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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Finding peace in the eye of the storm vs. shelter from it.


I recently had a dream about my late father.  In it, I was dealing with the insanity that characterized his last two plus years of his life.  He had gone from walking at the park, to having some trouble walking, to having a lot of trouble walking, to have a walking followed by falling at times.  At first, it was every blue moon, then it became a fairly regular occurrence.  He was living by himself and I helped him as much as my situation allowed, but it got to be ridiculous.  At some point, medical professionals started to note this progression and said that he needed to be in at least assisted living.  Eventually, they all said he needs constant care (or at least to have someone readily available 24/7) to help him.   Over time the level of necessary help became more acute all the time.  (originally posted 9/3/15)

Anyway, on a number of occasions, he went to the hospital after having a fall.   I would meet him there stay with him and then returned him home with me having to leave eventually.  This went on for a while until I realized how absurd the pattern was and it was hammered into my by medical staff.  Yet, my dad kept insisting on going home after each ER visit.  I eventually walked away and let the system take over.  I told the social worker I can't be part of this insanity.  They are under pressure by the insurance company to not let a patient overstay their hospital need.   So, instead of someone being there to take him home, a social worker convinced him to go to a nursing home at that time.  He accepted that initially, but he kept wanting to go home.  That was not going to happen as I could not in good conscience let him be at his house alone for any long stretch of time.   I was in a rut where I stopped seeing him for a while and limited contact with him as he was pressing to "go back home".  I needed to walk away for my mental health rather than let him attempt to bully me into allowing him in an unsafe situation.  Eventually, I got the strength to reconnect, but it was a constant battle.  He'd be fine and then say, "I want to go home" out of nowhere.  As his son and POA, I could not in good conscience facilitate that.  I made it known to family and friends that I wasn't going allow him into an unsafe/unsupervised environment and that I did not want to do them to either.

Anyway, the upshot is this: I was in the storm (of a dad refusing to face reality and being mean or pushy about it at times) and I eventually found the eye of the storm--a safe place.  But, in order to get to that place I had to set aside my feelings of sadness that I would never have the chance to see eye to eye with him.  I had to set aside the fact that it wasn't the happiest point in our relationship.  I had to set aside the feelings of going against what he 'wanted' and had to make choices/push back with what he needed.

Eventually, he got too sick to 'fight'.  The storm ebbed as he got closer to the end and he passed away on May 1st, 2015.  This ended that storm.  The battle had ended for him, but the battle of fighting a delusional parent as he got less able to take care of himself had ended too.

I did what I needed to as a responsible son at the time, but it hurt.  I have finally had a chance to exhale and feel the sadness of losing my dad way before he physically passed.  I finally had  a chance to process the battle with a sick parent who wasn't facing reality.  I did what I needed to cope and now have a chance like after a storm "to assess the damage".  This is healthy I think.

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I've come to some realizations about life's rough storms.

  • Sometimes we do what we need to to cope and do not have the vision to see how it affects others and we do not have the vision to see that a given storm is unnecessary.  
    • For example, you are with someone controlling, in your codependency, your finding the eye of the storm is doing whatever it takes to make or keep the other 'happy' or at least off your case.  Instead of seeing you could walk away from the storm, you search for an eye.  In the process you walk or push away from others who are a safe distance from the storm.
    • It is so much easier to see later that you weren't away from the storm, but instead were in the peace of the eye of the storm.   It's so easy when we are trying to escape the debris to see that we could have found a safer place.  It's so easy to second guess.  It's so easy to say what if or maybe I could have made better choices or handled it better.  But, sometimes we just have to accept that perhaps we aren't used to storms.
  • Sometimes we have no choice.  We aren't in a position where we can take shelter from the storm, so what we need to do is find the safest place within the actual storm (the eye).  In other words, there are no great choices, so we have to choose the best of all bad options.
  • After the storm has passed and you've had time to survey the damage you have a choice how to view it.
    • You could play the role of the victim and say poor me and wallow in the storm. (self-pity)
    • You could play the role of the martyr/hero and say no biggie and pretend the storm didn't happen.  (denial)
    • You could play the thoughtful one and say that the storm was dangerous and destructive.  I have to find a way to pick up the mess it left and mourn the damage that was done and get to the place where I need to be.  (realist/healthy).  
If you are old enough, life will throw storms your way.  If we open our minds and hearts to the lessons and God's wisdom, we can learn from storms and prepare better for the next ones.  We can find takeaways from the storm and not be stuck in the damage of the storm (self-pity).

We have our roles, see  Main in Motion.  Storms can actually clarify our roles.  We just have to not let ourselves be caught up in the storm itself and be destroyed.