I recently went through a low-energy phase. My body felt sore, and I had trouble finding the motivation to complete simple tasks, like shopping Amazon or washing the scrambled egg pan that had been sitting on my stove for days—the constant drain forcing me to take a long look at my self care.
Is nutrition adequate? Check
Sleeping well. Check
Exercise within reasonable limits. Check
Dealing with uncomfortable emotions. Che…..shit.
For the past year, my mother in law has been declining, succumbing to the symptoms of aging that so many older adults face. As a family, we have stepped in to make adjustments to ensure her safety and well being. But, stubborn and independent, she has not been thrilled about the changes.
Our family circumstances have found me in a position to be very involved in her care, especially these past six months. It has required my MIL and I to spend a lot of time together. Time that I did not relish at first. And neither did she. It's not that I don't love my MIL. I got pretty lucky, (unsolicited advice and differing home decor aside) as far as MIL's go.
But I have been resentful. Pissy that I have spent a significant amount of time taking care of a woman who is not my mom, bringing to the forefront the fact my mom died so suddenly I never had the chance. I have carried a chip on my shoulder, believing my husband and sister in law were taking advantage, relying on me to handle some of the more sensitive, personal and imperative aspects of her care. Care, I thought, should be the responsibility of her kids, not me. And MIL, in no uncertain terms, was resisting my help believing she could take care of her needs without me. We’ve had words. For months I have stood firmly upon my pedestal, making sure my husband, my sister-in-law, my friends, medical professionals, and the checker at New Seasons knew the sacrifices I have made to keep my MIL safe and healthy in her home.
I have been grasping onto my bitterness with both fists, refusing to let it go. It bothered me enough to become the topic of a lot of journaling and self inquiry lately. No doubt my indignant , passive aggressiveness has served me in some way. Perhaps it has been a mechanism, in the absence of setting healthy boundaries, to protect myself from taking on too much. Maybe I am needing validation and acknowledgement in other areas of my life and it is manifesting itself in this way. Or maybe I’m just standing on some principle just because..
As her needs have increased recently, we have spent even more time together, MIL and I. In the car running errands, in her living room after a grocery drop off, and in medical offices waiting for specialists to help alleviate her pain. And in this time, something shifted in me and our relationship. The chip on my shoulder began to feel heavy and burdensome, wearing on my mind and body causing me to feel worn out and tired. Instead of serving me, the resentment started to choke the energy right out of me. The truth is she needs me, and she has slowly started to acknowledge that. I need her too. Righteous bullshit aside, helping my MIL makes me feel good. To offer comfort and compassion to a woman who is doing the best she can to face down the changes that lie ahead for her bravely. Caring for her has re-energized me, and filled my tank and has allowed me to give back to a woman who has given so much to our family.