I guess we all have those moments when we wish other people had insight into our circumstances without us having to rip open our hearts and show the bleeding remains of heartbreak.
As I get older, I am seeing a greater disconnect between people and with that comes a more distinct unwillingness to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. People no longer seem to even attempt an understanding of what someone else has struggled through or is wrestling with in the moment. We as a body of human beings are losing much of our humanity in only thinking about how someone else's behavior is affecting US.
No one should have to explain their personal pain, and yet....if we don't, someone is most certainly apt to get offended and stay that way. To that end...I am just going to lay my "stuff" out there for anyone who cares to know. And if they still are resentful or hate filled at the end of it, then I am just going to have to say "that burr is remaining under your saddle blanket by YOUR choice."
I'll go back a ways and briefly do a personal history first. My biological parents divorced when I was very very little. So small that I don't remember them being married at all. I was raised by my mother and step-father. My mom had always been a caregiver for HER mother and never enjoyed being able to feel like she was the child - she was always pushed into a parental role. Because of this, she wasn't the most "touchy feely" mom in the world. My step-dad suffered with the pain of not having his own biological children with him and had difficulty at times being the daddy a little girl needed and wanted. My biological father disconnected emotionally from me at a very young age and was always this shadow figure that I knew should hold importance in my life, but I could never effect a re-knitting of our relationship.
As I grew older, my step-dad and I became closer and began to bond as a family should. Part of this was due to the fact that my step-brothers came to live with us, and so, Daddy had what he had always wanted and needed in his life. Fortunately, my step-brothers and I became close as well and our family as a whole was better for their inclusion into it.
All of these things set the stage for what has been the darkest of nightmares in my life. In the span of approximately 4 years....I lost my Daddy, then my oldest brother Nick, and then my brother Dave. And then....I lost my mind. I had a total mental breakdown which had been building due to an undiagnosed medical condition and kicked over the cliff by not 1, not 2...but 3 deaths in rapid succession in my immediate family.
My medical problem was revealed and treated and I grieved for my family and began to heal. However, while all this was happening I was also "doing" life. I had a great husband and a big family I was partially responsible for. My husband and I both worked very hard but we struggled in our attempts to manage financially and to "blend" 2 families. All of the 6 kids involved were in their teens and all but 2 lived with us full time.
I will stop here and state that I genuinely love all of these now adult kids. Roger and I were different types of parents but we each had areas of strengths where the other was weak and I felt it was a very do-able process. I will be the first to say I am in no way a good candidate for mother of the year, but I have given motherhood my very best shot with both my own and Roger's kids. Roger, on the other hand, is a fantastic dad! He is 100% selfless in his approach to life and the people in it. I wish I were worthy of his example.
We had hiccups, bumps in the road, misunderstandings, out and out fights, and a lot of tears, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Both of us lost our jobs, we tried to have our own business (twice) but because of the economy and a situation of no cushion to hold us up during the early formative days of business, we were not successful in keeping that balloon in the air. The really horrible part of that was while we were struggling to keep a business going, we were barely paying our own bills and we had two of our sons working for us. We tried to make sure they got paid, even when we didn't. We sunk every dime we had into it until it sunk us. And yet, even still, we also had a lot of fun and laughter. It worked....or I thought it did.
But then.....my mom got sick. I quit my job with a local landscaper and went to Amarillo right after Thanksgiving that year. I was still recovering from H1N1 and had very little emotional or physical strength. Roger was watching his business fall apart right in front of his eyes and neither one of us could lean on the other. We both had to just stand on our own and try to make things better without burdening the other. It was a bleak time. It was an unhappy time. It was a damn frightening time.
I spent the entire month of December 2009, in Amarillo by myself (with visits and support from very good friends) while Roger remained in Arkansas trying to hold our life together. My days were filled with visiting my mom in rehab, watching her deteriorate mentally, and packing and moving all of her household goods into storage. I had been told she would no longer be able to live by herself and with no family in Texas to help, I needed (and wanted) to bring her to Arkansas with me. To say mom didn't want this is an understatement and so we struggled with each other over that repeatedly. On January 4, 2010, my daughter Kaylee flew to Amarillo and she and I drove my mom, her clothes and a few of her possessions from Texas to Fort Smith. Roger and I installed her in our house, in our bedroom... in our bed.
