Monday, December 28, 2020


The details aren't important to this entry about my emotional state (I write to process my emotions), but to give the reader some context a couple of years ago my only sibling was supposedly lent a large sum of money by our mother. Recently I asked the status of that loan and was told that the loan had been forgiven. I need not worry, I was told because an amount, exactly half the amount of the borrowing, had been put aside in the Will for me.

I worked on the basis that a mistake had been made. I approached my brother about it and he tried to confuse me with twisted accounting. I doubted myself and thought of it from every angle until I asked my older son to confirm what I knew. It was rubbish. My brother had no alternative but to concede. He was confusing two things, he said. As far as I was concerned, I had learned at school that the amount on either side of an equal  sign had to be the same, and so had he. It was deeply disappointing.

Assuming that this error in his mathematical thinking had resulted in an erroneous entry in the Will I approached my mother about it. Bare in mind, I am not young and so I represent my four children on these matters. When my mother wants back up for bad behavior she has her younger sister sit in and it was during this conversation that the thinking that went into this decision was laid out on the table.

Nearly 25 years ago, my husband had seen what he thought was a great business opportunity and my mother thought so too because she invested some of her money in the same stock. The opportunity fizzled and they both lost out on the stock, in the same way that my mother won heavily on some stock that I acquired for her. That's the game. There are winners and losers every day.

For a time, my husband and I were in financial difficulty over the decisions made then and although we paid back to her most of what we borrowed from my mother during that 'opportunity', there was a sum my husband didn't pay back. It was never discussed, not once in nearly 25 years, although it seems that my brother was given an amount equal to that sum, to square things up. It never sat well with me. I knew my mother's mind. But, I think my husband thought it was over. We'd been very generous to her over the many years since. We had her to stay for a month at a time when living in the US and she had stayed with us countless times in our home here. I have accompanied her to endless medical appointments, shopped for and with her. Even I had come to think that the borrowing had been forgiven.

Perhaps it is this borrowing that assisted in me not looking at or caring about the money that went my brother's way. My mother and he shared a business that my father bought shortly before his death (no, no-one thought about a business for me) and when capital expenditure/investment took place from my mother's personal account into their business for which I would not receive a penny, my eyes barely flickered at the talk. 

So, back to the talk about the erroneous mathematics.  The two broads sitting opposite me very quickly explained (well, my aunt spoke on my mother's behalf; a twisted sort of 'It's not my business, but your mother...' dynamic) that there was no mistake. Remember the money that my husband had not paid back nearly 25 years?, they had deducted that off the tab, and the rest, well, who cares about equality? Never mind that my brother was inheriting land that would result in vast wealth, we were still quibbling about a small amount from a quarter of a century ago.

I have had many conversations with myself since this encounter. Is this, in my mind, about money, or love? Is this about loyalty? Am I putting some stock in all this junk because we didn't/don't get hugs; am never told 'I love you'? Has it always been some sick Irish joke about power?

For many years, I told myself to hang on. If I could just get to the end of my mother's life without thinking about it too much; maintain a 'grey rock' non emotional approach to her and her antics, I would be fine. Let the world think she is a sweet little old lady. Where's the harm? I have my own family. I am loved dearly by them, so why not?

The facts seem to be, however, that narcissistic nasty oriented people actually live long lives. They hold grudges forever. Thinking about themselves, they seem to be insured in some way; able to withstand the damage incurred to body and soul of the person who is empathic and forgiving; who turns the other cheek and goes on offering love and kindness.

Back in 2011 when I went to a psychologist one of her first questions was about the relationship with my mother. I was in complete denial and assured her it was fine, except for the fact that she never said a good word about my husband (and we have been together now for 44 years). I assured her I could handle it.

However, nearly a decade later, I realize I was wrong. I can't handle it. Last year, when I saw another psychologist, an older man, I described my surviving birth family. He was very quiet and eventually said, 'There's no value for you there.' He told my husband that my trips to my mother were 'very destructive' for me. Still, I battled on, playing the role of the dutiful daughter that had been assigned to me.

A week on from the scene at a cafe where they laid out their thesis - we don't believe in equality and we don't forget, and by the way, we don't like your husband - I find I don't sleep much. And then it occurred to me early this morning that what I was experiencing was red hot anger; not that I had been dealt this hand, but that I had stayed in the game so long with such a losing hand.

