Tag Archives: sandwich generation

Tuesday Morning Press 20 — Frankly M’dear…I Dunno: break-ups, filters, vampire chicks

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Today I go back to yoga. My kids have made it an entire week without one of them staying home for one complaint or another since JANUARY 2, 2013. Hallelujia.

You know that phrase, the classic break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me” (that has been over-parodied on “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “All in the Family” and probably in Garfield, but I daren’t ask my kids)?

It’s the line we’ve either all heard or said at least once in our lives. The funny (not ha-ha) part about it is that the speaker thinks s/he is sparing the other person’s feelings when s/he says something like this. The speaker is bullshitting saying, “you’re too awesome for me” or “I’m not good enough for you…” In reality, person A is saying it just wants out and is using person B’s awesomeness to rationalize their own unworthiness. Person A wants to get the hell out, but s/he doesn’t want to make person B sad (likely due to cowardice).

Wanna hear a terrific natural law? It’s true: the person being dumped isn’t The Problem. That’s not to say there aren’t flaws in the relationship, it’s that the person doing the dumping simply can’t deal — for a good reason, say addiction or a lame one, say ear lobe size (just sayin’) — and s/he needs to get out.

MMmmmaybe it’s me. Maybe the ear lobes aren’t the problem. I did NOT take this photo. I would never recover from it.

We think we’re cutting someone else some slack when we blame the failings on ourselves when in reality, we are cutting no one some slack. We’re just trying to leave without the door, brick, book, down pillow, terrifyingly fanged person, engagement ring, or Blackberry hitting us on the way out.

They need too much from us (our soul) our time; they want too much from us (our blood) our couch. We are selfish and we want too, but either we are afraid to say it (intimacy issues) or we clam up until we can’t take it anymore (intimacy issues). It’s ok. The thing is though, you might have some Work to do.

If you find yourself about to use this sentiment/line, stop. Be honest and say, “It’s not you, it’s me and here’s why… I simply don’t have it in me to keep this up. And then throw holy water on the person and run the hell away real fast I have fears and wants and needs and frankly, m’dear, they eclipse yours what happened to the moon? and you’re doing nothing for me: not emotionally, not spiritually, not platonically, not sexually, not satanically, not romantically [you fill in the blank] and what I once thought was great, groovy, safe, everlasting, normal and evergreen, I have come to realize of late: is just not where I am. My problems become greater / don’t go away when I’m around US…(and your contacts, in fact your whole vibe, man, are really freakin’ me out…)

If kids are involved, grow up and figure out your stuff. ‘Nuff said.

I dig movies, so much… there’s a great moment in the first 1/4 of “The Incredibles” when Mr. Incredible gets into some trouble after saving someone’s life.

The person he saved, Oliver Sansweet, decides to sue Mr. Incredible. This is unprecedented, so the suit filing launches a press conference, where Sansweet’s lawyer uses air quotes ” ” to satirize the benevolence of Mr. Incredible’s heroics.

All of a sudden, Sansweet shouts out in frustration and pain, seething and pointing at Mr. Incredible and cutting off his lawyer, “You didn’t save my life, you ruined my death, that’s what you did!” and you almost feel sorry for the guy. He clearly saw the situation differently. Why did I mention this? Filters.

I’m going to go one step further and anthropomorphize Mr. Sansweet, a computer-generated character, and also suggest that he was likely feeling embarrassment and humiliation (his filters) at being found out that he was in enough pain that he attempted CGI suicide hence his lashing out. Ok, someone call St. Elizabeth’s. They’re right up the road. I’ll go put on my trench coat backwards and stand on a fire hydrant just to help out.

We all have filters through which we experience the world and peoples’ actions. To wit:

We might perceive trash on the street as laziness, when in reality, it might have blown out of a trash container. That has happened to me!

We might see cigarette smoking as a disgusting “habit” whereas the smoker would likely love to stop. S/he has to sit outside in the winter outside his/her own home; s/he has an addiction.

We might feel as though our loved ones have betrayed us somehow, when in reality, we might be withholding, hard to approach, difficult to talk to and that also feeds the unhealthy dynamic.

We might consider someone in a motor-scooter as being lazy or self-indulgent. Maybe s/he was injured in a war or car accident.

We might consider an excessively tattooed and modified vampire/person as creepy and what the what? when in reality they’re just a person I can’t do this. I can do anything usually, but I can’t rationalize that woman… I mean, more power to her an’ all that, but please: I’m not Jesus.

