Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sunday's Dance

Nothing makes me dance on a Sunday morning like being alone in my own house. 

As my husband leaves to go to my mom’s apartment I yell, “Stay extra long! Will ya?” He doesn’t see the humor in my snarkiness. 

Bless him. He has it within his heart to go to my mom’s apartment every Sunday morning, so that they can stream church together.  I do not have it within my heart.  I no longer do things out of a sense of obligation, if I can choose not to. I did that for too many years to count. I have the scars of resentment to prove it. 


They started watching church together when my mom lived here in our home. It’s a Baptist church out of Baltimore, Maryland where my husband’s family lives. During the week our house would be filled with screaming, arguing, and constant talking. The last thing I wanted on Sunday morning was to have someone screaming the gospel at me. 

No thanks. I would rather talk to God, quietly through prayer and in my journal. I don’t need the constraints of formal Christianity, which comes with side order of  hypocrisy for many Christians. My relationship with God and my spirituality are not for world consumption or approval.  I admit there is still  a bit of a sting leftover from the over-saturation of a childhood consumed by organized religion. There was no freedom of choice until I turned 18 and had enough. 

I was my mother’s primary caregiver while she lived here. She came to live with us “temporarily” during the height of the teen and adult-transition years for my sons on the autism spectrum. Temporarily turned into ten years of me being so overwhelmed with keeping my children alive and mentally healthy. I didn’t have time to think of ulterior living solutions for my mother. 

I feel the heart palpitations when think about what a nightmare it was when everyone lived here together. I’m still in therapy trying to get over that trauma. 

I had to have my son, Kendal move out when he was 19. He just could not be contained within this house, along with 4 other adults. He moved into a situation that I wasn't all that comfortable with at first. However, it served a purpose. It was healthier for us to live apart. 

Thankfully, he moved to San Antonio to work and live with his older brother 18 months later. Now, he lives in Los Angeles with my niece. The fact that he has a soft place to land  is on my gratitude list 

Late last summer,  I was doing the happy dance after I was able to orchestrate everything so we could move my mother around the corner into a senior-living apartment. She took the last of the Sunday morning noise along with her, along with the landline phone that would ring all living day long. The calls were mostly solicitations or Kendal calling back home to report every tragic life experience and emotion. You know, like frustration over missing the bus or overcooking the chicken to the point of extreme dryness. My heart rate would go up every time the phone rang. A trauma response from years of phone calls with bad news on the other end.

When Mom lived with me, it turned out that the more I did for her as her daughter and caregiver,  the more she wanted me to do, and the less she was willing to do for herself. It wasn’t mentally healthy for either one of us. I felt constantly overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes, I would hide in my room just “not” not to be asked to do something when she laid eyes on me. I would go to a bar after yoga so I didn’t have to come home to work. I didn't want to answer the questions, as an adult in my own home, “Where are you going? What are you doing? What are you eating? What are you drinking?” 

As fate would have it, my mother reached a point where she could no longer climb the stairs to get to the shower in our two-story home. The  arthritis in her knees had become progressively worse. Anxiety made her believe that everything was impossible.

I hired home-health therapists to come in and help her build her strength and confidence. I knew her days were numbered in this house. 

I was finally able to  find her own, fully-accessible, apartment.  She has a friend/caregiver come into her apartment to help with cooking, cleaning, and bathing.  She now has her very own, private, quiet,  space where she keeps the temperature around 80 degrees.  

She doesn’t have to stumble over our stuff or be inconvenienced by my disorganization. She doesn't have share the guest bathroom with our son’s friends, who just might pee on the toilet seat when they come to visit. 

She is happy with her space and I am thrilled about the doors that close between us. 

The burnout from years of caregiving for my mother and my young adult sons, left me with no choice other than to draw strong boundaries between myself and my family.  The experience of over-giving had kept all of us from growing.

I reached a point where my body would not allow me to do it anymore. I had neglected my own needs in order to take care of theirs for far too long.  The of damage to my soul turned to anger, rage and resentment.  

It took a lot of years of therapy to figure this all out. When everyone was here together, I didn’t have the wherewithall to address how my own mental health was being affected. I continue to work to hold my boundaries as my dependents work to encroach upon them. I’m still responsible for them, but from a healthy distance.

Our family has  lived in this house for over twenty years. Most of those years were extremely loud, and incredibly close. As in, too many of us with too many agendas, opinions, feelings, and emotions, all living within earshot of each other

For me it was like being on-call 24/7,  living with some very needy, non-paying, clients. It was like playing whacamole, putting out one fire, and then the next, with very little time to catch my breath inbetween.

As women, mothers, daughters, and wives, we are conditioned to give from the time we are in our early teen years. Do the things that you are asked to do.  Go to church. Get baptized because it’s time to give your life to God. Please the Elders in the church. Everyone is watching. Give your time in order to please others. You want to be well thought of in our community.  Follow the example of Christ. Don’t embarrass your mother. And what does your happiness have to do with anything? Your job is to make others feel comfortable, so that they will like and accept you. 

Growing up, my children were not happy most of the time. They were socially isolated in school, had issues with anxiety and depression. They had challenges that I could never have imagined in my own childhood. I thought it was my job to protect them, to be their voice, and give them as much happiness and comfort as possible. That was my job for a long time. Only I didn't know when to draw the line. 

The same was true with my mother. Make her comfortable and happy, as you have done your entire life.

Only the weight of all of that was impossible for one person to carry. I was living the way I had been conditioned. The sacrifice of my happiness, was inconsequential. 

That is, until I woke up and realized that my happiness is essential. You can only fake the funk for so long before your body and your brain give way to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and hopefully not heart disease, or some other illness.  

When we become burnout, our bodies internalize our pain and begin to break down. 

We have to take care of ourselves.  It’s vital to take care of our own needs.  It’s the infamous, put on your oxygen mask first, that I heard that a million times. I probably even wrote about it here on this blog.  And yet, I would only take just enough oxygen to barely keep breathing. Everyone else had as much as I could humanly give them.. 

These days, when I wake up on Sunday morning and I am alone in my house,  I dance. I don’t even need any music. It’s in my soul. 

Sunday Chillin in my swing chair.
No makeup. Alone.