I hadn't thought that I could actually make the decision of going 'no contact' and stick with it. And yet, I had been moving along this trajectory. My mother is in a place where her needs are met. She has her beloved son (who can't stand her) near by, for now. My aunt visits her all the time. I had been taking her home for a few days at a time but she would get ugly when I returned her to the home. I don't actually have to do this. I can get on with my life.

Who knew? I can get on with my own life.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Anxiety and self care

 We were traveling together, my brother and I, on our way to transact some family business when he chose to share with me that he had begun medication for his anxiety. We had never referred to him as being an anxious person and whilst I could see that he was sometimes uptight and stewing over something or other, it hadn't occurred to me that he would feel the need to medicate his angst.

It turns out that his mind was always racing; always troubled by perhaps a small thing such as misplacing something, to the big things like the state of the world, and all things in between. As soon as he described this inner world to a doctor he had scripts in his hand; one to dull down the activity of his mind and the other to get him to have some uninterrupted sleep.

Apparently, the medication has helped him beyond measure. I am seeing the benefits of medication for anxiety, though I have never taken medication for anxiety myself and nor has anybody suggested that I do.

I wouldn't say that my mind stream is always comfortable, not at all. What I have learned to do is not to let it carry me away, with the odd exceptional experience. The thoughts are there but I approach them with curiosity and sort of listen in to the voice in the head. 

Sometimes I consciously choose to alter the thoughts. If it feels like that voice is getting too worked up or going down a path that does not look like the right one for me (much as you might be walking in nature and find yourself having to decide which path to choose), I adjust the thoughts. 

I might choose to simply let go of the thoughts, to adjust them in another direction. Or, I might interrogate them. A question like, 'Is this true?' can help. I might simply note the kind of thought that is trying to grab my attention. I might say, for example, 'Isn't this that old tale of not feeling loved/respected/adored/taken advantage of?' (as appropriate to the thought).

If I feel in immediate danger, not physical danger but the sort of danger where one feels derailed inside, I consciously choose to offer myself some sort of remedy. The remedy I go to most often is to offer myself the gift of consciously being aware of my breathing; noticing each nuance of the breath; the pace, the sense of the breath traveling through the body, the feeling of peace beginning to resonate in the body; a slower breath. This is an act of self-love and this always feels right; calming.

For several months, the personal challenges have been circling me. I have needed to put my mother into an Aged Care facility. I have needed to make use of a Power of Attorney written 22 years ago to establish my mother's finances and how to pay for this facility. I have needed to address the relationship with my brother and my aunt who have had more knowledge of these matters than me over the years. 

Although my mother chose this facility and this course of action, each time I take her home for a few days I go through the same traumatic experience. At some point, usually the day before she goes back, she becomes hostile towards me and my brother. Although there is no other choice (she has Lewy Body dementia) and we can't leave her on her own for even a couple of hours, we walk her through her choices so that she can arrive at the same conclusion as always; there is no other choice. 

We're not the first family to go through this situation. But when we ask something like, 'How are you feeling?' and she answers 'Who would care how I feel?' or she says to someone 'If they only tried harder I could live in my own home', it hurts. The only answer is self-love; offering yourself that moment of grace where you acknowledge that you are doing the best you can; that this is hard and you need a moment for yourself.

When you need medication to settle the mind and body down, then you need it. I think medication is necessary for some people in some situations. But, I can't imagine it for myself. I do think it would be wonderful for anxieties to feel further away; that the body is less reactive to triggers. On the other hand, I also believe we can learn to do this work without the chemical invasion.

For several months, I have had next to no privacy or personal time for myself. COVID led to a full house; more house bound work; more need to converse with others; less yoga and meditation time. Yet, in a few moments, I can maintain care for myself. 

- Follow the breath

- Listen to the thought stream; be curious; investigate the thoughts.

- Offer yourself the love, attention and respect you need. Don't wait for someone else to give this to you.

In Australia, the phrase 'Life wasn't meant to be easy' was made famous by a politician, of all people. People made fun of him for saying it, but he was right. Only a fool would believe that life was meant to be easy. Life on this planet is full of challenges. We are designed for challenge. We are designed for loss. Grief is something we must all go through. Dying is something we all face.

To believe we can engineer perfect solutions is a fool's game. We can, however, choose to act from a place of love and peace. We can aim to do the best for others but we need to remember that we also need to take care of ourselves. I heard someone refer to this as 'Goddess time'. I loved that.

You might like to try crossing your hands over your heart and listening to the beating of your heart. Yes, my dears, you too deserve your attention, love and care.