Hold On Hope

Habits are hard to break, aren’t they? I’ve bitten my nails for my whole life and I’ve finally stopped doing that…mostly. But now I tear at my nails instead. It’s marginally better? I drink coffee each morning before I do much of anything else. It’s not really the best habit because I use sugar and creamer. I’ve cut my sugar in half, but I can’t seem to get any further than that. Honestly, it’s a habit I don’t want to break.

What do you do when your habits seriously hurt your health? Smoking, drinking excessively, eating fatty or sugary foods–not to mention addiction to illegal drugs or pain medication–are all activities many of us participate in, but when your health is deteriorating due to these habits, how do you stop?

What if you are the partner, friend or child of the person with these harmful habits? How do you help the person? When is the time you step back…or turn your back?

In August of last year, I wrote this: “But…shouldn’t there be a time when we finally say, ‘I will no longer take care of you. I will remain your partner until death, but I can no longer help you if you refuse to help yourself.'”

I’ve discovered that there is indeed a time when I will say these sentences and that time is now.

After a recent hospital stay for my husband due to a medication failure, a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and a disastrous and degrading (to me) doctor’s appointment, I am stepping back. It is now up to my husband to take control of his life. He knows all of this now. We’ve had a “come to Jesus” meeting as my old boss, Bill, used to say. I won’t attend any more of his appointments unless he is physically unable to drive. When he asked if I would go to an appointment if he asked me specifically to go, I told him I’d have to answer that later. Right now, the answer is “no.” I have a list of his medications, but it’ll be up to him to let me know if anything changes. When he asked me yesterday if he should pick up canned hash to have for breakfast the next day, I told him I wasn’t answering those questions anymore. He could make that decision, that choice. And he did.

Does all of this seem too personal to put out into the universe? It is. It’s also really difficult. I know I have at least one friend who understands everything I’m feeling right now, and maybe there are more people out there who get it, too. You’re not alone.

Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is even harder. Watching someone hurt themselves when you know it affects more than just themselves, is rage-inducing.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself falling back into that bad habit of emotional eating. I’ve always done that when I’m angry, and these past 2 weeks certainly proved that. Fortunately, I’ve been able to attempt running once more, and that has helped my moods tremendously. I wish it could help everyone, but at least I’m able to find patience as the result of my exercise and can listen to my son and husband when they need me. At this point I’m not sure I can do much else.

I know for a fact that some people will read this and think I’m heartless or selfish and should do more to support my partner. “You’ve been married for 25 years! You don’t just sit back while their health is in jeopardy!” But what if your own health, albeit mental health, is in jeopardy? What about your child’s? The old man can do this. He is completely capable of making good choices. I don’t care if you think I’m heartless or selfish. I know I’m not. I love my husband. I will until I die. I am still here. But right now, he is the only one who can help himself. Will I give him a pat on the back when he does well? Absolutely! But will I criticize him when he doesn’t? Nope. I’ll do my damnedest to just nod my head and say “ok.”

These changes will be damn difficult for everyone in our household. I will hope for the best, but expect the worst, which is my usual M.O. 😉 Now enjoy this song about trying to find some hope in a messy situation. Hugs to you all.

Burning Down the House

I’ve had this Talking Heads song circling through my brain for the past week:

Burning Down the House

“My house
Is out of the ordinary
That’s right
Don’t wanna hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support
And you have not seen nothin’ yet”

When David Byrne wrote the lyrics, “the title phrase was a metaphor for destroying something safe that entrapped you. I envisioned the song as an expression of liberation, to break free from whatever was holding you back.”

When I first started to write this post, I couldn’t say that Byrne’s definition was what I was feeling. I was feeling burnt out and broken for sure. But breaking free? Maybe. I did want to burn everything down but not necessarily to start again. Just burn it all down and walk away.

I had several nightmares last week, which I haven’t had in a very long time. In one dream I was a passenger in a car that was going too fast and about to crash (easy to analyze that–I felt and feel like everything is out of my control), but I don’t know what happened in the other dream. I just woke up at 3:30am scared with my heart pounding. You know, the usual. Then I had a very unsatisfying therapy session on Friday. I just felt like I was spinning my wheels, talking about shit I had talked about before but won’t do anything about. I even felt like my therapist was a little frustrated with me, although she tried not to show it. (Of course, I was also her last client on a Friday evening and I bet she just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home!) That night I ended up burying what I was feeling in a bag of guacamole-flavored chips. I’ve been very good about not emotionally eating for months, but I blew it out of the water that night.

But now it’s a few days later. I finally finished a few things at work and let a few other things go. I know you should never try to be everything to everyone, either personally or professionally. But I suck at it. After all of the trauma my family has faced in the past 5 years, and all the kindness we received during that time, I do make an effort to help my friends when they’re hurting or even if they just need someone to listen. Does it take its toll? Sometimes, but it’s more the combination of being a good friend while trying to run a library that also tries to be everything to everyone—which you just shouldn’t do. Take it from a librarian of a small, rural library who has kept committing to programs and events and being on committees and boards while still running the library with a temporarily smaller staff. It’s nuts and things have fallen through the cracks. Don’t do it.

We all have to implement boundaries in our work, our relationships, and within ourselves. How many committees are you willing to participate on? How late in the evening will you keep texting or talking to a friend? Do you really need to get up at 7am on Saturday to fit all of your chores and errands in while still squeezing in a run? Or can you skip sweeping the floors and sleep in?

Tonight I can finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I go on vacation in four weeks. I have one large report to write still, but only two more programs to facilitate before then. I don’t have an exact date for my upcoming distal pancreatectomy and possible splenectomy, but I know it will be in June, and my body scans and extra vaccines are being scheduled. Life is moving along. Not always in ways I want them to, but that’s what life typically is, right?

Just hang in there, everyone. The world is shit right now I know. I have to stop watching the news and read about what’s going on instead, otherwise I end up crying every morning. Stay informed but if you have to distance yourself then do it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You have to put on your oxygen mask before helping your neighbor, right? So do that. Take care of yourself then you’ll be able to help others.

Hugs to you all, friends. Let’s try to survive another day. ❤