True story: I had been on my therapist’s couch weekly for about six months. I had a tendency to be super quick and caustic. Sarcastic and so-called “witty.” I would judge people faster than Clarence Thomas. I would sum them up within 5 seconds. I married a saint; he is the opposite of me. One time, we were sitting in traffic and a disheveled man was crossing the street. Flying out of my sainted husband’s mouth were the words, “Wow, what a mess. He looks like he’s gonna ask for a hand-out.” To which I replied, “Huh. Maybe he’s had a bad week. Maybe he lost his job or his sister died recently.” And plain as the … tats on that vampire chick’s face up above in that photo (yes, I’m making you look), we looked at each other in astonishment. He said to me, “Wow. Who’da thunk?” and I said to him, “What happened to you?” That was when we knew we were on the bus to change.

I could go on and on about “The Incredibles,”: how deeply it dives to shine light on our own inadequacy issues and fears of being obsolete. How it dissects our issues with aging and our efforts to force things into something they are not; how it addresses and our challenges with fame, fitting in, and examines conflicts we may have with standing out and proudly using the gifts and talents we are blessed with having. It’s a great film; and yes: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but never with Pixar.

I love Edna Mode, the designer of all the “Supers'” costumes, she is our newspaper-whacking inner super-ego: aided with laser-guided efficiency in seeing things as they are and yet still nurturing. In this scene, Helen (former “ElastiGirl”) is upset because she suspects her husband is cheating on her and she visits Edna to talk about a rip in her beloved’s Super’s costume.

We all need some Edna. And sometimes when I want to be Edna, it’s not worth my time. Some people aren’t ready for Edna. They unwittingly re-stripe the tiger…

We all have these people in our lives: friends, relations, casual acquaintances, hair stylists who can tend to … ok: wear a hole in a rug with renovated complaints. What I mean by ‘renovated’ is that it’s essentially the same issue (betrayal, narcissism, disappointment), but in a new scenario (same tiger, different stripes). I used to re-stripe a tiger; sometimes I still do about situations I don’t care about regarding people I don’t speak to anymore and then I get all “WHAT!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” when I hear about them. It’s stupid of me. I see this happening with my relationship with my aging parents … as if our 25 years apart under separate roofs would suddenly change our dynamic…No. Why should I expect other people to change when I still think in old ways myself?

As one of my rowing coaches said, “The bad news is that it’s all your fault. The good news is that you can fix it.” She thought she was talking about the boat set, but I knew better.

Thank you.

ps – some administrative notes: I’m planning to organize this site. After 215 posts, it’s time. I am hoping to have a static front page. My “Who, What, When…” will comprise one page, the “5 Ws”; I will have “Series” and “Themes” (humor, mindfulness, parenting, aging… etc.) and “Fiction” and other things. so… not sure when, but I hope I’ll get it to happen by the end of the month. xoxo

Three Things Thursday 5 — Water: Boathouse, Beauty and Breathing

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Aoomaigaaaad.

I started a post detailing and lamenting my situation with my parents, their ambitions to age in place, and their requests for consults and professionals (which I delivered) despite their patent and wholesale inaction, and total avoidance of meaningful change to make any of it possible. You can’t make a fish climb a tree. The gist of the post was about need for boundaries and how they help everything, which they do, but it was too much and I am too close to the subject matter to make it digestible. Let’s just say this: it’s FUBAR.

There’s nothing more I can do for them short of apoplexy-inducing betrayal, so I won’t do anything until they do, and that’s highly unlikely. We will have to stay in crisis-reactive mode as we resigned ourselves to be four years ago. For me to turn myself inside out to help them simply because of a sense of guilt is futile, ego-driven, vain and “fixer”-istic: unhealthy. Consider this: I would be doing & wanting more than they would to improve their situation. That’s toxic.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, by the amazing Marcus Aurelius is this: “The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

Word.

The good news is that writing the-post-you-will-never-see was excellent catharsis. The bad news is that it kept me up until 2am. I’m ok though. But the birds are chirping outside, the sun is shining and so I am reframing: taking back my brain and changing gears.

Three things for our mind, body and soul. This is really simple and it has nothing to do with aging.

Mind: Boathouses

Rowing season has begun and I’m thrilled to be making a daily trek back to the boathouse to drive my oldest son and up to six of his teammates for practice. They are chatty, funny, smart and polite kids. Their parents should be proud because they’re doing an excellent job raising their children.

