Saturday, December 10, 2011

That's Not What I'd Call Pathetic.

My clean laundry hadn't been put away yet, having washed it on Wednesday, I think. It was lying in the basket in front of my closet in the home office. I figured I'd put it away on Friday, my day off, though the day was littered with activity...meeting my Stephen minister, meeting my new therapist, band practice, getting Luke to a sleepover...and I didn't feel particularly well yesterday, it being near noon and I hadn't showered yet. My ma, in the middle of a sobbing rant about, well, everything, kicked my laundry basket across the room to get a vacuum out of the closet. After fixing a printing issue from her computer, I gently picked up the laundry basket and laid it on my bed, putting the clothes away, listening to her cry and complain in the other room about every subject imaginable. Thank God I kept my cool and didn't let my temper go haywire, for *that* would've gotten ugly.

Yesterday, she said she wanted to clean the house. In the midst of all of that, there was interference on our land line phone, for which she had to call the phone company. She's remodeling the bathroom, so she was busy ordering a new toilet on the phone. She went to print an email and the computer defaulted to an unrecognized printer and wouldn't print, which I think I fixed, but it's been kind of a clusterfuck since my nephew troubleshot it on Thanksgiving. Instead of asking me politely if I'd come upstairs and help her, she went into a rage about how fucking complicated everything in her life becomes. She's frequently reduced to tears, but this seemed like the granddaddy of all temper tantrums. I recall saying to her, when she ranted about the printer, that she should've asked me politely to come upstairs and help her, and I would've been happy to help, but that she didn't have to use such a hostile tone. Normally, that kind of backtalk would have landed me a slap in the face (when I was a teenager) but I was frankly tired and at wit's end of listening to her crab.

She frequently complains about her older sister, who, if you can believe, has an even worse attitude towards life than my ma does. Her sister is snippy, short-tempered, says "Oh, Christ!" a lot and is very condescending. My mother asks me, "Am I that bad?" to which I say "No." But I said to her yesterday, "You complain about Barbara, but are you listening to yourself?" She excused herself and said, "Well, she's worse." I don't know, I don't talk to my aunt very often, but in the continuum of severity gauging who's mood is more negative, I'll have to take my mom's word.

She's cancelled her counseling appointment for December and ditched the fitness center for the month, citing that she has too many other things going on to take care of herself. With regard to the counseling, I said, "Come on, it's an hour out of your month." I don't necessarily *want* to see my counselor every week and frequently have to reschedule in order to accomplish other tasks, such as getting pre-operative testing done, or see doctors of a more emergent nature, et al, but I make time for my mental health. She won't admit she comes from the generation that stigmatizes therapy as being for those who there "must be something wrong" with. I know she loathes going to counseling and says it's not doing much for her, so I've suggested she see her doctor for a tweaking of her anti-depressant, of which she's on a very low dose and it doesn't seem to be working all that well. "I don't want to be on another pill," she says when I suggest that she perhaps needs a different medication. As any of us in the mental health field, doctor and patient alike, can attest, treatments plateau. Doses need to be adjusted. It's not a mark of failure on the part of the patient. It's a reality in dealing with messed-up brain chemistry and is easily correctable.

While my ma was waiting on her cell phone to talk to the phone company about the land line, I put my hat and coat on to go outside for a smoke. Before I walked out the door, I said to her, "Do you realize how many times a day you say something or another is 'pathetic'?" I don't think she answered me. I told her, "You say THIS is pathetic, or THAT's pathetic, ALL the time. Life is not pathetic, Ma. You're lucky to be here." Having had enough, and still not feeling well, I said to her, "I'm half dead and I don't think life is pathetic." (WHOOPS.)

Ok, well, then that was prime opportunity to turn everything back away from her and onto me. "DON'T SAY THAT. It's because of your health problems that I'm such a wreck," or something to that effect, she said. Deflecting the responsibility of her own emotions and actions and making them all a result of my personal situation, she started crying out of worry about what could or should be done about my health problems. Yes, there are a few tests I've been putting off and I still am symptomatic with GI troubles, and I have this upcoming surgery soon, but I keep on pressing forward. My health problems are not the cause or to blame for my mother's clinical depression, and it was unfair of her to place that blame on me, even if she did so subconsciously.

I tried explaining to my mother that she did exactly what I often do when faced with multiple life challenges at once--she turned them all into one giant ball of ick, as I frequently call it, incapable of dissecting each challenge and tackling it individually. That she wasn't capable of replacing all her negative schemas with positive schemas, which is part of learning cognitive behavior therapy. It's hard to take that deeply ingrained negativity and toss it aside and interject a positive spin or manageable tactic. It takes practice and therapy to learn to be mindful.

I think apart from my premonition of dying young and everything else I rant and rave about, I have, in general, a fairly good attitude towards life. I have big plans for my future. I dream big dreams that sometimes work out brilliantly and sometimes break my heart. I love the people I love with fervor and loyalty. I love my son fiercely and am enjoying watching him mature, I enjoy my job (most days) and work really hard. I take pride in being a musician and a writer. I value my sobriety and capacity to survive. To the outsider, my life could be looked upon as marred with tragedy and immeasurable suffering, but I try not to dwell on that and am grateful to wake up in the morning.

My mom's got a lot to be proud of: she raised 2 decent human beings without a husband for much of their lives, she worked hard at her job before she was forced into retirement, she takes pride in her home and plants gorgeous flowers every summer. She helps me take care of Luke and manage his schedule while I work, cooks amazing meals every night that I try my damndest to eat even when I'm not terribly hungry. She keeps the house clean and neat, which is challenging with an 11-year old boy in the roost. Right now, I'm staring at the annually beautiful Christmas tree she assembled and decorated, the whole house cozy with lights and decorations. She supplies what Luke and I need and took us into her home when we lost our own. She sacrifices a lot to provide for us. For all of this, I am and will always be eternally grateful. To me, anyway, none of that sounds terribly pathetic. It sounds triumphant.

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