Mencius said, ‘Benevolence is the distinguishing characteristic of man. As embodied in man’s conduct, it is called the path of duty.’
*sigh* Duty! Benevolence! I am usually a nice, caring, thoughtful person…I understand the desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness: to be filled with benevolence toward one’s fellow creatures. I am usually kind.
I thought surviving leukemia, losing my brother, my bff, my father, and my fiancé to death all before I was 35 years old was enough heartache for a life time – well I was wrong.
About five years ago, soon after I turned the big 40, my maternal grandmother had another stroke and was hospitalized and both my step-father and mother were battling cancer, I made a very tough decision to move back home. I was being laid off and I thought it was a sign and timing was there.
Little did I know then that as a caregiver, I would reach my own breaking point…several of them. I found myself sick, barely hanging on financially and emotionally, fighting my own depression, and frustration building after only 12 months. My grandmother finally succumbed to her last stroke after months of struggling, both my Mom and step father were released from the hospital, back home and taking life one day at time, dealing with getting older and the every day frustration of having their bodies fail them. Throughout all of this, my already strained relationship with my three older sisters got progressively worse to the point of true estrangement. After losing my grandmother, I went back to work in early 2008, loved my new job, met a guy, got married for all the wrong reasons again, and moved away to a neighboring state; Only to find myself trapped and unhappy in another marriage, the economy continuing to worsen. In 2009, I was laid off again and after taking a trip together to visit family in PR realized that the marriage could, should not be saved. My oldest dog was also aging and getting sicker. So I moved back home. Having to put my 16 year old dog was one of the hardest things I had to do. I took my time looking for work since unemployment was at an all time high. I really became my parent’s advocate. I started to run their household – bills, grocery shopping, meals, doctor visits – I became nurse, accountant, event planner, personal shopper, etc. Then in 2010, my nephew finds himself sick and hospitalized for a few months; once released needing a place to stay and recuperate. I took him in. By then I had the second floor to myself, after moving the parents to the first floor and plenty of room. Well, my naïve, good natured personality had failed me before and now has taught me a very valuable lesson: No good deed goes unpunished. After a little over two years, he decides to move out and it has been a couple of months now since I have heard from him – from the first day he moved out, he has not returned my calls, emails nor texts. My oldest sister, his Mom, hasn’t heard from him neither but has never forgiven me for taking him in when he had no place to go. So…this has been my life the past few years…my life has been filled with the irony of “damned if I do, damned if I don’t”. I don’t know if I will ever learn the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished”. My life does indeed come across as a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, because life is inherently unfair, those who help others are doomed to suffer as a result of their being helpful. I hate to be so pessimistic and believe this. So I sit here sometimes, scratching my head going, “WHY do I bother?” So basically, “No good deed goes unpunished” is a wry way of saying that often going out of your way to be kind or thoughtful or considerate doesn’t always get the expected result. You know the saying, “Virtue is its own reward?” Sometimes it isn’t! But…in the words of Roger Staubach “there are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” So I will always try to do what is right. I will never allow someone else’s thoughtlessness, selfishness stop me from being me…So when someone close to me ignores my thoughtfulness; puts down my tastes or choices; makes rude, unnecessary comments; and doesn’t utter a ‘thank you’ – I will smile. And pray to God asking him to forgive them.
So I need to continually find strength, humor, outlets to relieve my stress. And with the work week looming, I am looking forward to just being busy at work. Putting my emotions on a leash of sorts. Letting my analytic side of my brain take over. Until I find myself stressing over having to be social next weekend. Little did I know that with the role of caregiver, also came role of hostess. Now when my parents have visitors, family and friends over, I find myself having to play hostess on top of cleaning, shopping, cooking (mostly catering)…I try but find myself failing at most. Both my Mom and step father can be overly critical, verbally abusive and stubborn. Sometimes, I am at such a loss, I don’t know what emotion takes lead. I slowly fear that I find myself once again reaching my breaking point and barely hanging on.
I love my Mother and try my best to respect her, but she continues to be the same self-centered person she has always been and I find myself biting my tongue and working really hard at keeping the anger at bay. I have come to understand that my parents are not nice aging parents.
I will also keep carving out my own little niche, a safe place, where its not so toxic. I feel a little guilty about not spending all of my free time these days with my parents but there is so much combative, harassing torment I can take on any given day. So I escape to work, to dating, to reading, to writing…I can get lost in the comfort of written words. I have learned how to protect myself better and stay insulated even if it means being alone. I will no longer allow anyone to wreak havoc on my own mental health. I am going to always be there for my Mom and step father, even my nephew if he ever needs me again; but the biggest difference is that I will keep moving forward with my own life. The guilt abates – I know I have done so much and will continue to do everything I can and yet most importantly know when to take a step back before I reach the breaking point again to regroup. I am learning to protect myself first. I am my very own best advocate. Abraham Lincoln once said “whatever you are, be a good one”…so I continue on my journey of only good things… ♥