I have spent some time reading my old journals and I am really surprised about a few recurring themes: communication, anxiety about life, my security and how each of those relates to my faith and peace of mind. It seemed that I was really concerned about how to communicate these concerns to the people in my life who might be able to provide guidance or “fix” them for me.
The date of this journal entry places this emotional encounter shortly after my mother had the stroke and my job of being my mother’s caretaker began. In retrospect, I can see that not only did I have anxiety and fear about making important decisions for my mother, but the responsibility weighed on me in a way I didn’t expect it to manifest itself. I felt fear about becoming destitute and abused as an old woman if I didn’t have caretakers or resources. My contact with mama’s nursing home coupled with the realization that friends and family (whose input I considered when I made many of the decisions about her care) would not be the presence I hoped they would be instilled these fears and others. I began to worry about whether the decision to stay home for so many years to care for children would negatively impact me financially when I was old like my mother. In my heart, I knew that I made the right decision to be available to my children, but this new awareness made me question all of my choices up to that moment. My mother had been saving and planning for her elder care for a number of years. I didn’t give much attention to her plans because I just didn’t want to deal with the thought of her aging and deteriorating to a point where she couldn’t provide me the nurturing and guidance that I had grown to expect from her. As I spoke to the long term care team, her medical insurance provider, her retirement system representatives, and the bankers, I realized that by pooling her resources I could afford the best care scenario possible for her in her hometown. It was great for her, but it made me worry about what aging would look like for me.
According to my journal entry, I made a decision that reliance on a divine power would be the only hope for me and the only way I could manage my mother’s care. In reading the entry, I saw that I did most of the wrestling with these thoughts about my fears and anxieties internally. For some reason, most likely the pride rooted in my ability to handle my new role on my own, I excluded other people from the opportunity to evaluate my plan in detail and peruse the addendum attached to the plan which I will call my emotional appendix.
The introspective look into my approach to challenging events revealed that during that time of challenge there were people waiting for me to ask them to carry me because they either believed I expected their assistance or because they just didn’t believe I was strong enough for the task. I found that I didn’t feel that I could completely rely on any one person during that time in my life. It was difficult for me to discuss what I was feeling for a number of reasons. It was painful to see my mother suffering. I didn’t really think anyone else could fix the problem because there was no way to undo my mother’s illness. There was no way to make time slow down for me or to make it move in reverse. And my mother gave me a charge: “I know you will be the one to take care of me.” So, I went about managing my emotions and the situation to the best of my ability even though I knew that my methodology was confusing to most.
My dad used to say that I was “a good girl” with “peculiar ways” and I mentioned that in this journal entry. I am sure that those around me felt my dad’s sentiments about me during that period of my life and that must be the reason that I mentioned his opinion in the journal entry. While my dad had his opinion, I preferred to say that I was not “peculiar,” but complex. Fortunately, I put things on pause long enough to try to understand my complexities in the midst of the challenge. Additionally, I worked to decipher the responses I was receiving from those around me who wanted to ease my pain and reduce my stress level. I decided that it must be easier to deal with a peculiar person than a complex being because the village was struggling with me. Haha. Because I was raised by a coach and spent most of my adult life around coaches, I noticed that I explained my findings in sports terms in this journal entry. It is pretty cool that the Super Bowl is today and I happened upon this journal entry laced with football references.
I found that people love what things and situations look like on paper like coaches and fans love to talk about their perfect “Super Bowl” roster when the regular season opens. Then, the lights come on and the ink comes to life trailing in unscripted patterns across the page. If they were coaching the game, the might see the need for adjustments and proceed to make the changes without hesitation. However, people who wanted to help me in my challenge struggled with applying the scientific rules of a game to my challenging situation. Rather, they focus on a euphoric vision of my life that depicted me living a satisfied, stress-free life. The attempt to force me into the perfect, euphoric vision of a life free of anxiety, stress, and worry created relationship drama at home and in other circles. When the ink came to life, emotions, opinions, personality uniquenesses, and individuality were awakened much like the real time game predicament of a quarterback who goes under center and sees a defensive shift just prior to the snap of the ball. In an attempt to recreate a perfect offensive formation, the quarterback begins to shout out the necessary adjustments. Sometimes his offensive teammates can hear and sometimes the signals are lost in the noise. Lost in the noise is where I found myself. I had lots of quarterbacks and coaches in my life, but honestly they were not shouting signals that I could hear or understand over the noise. The communication was lost.
The communication failure led to feelings that others wanted to control me – my thinking, my emotions, my laughter, my freedom, and my peace. My failure to filter out the noise resulted in isolation, frustration, and sometimes agitation on my part and on the part of the friend or family member trying to help me. They felt like the fans at the game who swear that they know more than the coaches and who would certainly have chosen a different lane if they had been running the ball. In my head, everyone was a Monday morning quarterback who had no clue about the opponent I faced or the game plan I had chosen.
Since I wrote that journal entry four years ago, I have learned to be conscious of moments of extreme challenge and the emotions that are my normal in those moments. I learned to listen to the advice of others and ponder their statements before I reply or act. Moreover, I learned to remind these life coaches that no game is played to perfection and the expectation of perfection during play in my life is an unrealistic and unattainable goal. Penalties and mistakes in football lead to negative yardage and present evidence of mental lapses and poor judgment. I learned that while I live life setbacks may occur and the coaching for me to be perfectly secure, stable, and collected all of the time added emotional weight to the situation. Even that type of concern and weight felt like someone trying to control my emotional decisions. I learned that the “fix” for my fears, anxieties, and worries was not in botched communications with those who tried to help. I began to practice what I had heard for years in sports: Develop a short memory, mistakes in life are expected, block out the noise, speak clearly and in a language that my villagers understand, dust myself off, and get back in the game. When I can implement that game plan I am always winning!