The weather was horrendous that year and we were basically housebound for several days. But, mom's spirits had improved and she finally seemed to be okay with the realization that her life would be here now instead of "home." For many months, Roger's dad had been very ill as well, and he and his siblings were rotating in and out of the caregiver role. I was so glad he had brothers and a sister to share that burden....it is an awful thing to shoulder alone.
Mom started having "spells" and eventually had to be hospitalized. As our luck would have it, my mom was in a hospital room while 2 doors down in the same hospital Roger's dad was fighting for his life. Again, neither of us could lean on each other - we each had our hands full and while Roger had his siblings, I had no one. I just couldn't ask my kids to walk that journey with mom as she had settled into full blown dementia and I just never knew what she might say or do.
After almost 3 long weeks in the hospital mom just gave up. She passed away and her last words to me were angry ones because she truly didn't know what she was doing or saying....but it hurt all the same. Mom's passing left me with a full time job of settling her affairs, dealing with all the remains of her life and trying to work my own recovered job at the same time.
I was of no use to my husband or anyone else. I sank deeply into my own knee jerk reactionary mode and just went about the task of trying to settle things as quickly as I could. My poor husband was watching his dad lose his fight and he was losing his own fight for his business - none of which I could help with except to try to help financially. Emotionally I had nothing.........for anyone.
There was non-stop arrangements to be made. A funeral here with a memorial and burial in Texas. The sale of her home and tying up the loose ends of her life in Amarillo. All of which I was having to do long distance, which meant marathon telephone calls and having to impose on friends in Texas to do things for me. Things like check on her house, keep the appliances running, the yard cleaned up and then showing that house to potential buyers. There was not one moment of one day when I could just let down and allow my mind to rest. Once the house was sold, there was the chore of moving all her worldly goods from Amarillo to Fort Smith and putting them into storage here. I spent over a year sitting in a storage unit for a lot of time, practically daily, sorting through things, tossing things, piling things in categories and crying. My mom died in January of 2010 and about 8 months ago I finally shredded my last document and was able to see an end to what my life had become. It was at that moment that I finally allowed myself to begin to truly grieve for mom, for daddy, my father, two of my brothers and a few furry friends along the way. I couldn't afford myself that luxury before that moment.
During this time, Roger lost his Dad and his Mom. Both were devastating losses for him, but losing his Dad was particularly hard because he always had his dad as his sounding board and his staunchest supporter. I hope I was able to pull myself out of my own fog enough to be of some help to him. I'm almost afraid to ask. On top of all the actual human loss, there had also been the loss of two jobs with nice incomes, both Roger's and my own, people we loved who were struggling with problems, and just the general day to day life events that everyone has.
But over the course of the past 6 years, our family crumbled and I know that I am to blame a great deal for it happening. I hate it. I hate it so much that I would do anything to fix it.......and I feel like I've tried. But if you only have the materials to build 2 walls of a room you can't finish it without the other 2.
I will not make excuses for doing what I had to do during those 6 years to survive, to stay sane, and to bring myself back from the edge of the abyss. I am blessed with my husband who has allowed me to "feel" throughout this whole ordeal without putting pressure on me to pretend that I was in any way, shape or form....okay. Because I wasn't. And he and I had both arrived at the understanding of what happens when you squash your feelings so far down they sit on top of the internal raging inferno with nowhere to go but up and out when the pressure becomes too great. He and I are well matched, we love each other and in spite of what a lot of people think we are truly happy together. We have a lot of unhappy moments, mostly rooted in the fact that our family is shredded and there seems to be absolutely nothing either of us can do to fix it.
Am I sorry? Oh my goodness, yes. A thousand times yes. Do I still love everyone in my family? Infinitely and eternally. Can I guarantee that there will never be problems or issues again? No...I can't. And I shouldn't be expected to have to live up to anyone else's ideal me. I am deserving of being myself and being forgiven and loved in spite of my warts, flaws and shortcomings. Everyone is deserving of this.
I guess the lyrics of that song about walking a mile in other people's shoes might be helpful to some. I know that because of my journey these past 6 years, I am certainly a much more tolerant person than I ever was before. And I've also come to understand that just because people don't talk about what they are struggling with, it doesn't mean they aren't suffering and doing the absolute best they can do. It also doesn't mean that just because someone doesn't call you out on your behavior, they approve of it.