Yes, it’s cold as butt, yes. Last week, ice was forming on the hull (body) of the shells (boats) and the wind chills were likely insane, but rowers are insane and my son is thrilled to be back on the water despite his shivering when he returns home. The other night, we had 2″-4″ of rain fall during 38˚ temps and 20mph winds. He came home a boysicle, but he had a huge grin on his face. That’s all that matters. When we got to the boathouse yesterday, it was 15˚ warmer than the day before and the sun was sort of out. This kind of change in the weather enhances the mindset when you’re in the boat to such a degree that the difference can be as apparent as walking compared to crawling.

For me: it’s being back down there, if only for a moment to look down at this and know soon, I too will be back in my racing shell and sculling toward peace; leaving the bipeds and their noise behind.

racingshellOBC

this is my ride.

View from the Bow

this is a view from the Bow

Body: Breathing

So the sun was out yesterday and I went for a nice long walk with The Murph around the ponds after dropping the boys at school.

I used the “panorama” option on my phone to take this. I love the reflection so much. What a glorious morning.

My breathing intensified, my legs warmed up and so did my core. I actually had to unzip my parka, despite the 37˚ outside. I felt alive and “OK” — you know, peaceful, for the first time in a while. I almost wanted to run. I haven’t been able to do this very often because the kids being home. The walk did me some good because I was able to appreciate the …

Soul: Beauty

Of our physical world. No matter where you live: in the mountains or in a city; on the water or on a suburban street: there is beauty everywhere. And this time of year, the days are getting longer, the grass is turning green, trees are starting to bud, and the daffodils are coming up beside their friends the tulips. I saw some totally new ducks at one of the ponds — two pairs of these, they’re called “Hooded Merganser” ducks:

This one apparently has something to say. I will try to get my own pictures of them. I will have to go without The Murph because he scares them. from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/PHOTO/LARGE/hoodmerg_gregschn.jpg

Isn’t this gorgeous? He was with his wife (male birds are hotter and all birds are monogamous) and another Merganser couple along with some Mallards and Canada Geese. It was really glorious to behold them all. Just doing their thing, y’know: being waterfowl. So, no matter where you live, establish some personal boundaries to take back your space and time for yourself first and get out and breathe to take in the beauty. No matter where you look, it’s there waiting to be appreciated.

I guess the underlying theme is water today. Go drink some, look at it and get in it if you can.

Thank you.

Post 200. Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances.

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I hail from a pretty private branch of a pretty private family tree and even though I consider my family’s branch to be a bit more open, it still doesn’t mean we’re like… super open.

Thus I have determined, likely as a vestige of those thoughts and mannerisms, that nuance and subtlety is always going to win over dropping a grand piano; that restraint, grace and pacing is always more appealing than simply stating things because I feel they need to be stated.

As I grew up, I was dynamic, extroverted, real, on point, and often passionate. I was anything but present, unless that meant taking a moment and dragging it on as long as possible.

me and my mom. i was about 9, she was about 43. i remember that dress she wore - it was one of her favorites and who could blame her: cotton pullover t-shirt dress? talk about easy and fashionable.

me and my mom. i was about 9, she was about 43. i remember that dress she wore – it was one of her favorites and who could blame her: cotton pullover t-shirt dress? talk about easy and fashionable.

Nothing has changed since my younger years other than my delivery. I have learned through experience that my mothers’ friends frequent admonitions, that I needed to dial back or be more respectful, were correct and that no one likes a blowhard, arms akimbo, wild-eyed mayhem maker. No one. So I’ve learned to dial back, speak slower, make my point but do it softer while just as intensely.

I alluded last week on Tuesday that I will likely write every once in a while about my parents’ aging and how I’m processing it. I could make that sentence more direct: “How I process my parents’ aging” but I don’t believe that does the situation justice. I mentioned my family’s privacy above because I will try to honor it as I continue to chronicle our evolution as my parents age. Try to come at it from my perspective.

As I allow myself to turn the table, as I endeavor to put on my parents’ well-worn, comfortable, and sensible shoes, I realize that what they’re going through has got to be the absolute worst battle they will surely lose. There has to be nothing worse than digging in your heels against life’s most inevitable lesson: that we all die and wonder a lot of the time, “what if I’d chosen this instead of that” or “what if I’d said it this way instead of that way…”

My parents like to say, “go to God” when a loved one has died.

I like that. It’s not so much that it’s the Christian aspect of the phrase, but it’s the mystical aspect to it. It shows me there’s something else, something waiting; something more.

My parents live about six miles from me despite the county’s attempts to turn that into eight miles in the name of progress.

I have been in touch with a consultant to aid us all through the next stages of their lives here on earth. She is a character herself, this woman. A little stiff, a touch too efficient, but compassionate nonetheless. I suppose it’s her years of experience that have done the opposite of softening her to the inevitabilities of life: death, and has honed her to be ready, be that efficient consultant. It’s a challenging job for certain: full of fits and starts that her clients undoubtedly put her through during these processes.

