Thursday, September 01, 2011
I wish I could attribute the above quote. It struck a chord with me as soon as I read it. This is a difficult blog for me to write but I have decided to write it anyway. I have a relative. I will call her Millie. Millie is the one who inspired me to join Sparkpeople. In January of this year, I was at my heaviest in both weight and mood. I was depressed, I was uncomfortable, I felt lonely, my life was unmanageable, I was isolating myself more and more, I had health problems that were not debilitating but, added up, they took a toll and were made worse by my excessive weight and my eating habits, which were unhealthy and getting worse. One day it occured to me, "my life is starting to look like Millie's". I felt compassion for her at that moment, and a deep fear for myself. I DID NOT want my life to turn out like hers. She is 14 years older than me. She and I once had a friendly relationship, though quite one-sided. She spoke, I listened. She complained, I listened. I made suggestions, she did not listen. I encouraged her, she did not listen. I suggested she focus less on her husband and children, and more on her health and forming friendships. This (unsolicited) advice was not taken, as is so often true of unasked for advice. I finally grew tired of waiting for her to show any interest in me, or my interests, or my children, or my life in general. I especially grew tired of hearing myself give advice that would never be followed, and, in fairness to her, was not asked for. Over the 20 years I have known her, I have seen her life go from difficult to downright depressing. She has made choices over the years that have brought her to where she is today. She is morbidly obese, diabetic, and terribly alone. Her marriage fell apart. Her adult children avoid her because they tire of frequent requests for financial assistance and by her favoritism towards the two adult children (adult by age, not behavior) who are constantly in trouble. Her grandchildren barely know her because she has never actively pursued a relationship with them. She has burned every bridge she has crossed so she essentially has no relationships with family or friends. She opened her home to her son who is a practicing drug addict and felon, and the son's ex-wife who is every bit his match in the felonious conduct and addictive behavior departments. They have wrecked her car, trashed her apartment, and abused her. She continues to refer to this 30something male as her "baby" despite the fact that he stands 6'5" and 300 lbs and treats her like something that is stuck to the bottom of his shoe. He has terrified her neighbors to the point that she is now being evicted. She was repeatedly asked by the property manager and her responsible adult children to not let him live with her, to not let him drive her car, but she says "I have a mother's heart and I want to help him" which is sometimes code for "it is too hard for me to say NO even though I know I am hurting him and myself and everyone around us in the process". I went over yesterday, with other family members, at the request of the property manager and the neighbors, to deal with her apartment while she is in a rest home attempting to recover from a serious health crisis directly related to her morbid obesity and diabetic condition. It was like stepping into an episode of the television show "Hoarders" only this came with an overwhelming stench. We spent hours dealing with the debris that comes with a life that has become completely unmanageable. She was once a careful housekeeper who took pride in her home. As we worked through the waist high pile of clothes, and expired food, and dirty dishes, and other things unnecessary to mention, I found candy stashed everywhere, much as you would expect to find liquor bottles stashed by a late stage alcoholic. While there, a concerned neighbor showed up and we began to talk and the talk turned to health and from there it was natural for me to mention Sparkpeople. As she generously washed dishes and I cleaned a scary bathroom, we continued to talk and I told her what a difference SP has made in my life. I received an e-mail today telling me that she has joined Sparkpeople. After the marathon clean-up, which is far from complete, we stopped by to see Millie in the rest home where she is convalescing. She talked about how lonely she is, and how sad she feels. She professed helplessness about her situation, especially where her "baby" is concerned. She also said "Since I have had this latest collapse, I have not eaten one morsel of food that I should not have." Because I was weary and had no patience to play along with "let's pretend everything is fine", I said "What about that big plate of cookies next to you on your bedside stand?" "Oh", she said, "my friend brought me those." I said, to the horror of one of my family members, "She may as well have brought you a gun." I took the cookies. I have abused sugar for years. As I threw out bags and bars of candy yesterday, and as I removed the cookies, I had zero urge to eat them. I told my sons later, "If ever I should become obese again, and if, God forbid, I should develop diabetes, and you see me eating cookies and candy, PLEASE yell at me - you have my full permission." Before we left, I gave her a foot massage, and I wished her well, and I examined my conscience for signs of hypocrisy and superiority. Mostly, I just found sadness and gratitude. I think she is past the point of repair, based on my decades of seeing her destructive behavior. Fortunately for her (and everyone else), I am not in charge of deciding who receives miracles. I would be thrilled if she does have some miraculous healing but, honestly, nothing short of a miracle will repair the wreckage of her life. She has accused me, in the past, of being judgemental. "Yes" I told her, "I do have lots of judgement. Do you want to borrow some because you don't seem to have any." THat is when I knew, once again, for her sake, and mine, it was best if we kept distance because I could not bring anything positive to the table. So, I pray for her, and I pray to have compassion, because, Lord knows, I am feeling plenty of judgement. Thankfully, I am also feeling lots of gratitude and resolve. As my 18 year old son said, "When I die, I just want to make sure it wasn't self-inflicted." Amen to that.