Tag Archive | relationships

A Changing Identity

changing identityThis morning I’m supposed to be attending a caregiver workshop. The focus of this three-week class is called “relationships.” Last week I didn’t go because Ken took a fall right before it was time to leave. He knocked over an end table and everything on it – including a lamp, spilled coffee all over the wall, and bruised himself. All of this because he just tried to get up from the sofa to go to the bathroom.

I saw it happen. His knees buckled, he lost his balance, and then he toppled over. This fall we didn’t laugh about. This time we screamed. I was really scared he had hurt himself. But his guardian angel must have caught him because other than being humiliated because he caused another mess, he was fine.

I grumbled while I cleaned up the catastrophe, then I felt ashamed of myself. He had only been trying to walk for godsakes!  And here I was cranking about having to wash a little spilled coffee off the wall. What kind of person am I?

Even after I cleaned up the mess, I still had time to get to the caregiver meeting, but I couldn’t THINK of the idea. Sitting in a room with a dozen  people learning about changing relationships was not what I needed at the time. So I sat in a chair all day and pouted.

But what did I need?

I’ll tell you. I need this whole thing to STOP. I want my sweet, loving husband back. I want the man who used to surprise me with tender little gifts from time to time–just because he was thinking about me. I want the man who always put me first, not matter what. I want the man who supported me in everything I wanted to do. I want the man who used to travel with me, exploring the world together. I want the man who ran to the flower shop to buy me a corsage when he heard me sing a solo in church for the first time.

What I don’t want is to face the fact I am watching this man fade away a little more each day. I want to shout: “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

Today is the second class of this workshop, but during the week a good friend called and invited me to go shopping with her. The last time we were together, we had a blast. Our friendship goes back over 20 years. We have daughters the same age; we went to college at the same time; we got divorced within a year of each other; and we helped each other recover from all the bumps and bruises life has to dish out. Having time with Jackie is special because she has a job which requires her to travel a good part of the year, and she’s not around all of the time. Needless to say, I decided to spend my morning with her instead of attending the class.

But is a good time with a valued friend the reason I blew off this class for the second time?

Well, it’s part of it. I get strength and positive energy from my friends. I love laughing with them and talking with them. So yes, it is part of the reason. The other part of the story, though, is I know in my head that I am a dyed-in-the-wool caretaker because of how I spend my days. But my heart can’t face it. I haven’t come to a place where I want to accept my husband is growing weaker and fading away–even though I see it with my eyes everyday. To publicly admit I am now a caretaker for t he man I love is too hard. I’m not ready. I’m too little! I want to suck  my thumb and cuddle in a corner with my security blanket.

I tell myself there will be another class at another time. I will sign up, but God only knows if I will attend. I tell myself maybe I’ll be ready by then, Maybe I’ll be ready to accept this new status in my relationship with Ken. Right now attending such a class signals devastating defeat and loss. MS has crippled Ken, but it also has morphed me from a loving wife to a loving caretaker. Attending this class solidifies it, and I’m not ready to face it.

The Value of Friendship Scrutinized

CircleOn Sunday Morning on CBS there was a piece about friendship. The reporter interviewed a group of women from Wisconsin and a group of men from another state (sorry, I can’t remember that part). Each gender group talked about how valuable their friendships were.

Then to back up the unscientific testimony, the reporter PROVED how valuable friends are with a series of medical and university studies–after all, it is a NEWS show. One medical study proved people holding hands with a friend during an MRI showed less anxiety and brain activity, while the patient received intermittent electric shocks, than they did when they went through the test alone. A university study showed when people were asked to estimate how steep a hill was without a friend standing next to them, the hill appeared steeper than when their friends were with them.

So, these studies prove we all do better when we have friends than when we don’t. Dah. That’s a no-brainer.

But remember if you want a friend, it’s like any relationship — there’s a give and a take, a symbiotic part to it. Experts on the program made the point that sometimes friends can become toxic and drain your energy. In such a case, it’s better for you to cut the cord and make a new friend who enriches you as much as you do them. Ending a friendship is hard, especially when you’ve put so much energy into making the friend in the first place. The last thing you want to do is cut them loose.  But sometimes, it has be done. Many times, a friendship gone bad becomes visible when you’re growing in a certain direction and they are not. Just like divorce, the process is hard but necessary. The good news is both parties usually come out stronger for the experience.

Like the women in my books, friendships are my life blood. The people who I have elected to bring into my life are precious gifts. They are my safety nets, my confidants, my helpers, and my companions. We laugh together, play together, cry together, support each other, share our fears, and express our love for each other. They fill my life with beautiful color. Without them, my life would be cold and gray.

My wish for all of you reading this is that each of you have at least one good friend you can always count on. A whole stable of friends would be even better  because life without friends is like an empty Easter basket or a Christmas tree without decorations. Where’s the joy in that?