Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tip No. Seven: Acceptance

Accept that this is really happening. Whatever "it" is. And whatever your opinion of "it" is. Meaning, whether you're saddened or frightened by what is happening to your loved one, or whether you are saddened, frightened, frustrated or downright angry at what is happening to you as a result, accept that it is really happening. If you are a Type A personality, acceptance of a stressful situation may not be a problem. You may be used to quickly assessing a situation and making concise, confident decisions what to do about it. But, for others of us, denial is an art form. But, acceptance is a building block to most of my other tips. Think of it like taking that deep breath before leaping off the high dive. Getting set, steeling yourself, and then taking the plunge head first. Some of us just don't want to take that final step off the board. Problem is, you're up there, so you have to get down somehow. People are waiting on the steps behind you, getting really aggravated that you're hesitating. You've got one practical way down. Might as well accept it.

Of course, the difference between a high dive and dealing with an ill relative is the timing of it. A high dive lasts seconds. I, for instance, have no idea how long Mother will live like she is now, but assume that we are hunkering down for a few years. So, I have to worry about money for long term care, trying to juggle work (assuming of course there will be work in my future), family, and Mother's care and finances for an indeterminate length of time. The sooner I accept the fact that this is just the way it is, the sooner I can absorb it all and try and find a way to make it all fit and still have a little quality of life mixed in there.

For me, accepting the reality of an unpleasant situation has always been a problem. Just the other day, I illustrated that to myself when I realized I had, in a sleep deprived stupor, set a glass of cold water where it could sweat onto my nightstand. The solid wood nightstand that my father had made three quarters of a century before. The nightstand I have had and kept in good repair since I was little. When I picked up the glass the next day and realized it had seeped water onto the wood all night long, I stood there staring at the damage for a full ten seconds or longer, blinking a few times as though that would make it go away. Finally I realized that standing there like a blinking statue wasn't going to make it go away. So, I spurred myself to act. I do this a lot. Sort of stare vapidly for a while waiting for something or someone to come along and make things better, or maybe waiting for time to reverse itself so I can undo what has just happened.

I blame it on reading too much fantasy as a child. I seem to always be waiting for Aslan to breathe on Mr. Tumnus and bring him back to life. But, in real life, it doesn't work that way. Aslan expects us to make our own miracles. And, sometimes, in the land outside the wardrobe, hesitating to act quickly can be dangerous for our loved ones. Of course, an extreme example of that would be if someone is suspected of being in cardiac arrest or a stroke. Seconds count. But, even in the case of my mom, it was superficially easier for me to let her try and hide the damage growing from the broken toe. If I am being brutally honest with myself, I just didn't want to know. Given her brother's history, the second she told me she thought she'd broken a toe, I should have pushed it much harder. Maybe I could have forced the issue and gotten her to a doctor sooner. But, I let her cover up the toe and the legs until she just couldn't any more. Ironically, had I made a fuss earlier, who knows, maybe she'd still be living on her own and both our lives would be very different. But, that's not where we are. So, I need to accept the way things really are so I can move on from here.

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