I just got off the phone with a dear friend and here is her story…
“Suddenly it hit me. They are not who they use to be.
My parents have always been my rock. The ones I relied on. The ones who were always there for anything and everything. I have always felt their support like a warm blanket around me.
From one day to the next I realized how selfish I had been. My eyes were opened to them getting older and to how I continued to behave like a child. While I was depending on them, I totally overlooked that they had started depending on me too and I hadn’t been there for them. How sobering to think that I was no longer their little girl and needed to own up to it. I needed to start behaving like such.
They say that Awareness is the first step. You leave Denial on the path to Acceptance, right? No one ever tells you about the guilt that comes with the Awareness.
The problem has been defined but I don’t have a solution. The guilt is ever present but I don’t have a solution to make it go away. There is so much more I should have done… there is so much more I need to be doing… there is so much more I need to be ready to do. Will it ever be enough? Will I ever find peace?
I’m lost in a world of rocks and hard plates. No matter what I do, there’s always an upside and a downside. My father needs a hearing aid but he can’t afford it. If I buy it for him, I hurt his ego, damage his dignity and rob his independence. Yet, he’ll be able to hear again and his frustration will diminish. What’s the right choice? It depends right?
My mother is caring for my sister who just moved back home. I see her getting tired and stressed from having to care for someone again – doing laundry, making meals, cleaning, etc. Do I put my foot down and tell her to stop because it’s going to make her sick?
When making decisions, I tend to prioritize what is important vs. what is urgent. Prioritize what is most important and most urgent and go down from there. I learned long ago that with parents, time is a critical factor. Things that get deprioritized today because they are not urgent can become a priority quickly. You simply don’t know whether they will be there tomorrow. It’s the 20/20 hindsight that brings the ‘should haves’ to keep you up at night.
I wish I would have had a friend tell me this years ago. I would have made different decisions. I would have prioritized things differently. I always thought I had plenty of time.
So back to my decisions… Is it important for my father to hear? Yes. Is it more or less important than preserving his independence and dignity? It depends… In the short term, dignity and independence are more important. Yet, the longer he goes without hearing, the more damage that is done, the more isolated he gets, the more likely he is to get depressed and increase his anxiety.
I’ll buy him the hearing aid, even if it causes him pain. I will prioritize his physical need over his emotional need. The long-term physical gain outweighs the short-term emotional discomfort. I do realize that, if he wins the lottery tomorrow (or something else changes the situation), all this will be for not and the emotional pain will not have been worth it.
Is it important for me to tell my mom my sister is taking advantage of her and that she needs to stop? Yes. Is it more or less important than preserving her dignity and letting her be a mom again? No… This one is easier. If she were to get sick tomorrow, I know her well enough to know that she would think it was well worth it. Feeling useful brings meaning to her life. I can’t rob her of that.
I can’t keep the ‘should haves’ from the past from keeping me up at night but I can certainly try to keep new ones from emerging.”