I know EVERYONE is going through some stress right now. From moms having to home school their kids, people with employment issues, medical personnel on the front lines, seniors and people with pre-existing conditions in fear for their very lives….we have collectively, as a nation, got a lot of stress going on!
So, I’m not going to say that mine is worse than anyone else’s, but it has been a tough couple of months. It has also been a time of some of the most amazing spiritual growth in my entire life. I have shared a little bit about that earlier, at the beginning of my move, and I am now near the end of the move, and I’m going to share more.
Moving in with your mother-in-law would be an adjustment even in the very best of circumstances. My history with my mother-in-law has been rocky. Even at the beginning of getting to know each other, we have not seemed to see eye to eye. I think it’s a timing issue….I came into her life at the same time her younger son was leaving her life. He committed suicide. It was tragic, and very emotional, and he left behind only his brother, who is my husband, who I was only dating at that time.
I think she was afraid of losing my husband, and still is. I think that because he was spending a lot of time with me, she resented me. I think that because she resented me, she saw me in a negative way. She did not want her son to marry me. Then, when we got married, he and I didn’t have a wedding, and she took that very personally, and I think she blamed me.
She definitely came around. I tried to do nice things for her over the years and even if I wasn’t consistent or if I didn’t do things in the way she might want, I tried. I thought things were ok between us.
Moving is stressful. She is 84 years old. I knew it would be physically demanding, and I knew I was in a unique position to help her. I also had just had an a-ha realization with regards to my AA program. That is that I am a very selfish person.
I was sitting in a meeting, and they were talking about selfishness. “Selfishness, self-centeredness, that we think is the root of our troubles.” I can almost quote the passage verbatim, but it never crystalized in the same way as it did that day when the gentleman next to me was talking about how the lightbulb came on for him and he realized his whole life had been totally about him. He mentioned that if someone got sick, he would immediately think about how it was going to affect him.
It was like a lightbulb going off for me! I started to see my life in a totally different light. This is how I did marriage. This is how I did parenting. This is how I did birthdays and Christmas. This is how I did friendships……this is even how I did ‘charity work.’ So, I thought I might be able to practice a new point of view, and it seemed as if God was dropping a great big opportunity right into my lap.
It didn’t just seem that way. I believe he did! I set out to help my mother-in-law pack. I would go to work at 6 a.m., go to a meeting at noon and help her pack in the afternoon. She is a very, very particular person and wanted to oversee the entire process. She has a lot of really nice things, and wanted to make triple sure none of them were damaged. I think there was some unspoken tension between us. I was trying to help and figure out my way of talking to her, and she was doing the same. So, after about a week, she got angry with me. I had been questioning her about things, and she was frustrated with me about it. Now that I know her better, I understand why….you see, she had gone through and had a lot of things she was donating. When I was packing things up, I would say ‘Do you need this or that?’ and if she said yes, I would sort of go ‘What are the odds we will have 3 of us using a handvac at the same time?’ She would have her own reasons for keeping the handvac. She didn’t feel she had to explain herself to me. I didn’t realize I was stepping on her toes. Now that I’ve unpacked her things and I realize she has 8 watering cans, 5 letter openers, 8 pie pans, 5 sets of china, and so on, I can see why she was frustrated with me asking her whether we need 3 step stools. So, she got frustrated with me and blew up, and I cried, and she apologized, and we talked, and it was better.
When people get angry with me, I get scared. I always have. My mom used to get mad a lot. My dad not so much. My ex-husband never yelled at me. My husband now never yells at me. So, it’s scary to me. It would happen several times during this process.
I knew this would be a hard move. I didn’t kid myself. If you asked me before we moved in here, I would have told you that I thought it was a mistake. I would have also told you that I thought it was the right thing to do. My family has a long history of taking care of our parents. I care about my mother-in-law a lot! I want good things for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to enjoy these last years with her son, and her extended family. I want her to enjoy her life.
Halfway through the move, she fractured her hip and it required surgery. That through a wrench into the plans that nobody expected. I think it was horrible for her. She was hurt and frustrated, and now had lost control over the move.
I went into action. I began unpacking her things. I put shelf paper in the kitchen. I tried to meet her physical needs. I stayed with her during the day, and went home and packed our place in the evening while my husband stayed with her at night. I got very out of balance….dangerously out of balance. Lesson learned.
Instead of gratitude, I got a ‘I never asked you to help me unpack.’
You know what? Being selfless doesn’t mean you get flowers thrown your way. Sometimes you get curses. Sometimes you get insults. Any parent knows this! That doesn’t mean it’s not God’s will.
Being selfless doesn’t mean you get out of whack either. Taking care of yourself is always necessary! For me, that means there are some things that have to be non-negotiable:
- Talking to my sponsor
- AA meetings
- Healthy eating
- Spiritual time
There are so many creative ways to make these things happen! How many of us are using Zoom for the first time right now? I’m also using apps such as Calm, Aura, Pray, and Daily Prayer. I’m doing yoga for the first time in my life, but mixing it up with my running. Yoga has been shown to help people who have suffered trauma in their past. I’m on a healing journey, and I’m adding in things that I believe will help me along this path. I have been working with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist once a week also. I have some wonderful friends who give me emotional support when I need it. Finally, when all else fails, phone home. My mom is my very best friend, and she’s been there having taken care of her mom, and is now taking care of my dad’s mom.
So, all of that sounds very selfish, but those things take very little time, and it allows me to give most of my time to caring for my mother-in-law and my husband. I have tried to put myself in her shoes every day and always respond in the right way. Even when I got angry with her, which I did, I handled it appropriately. I felt as if I did anyway. I try! All you can do in this life is try, and if you fail, try again. Don’t give up. I’m committed to showing this woman unconditional love until the very end.