It’s been far too long since I have sat down to compose a post. I last posted about anger, emotions, and dealing with life. That was about 2 weeks before Christmas and New Year’s 2016. I wish I could say I was less angry. I am not. My anger is however, less intense. Two major events have changed my intensity. First, Agnes, my mother-in-law passed away. And second, I really screamed and yelled at my wife.
Agnes passing was both long in coming and expected. She had been declining for some time enduring minor strokes and heart failure. About 2 years ago my wife made the incredibly difficult decision to place her in long-term care. Prior to this Agnes lived with us. After a series of falls and memory lapses it became too dangerous to leave her alone. We tried in-home care, but the 10 thousand dollar a month price tag quickly made that untenable. After some trial and error we had the great good fortune to find a wonderful, caring nursing center.
Pro-tip for folks seeking elder care: Medicare and medicaid pay the same for a snake pit as they do a palace. Choose the palace and work with the medical staff office to keep your elder in the best possible home. Care centers differ widely in the number of staff, food, windows, and ability to provide quality of life and care. Do your homework. Again, start talking with staff immediately about a permenant placement. I realize this is a digression. This information needs to be out in the world as often as possible.
As I said, Agnes’s death was expected. The surprise came in the timing. My wife had alway hoped that Agnes would have a heart attack and pass quietly in her sleep. Instead she had a large stroke on the day before New Year’s Eve. Prior to this she had stopped eating and swallowing. Already on pallative care, the family decided to withhold food and water and involve hospice.
One more digression. Hospice is AMAZING. Kind, patient, supportive and dedicated to minimizing suffering and pain. Tech’s, nursing aides and administrative staff in nursing homes make a herculean effort to care for our sick and eldery. They should be blessed, thanked and rewarded for their labor.
Having watched my father die of esophageal cancer 10 years prior I knew that this process was going to suck. What I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to watch my wife go through it. To watch my love manage her pain and loss was difficult. It almost broke me several times. Spouses should provide this level of support. This is what we are supposed to do and I would do it again. After almost a week of slow death, Agnes died. My wife entered a different phase of the grieving process. She did this with her own dignity and balance. She is the most honorable person I know and that character kept her going through her pain. All I could do was offer comfort, love, a ear, and my heart. This is the opposite of anger. I couldn’t maintain my intensity for anger. The necessity of empathy was simply more important to get through this crisis.
Fast foward to 5 weeks weeks later. My wife and I had an argument. Not an important argument or even a deep one. I really screamed – not so much to her – but at her. I had so much pent up rage and it felt good to let it out. I didn’t realize until much later – that what I really needed to do – was tell someone they were wrong. To be able to say with complete and total honesty NO THIS SUCKS and your ideas the way you express them are completey inconsistent and incorrect with actually being a kind and decent human being. This is harsh cruel language. I am not sorry I said it outloud and I meant it. I am sorry my wife is who I ultimately unloaded on. It wasn’t fair My honorable wife let me scream and yell. She knew, somehow, that I needed to do this.
Almost immediately, after I apologized for yelling, I felt significantly better. I admist that I still felt guilty fort yelling – and I probably always will. Yet, still my heart and soul felt lighter.
Since the election I had been listening to other side, being polite, letting friends and others post lies and ridiculousness on my Facebook page in the name of neutrality and openess. I was offering the wrong people my energy and my empathy and it was draining me. My wife needed and deserved my support and openness and time but I was squandering this resource on others.
Finally, my soul said ENOUGH. I needed to verbalize. I needed to say without equivocation that people who supported Mr. Trump, for any reason, were wrong. I do not deny their right to vote for their candidate. I do not deny their humanity. I can acknowledge this and still know they are wrong. Mr.Trump voters, including family members and friends, voted for a racist, sexist, xenaphobic, and an unqualified bigot. None of his behaviors and ideas, clearly expressed by Mr. Trump’s words and deeds, were enough to reject his candidacy. It should have been. It needed to be. I had faith that more people would stand against his platform. I was wrong. As a result I will shout, write, and publish my dissent. I will say this is wrong. I grieve for my country. This are some of the ways I am dealing with my grief and concern.
Agnes’s death and my wife’s grief reminded me that I need to maintain and support what is important in my life. I need to apply the care and empathy I feel for others more consistently and with my depth to my wife and my family. They need it. I need it. It is part of my self care. The second and equally significant part of my self care is both acknowleding and expressing my truth. Lead with empathy AND always express my truth.