Saturday, February 22, 2014

Balancing Being Safe with Putting up a Wall

I had a conversation the the day with a woman who said to me that she wouldn't pick a partner who was sick or fat. She said more than once that she had been a caregiver more over 10 years and now that was free to pick her life, she was ONLY picking "healthy" people.

At first the conversation hurt my feelings. But I sat with it for a few moments. No one has to tell me that many people are afraid of invisible and chronic illness. Why else would I have hidden it for so long! It reminds people that we are all dying and are on a terminal track. Everything about aging and loss of youth reminds people of a loss of control. And frankly- as I sat with it I realized that her anger at being forced into a caregiving status really was something she hadn't dealt with.

I've been on both sides of that equation. And in both points I've found it to be quite humbling and quite loving to give and receive kindness and love from others. But ONLY when I was ready to receive. I've had my dukes up! I've had a hard time receiving!

The weight to her represented ill health. Fat to her meant chronic illness and a life of being strapped with someone who would choke her freedom.

What I responded to her was that at her age - in her mid-30's she was in good health and so was her chosen partner. But that would not always be so. As we age we simply do get older. Some people age and surrender with grace and some people do so with anger and fear.

I visited a Neuropsychologist about dealing with memory. I was being forced to write things down. I couldn't just retain names and entire lists in my head. He said that I had to have a good humor about it because I had lost spare change. Yes - it was the chronic illness and seizure - but it was also the medications. I could hold on and be angry and resentful. Or I could be happy and smile and tell people that I lost their names. I could do useful and productive things. Or I could be angry. The path of resentment was the path of less grace and greater stress. The more stress the more memory and cognitive decline.

This struck me as important and very profound in dealing with my own functions. So I chose to "play" with my brain. I play boardgames. I play during improv. Most things in my life surround around the notion of play. I may not always feel up to it - but when I do - play it is.

Even now though - letting people in - really truly in - comes slow. Someone called me a porcupine the other day and it made me laugh. I suppose, in some way I am. You can come in only so far and so fast. Because on some level I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. And if I start to count people like that woman - and they realize that it is "too much for them" I don't WANT to have to deal with repeated rejections and pain. It's so emotionally taxing.

So I can have all the good humor I want and all the positive attitude I want. But other people's baggage will always be their baggage. And if I don't want to carry it - I've had to balance being thick skinned with being too much of a porcupine about relationships.

These are just thoughts. It's hard to be sick. It's hard to give and receive love as a healthy human. And when you throw in new baggage like abuse and pain to heal from -- and even more - like illness - sometimes you don't know where one thing ends and another begins.

This morning when I woke up I said to myself: "Quills in." So I know I'm safe and can put them out anytime. I don't have to carry anyone's baggage. But I remind myself that I don't want to walk around giving them my quills either.


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