts and feelings that arise as well as staying focused on the things I am grateful for. I never want to write when emotions are high and I always want to write addressing both points of any conflicts. I started to write this post when I saw some pictures and read some things that felt like "a punch in the gut". I placed the post in draft with the knowledge that I would give myself 24 hours to process my thoughts and feelings before I would return and continue writing. I knew I had to go off to work and teach class as well as maintain emotionally intact because I had my son and grandchild at my house. I also did not want to lash out because lashing out never resolves anything. Before I came back to this post, I did some research on favoritism in families, acceptance and anger. What I came across is a book that spoke to relationships in families and the bottom line is the bottom line I tell my own patients when in sessions and there is conflict within the family. "No matter how upset, angry or how much you try to change the other person, the only person you can change is yourself specifically your reaction to a situation and/or event".

The "punch in the gut feeling" triggered other times "I felt that same exact feeling" all the way back to childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and now again in middle age. For the most part, I addressed those feelings throughout the years. I did a lot of work on acceptance both of myself and others. I really do not understand why I had such a visceral reaction yesterday morning because I have been practicing acceptance but nonetheless it was triggered and though I know why it was triggered I did not know why I experienced such a deep strong reaction to the situation.

There are favorites in my family. There have always been favorites in my family so this is nothing new. The pictures of the family down the shore laying on the beach, walking on the boardwalks, and having seafood night in of itself were not the problem. The problem happened the weekend before when I planned a BBQ with my oldest son for my oldest grandson who had graduated from 8th grade. I planned it for Saturday down the shore at "my house" however some family members were going to a dance recital for another family member and another member was apparently working so I offered to change it to Sunday afternoon because they were coming down late Saturday night. I called my son who rearranged his scheduled and the plan was a Sunday BBQ for my grandson. When I told the family the BBQ would be at noon on Sunday I was met with resistance because of the time. I was asked if it could be later because they wanted to go to the beach. I told them I had to work on Monday therefore a late BBQ with the clean up involved would be tiresome for a early Monday workday. They said they were going to the beach so I rearranged the BBQ back to Saturday afternoon. Then, I was told they all decided not to come down at all because it might rain. It did not rain. I had the BBQ on Saturday afternoon complete with food, cake and balloons and besides myself, Bill, Shaun, Rita, Raina, Shaun and Nikolas the only family member who attended was my father-in-law who was up visiting from Florida.

So when everyone managed to get together one week later (it did rain), I had a strong visceral reaction followed by the same messages I experienced as a child, teenager and young adult. "What is wrong with me? I am not good enough. I am not worth it. What do I need to do to gain their approval?" The only message that was different is I wondered why my children and my children's children were not important enough?

When you see people in your family taking the time to attend funerals, celebrations, recitals or "whatever" for others whether family members or not, you question why the same amount of effort cannot be made for other things.


So you practice acceptance because you cannot change the way someone else thinks, feels or behaves but you can change the way you think, feel and behave and that is why I find solace in research and books because I want to feel peace within and the only way to feel peace within is to accept myself and accept others just the way they are. That being said, I also recognize that I must decide how that is going to look in my life. I need to figure out how to balance physical distance without emotional distance or emotional distance without physical distance. I also know that visceral reactions can easily lead to feelings of anger and despair so during my research yesterday I came across this book.

"The Dance of Anger, a woman's guide to changing the patterns of intimate relationships" by Harriet Learner.

"Anger is a signal and one worth listening to," writes Dr. Harriet Lerner, in her renowned classic that has transformed the lives of millions of readers. While anger deserves our attention and respect, women still learn to silence our anger, to deny it entirely, or to vent it in a way that leaves us feeling helpless and powerless. In this engaging and eminently wise book, Dr. Lerner teaches women to identify the true sources of our anger and to use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change."

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