After last week’s blog article, “Tracy Gets Angry”, and my insights about why, in that moment, my sister, Rory, was the “safest person on the planet”, I decided this week’s blog would further explore the topic of “Safety” and be titled “Safety is Everything” (because it is). However, if you are a Facebook friend of mine, you may have seen this morning’s (Tuesday’s) post that said: “Sick in bed on my creative day. This should be interesting…”. When I wrote that, the “interesting” part was that I wasn’t sure if I would be up to doing anything creative, but it turns out that my seemingly benign status update was a lot more insightful than I realized.
In response to a friend’s subsequent comment that perhaps my sickness was happening for a reason and her asking “what can you do there [in bed], creatively?”, I wrote: “Oy…feeling vulnerable, though…trying not to feel sorry for myself…I’m going to lie here and “creatively” visualize that there’s a special someone taking care of me (which, for me, simply means checking if I need anything from time to-time and bringing me food, making me laugh…) and hope that, by some miracle, a bowl of chicken soup (that I didn’t have to prepare) finds it’s way to my night table…”.
There it was again, that feeling that there was nobody there for me…nobody to turn to. I was back in that vulnerable place because being sick (for me) means I’m alone.
So, then my friend asked (on Facebook) “what about your boys?” to which I replied, “Funny, many people ask that same question: “What about your boys?” assuming, I suppose, that because I have so many of them that I’m covered in times of need …but it’s a complicated answer. It’s not that they are not caring and willing to help (because they are) but, when I’m feeling really vulnerable, it’s not my boys’ help that I crave, if you know what I mean…I think I’m going to try and write about that today because it has to do with a deeper issue of mine regarding being my mother’s caretaker and so I have not raised my boys to “take care” of me because it was so unhealthy for me, as a child, to have had that responsibility.”
Now, being my mother’s caretaker and all the issues it created for me is nothing new, and yet, whenever I get sick or hurt and I’m unable to function optimally, it pushes those old buttons very deeply. The truth (at the time) was that, with a sick/depressed mother and her schizophrenic/addict boyfriend to take care of there really was nobody to take care of me if I got sick or was otherwise in a vulnerable situation. And I mean no-bo-dy. And, not only were my needs not being met during those times but there was no other responsible adult in the picture who could take over my care-taking responsibilities either. Double Whammy!
And I think that’s part of the answer to my friend’s question. Its not just that I don’t want my boys to ever experience what I felt having to caretake my family but, nowadays, its also about not having another responsible family member in my life to share the load. And the distinction between friend and family member is very important, I think, at least for me. My friends will happily come out of the woodwork when I need them but I would never feel comfortable asking a friend to take on the responsibility in the same way as I would a family member. And since, in my case, I only have one family member (other than my kids) and she lives on the other side of the country, I’ve come to understand how vitally important the role of a safe, responsible partner is in my life and how, when I’m feeling really vulnerable, the absence of that partner is nothing less than excruciating.
One of the things I valued greatly in my marriage was how my ex-husband’s family was always there if you needed anybody to pick up the slack… you didn’t even have to ask and they were there. I remember my mother-in-law laughing at how much I appreciated her bringing me goulash soup when I came home from the hospital after each of my kids were born (and how she sends chicken soup to everyone when they’re sick)…just thinking about it brings a tear to my eye…but that was what it was like… that is, until my divorce…which brings me to my next realization.
This past Sunday, I attended a funeral for the father of a dear friend of mine. He had died quite suddenly and it was a tragic loss for my friend and her family. While there, I bumped into my “ex-family”. It had not occurred to me that they would be there, so I was taken a little off guard, to say the least (suffice it to say that they are no longer interested in bringing me soup). During the eulogy, my friend and her sister spoke of their father’s life and how he had lived it so passionately and fully. It was wonderfully inspiring and comforting get to know their father in this way but the part that hit home for me was how they spoke of the love and commitment that he and their mother had for one another. Even more amazingly was that, after an eight year separation, they had reunited during the planning of my friend’s wedding, and went on to share another 20 happy years together. I found this remarkable and, even though I don’t know much of their story, I admire how they somehow found a way to overcome what drove them apart and re-discover how to feel “safe” with each other again.
I suppose that the juxtaposition of my once supportive family who has now ex-communicated me and the inspiring story of my friend’s parents has left me confused and scared. I do believe that it is possible to overcome anything, create that “safety” and go on to live the life you want but, the bottom line is that it can only happen for people are are willing to be vulnerable enough to be “seen” and committed enough to do the work. So, on days like today, even though I know I’m ready, I still wonder if and when that other responsible adult will wander into my life.