I thank God for people like her: to be able to see all of what’s before them and cut through the clatter and chatter and clutter to the end point: living well to die well.

She tells me I am a good daughter, to advocate for my parents this way. She has no idea. I am not a good daughter. I have been hewn and sculpted by my parents’ choices which shaped me into the woman I have become. But as I am not a totally bad daughter, they were not totally bad parents either. There’s a phrase that describes this perfectly: “you get what you give.”

The consultant and I will meet on Valentine’s Day this week. After yoga. At a middle-eastern shopping center restaurant where we will talk about my parents and their situation over hummous, toasted pita points, shwarma, tzatziki and cucumber medallions.

I am the only child of theirs in the area. I am the only daughter, the only vessel, if you will, able to manage, carry and internalize all of this and continue on.

Men can’t help how they are designed, but they are not meant for this kind of Work. This is not a sexist statement, it’s just true, is all. Women are containers, we have wombs, we bear children, we take in, we bear pain and we deal — one way or another, and some ways are better than others, but we deal. Men are externalizers, except when they internalize which never works because by their very design and my 6th grade emotional estimation, they are not supposed to linger long; they disperse their seed and they move on. This is proven time and again in almost every animal kingdom other than birds which mate for life. If I’ve offended you I’m sorry. 21st Century man has come and evolved a very long way since those days when Kroc inseminated Kreika, Tngu and Phlark in the same cave and moved on, but the fact of the matter is that women bear the kids and sometimes, the men walk out. Just sometimes. I’ve only heard of it happening a couple times. And sometimes those fathers might stick around but their minds move on.

So being the only daughter and nearest my parents means this bowling ball inevitably will roll my way. I am a duckpin. In the corner. Number 10, hiding behind all the others and hoping that heavy, slow, lumberingly Brunswick or AMF ball, its approach like thunder in the distance, will find its way into the gutter and not hit me, but I know it will. I am a member of the sandwich generation and the way I see it: you haven’t fully lived until you are.

When the time comes, when it gets intense and sad and truly inevitable (as if it isn’t already), my sibs will be on board; I know this. But no way you slice this: it’s going to be work.

This is post 200; that means about 330,000 words +/- 15,000 words. I wanted to make this post smart, and true. That’s not to say I believe I’ve ever written anything stupid and fake. There are plenty of posts I’ve started and haven’t written:

I started and stopped posts 13 times. It's not that they stunk, but I wasn't ready and some of them simply didn't matter anymore.

I started and stopped posts 13 times. It’s not that they stunk, but I wasn’t ready and some of them simply didn’t matter anymore.

I wanted this post to be relevant. But in the end: for whom is it relevant? Most likely me and anyone else who is about to embark on this journey about aging parents.

I’m going to do my best to close each one of these posts about my parents with a positive memory or affectionate thought and how I sense it rather than to stitch them closed with butcher’s string and thoughts of pain, remorse or fear.

Her features are long faded; her beautiful cheekbones still winning out but her eyes feel lost now. She smiles sweetly, most of the time in regard to a memory or a thought which pleases her. I envy her that; her ability to stay in those happy places. My mind races at times to sadder moments, times when she broke my heart instead. The lump in my throat is very painful at the moment; sharp, severe. My therapy-educated mind is telling me to sit with it; feel the feelings. Let out the cry of disappointment, let out the sensations of fear and sadness. I can’t articulate it, but I will honor them. I suppose it doesn’t help that this song, “Mother of God” which is incredibly close to how I grew up at times, is playing in the background:


My mother has a gown-length muskrat coat she used to wear all the time in the winter; growing up in Buffalo, NY, that was about 5 months long sometimes. As a child, I would sink my face into it, pull it around me as I spun and wedged myself between her legs and the coat’s red silk monogrammed liner. She could’ve had a mink or a raccoon or a beaver or a fox or a seal coat, but she chose muskrat; which is just like her: that muskrat coat could be worn by a man, too, from what I recall: broad shoulders. Something fantastic about her buying a muskrat coat… her rebellion and artistic fancies winning over convention and beating aristocratic tradition with a tuned ukelele, three of which she owns. Something happened though, something changed her and I’ll never know what that was.

Someone mentioned witnessing her own mother and her mother-in-law and this person grew perplexed about how to avoid turning into either one of them, set in her ways, fearful and acerbic. I didn’t have an answer. I just told her to do what I try to do every day: Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances. And one more: Believe in yourself.

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Thank you.