Thursday, August 30, 2012

Restoring Humpty Dumpty

My last post was pretty dismal and some of my friends were genuinely concerned about me. I assure you that there is nothing to be worried about and I am now out of that dark mood. My blog is not really about promoting my business or establishing myself as an ‘ expert’ in any given area – it is simply a means of catharsis. Sometimes I need to just simply put down in writing the connections I make on various subjects such as mythology and history because unless I do they keep swirling in my head and keep me preoccupied. Sometimes I write because I am frustrated at what’s happening in the social and political arena and as an ordinary citizen I put my concerns on my blog simply as a way of registering my protest. And sometimes I write because I need to rid myself of all the negative emotions that are welling up inside me so that I can be functional again.

My strategy of coping with negative feelings is a bit radical. Rather than just try and divert myself when I feel sad and depressed I take that darkness to the extreme. If I am unhappy then I take my unhappiness to the point of sheer misery and once I have worked it out of my system I can then move on to healing myself. As they say once you hit rock bottom there is no way else to go but up. All emotions, good or bad, should be experienced to their maximum otherwise they never truly go away. For good emotions that is not such a bad thing to happen but negative emotions remain with you like that lingering residual cough one gets after a particularly nasty bronchial infection – just when you think you are OK the cough attack comes on to remind you that you aren’t. So my last post was my attempt to hit rock bottom and I’m happy to report that I did and now I’m on my way up again.

After I read my post I realized that I was indulging in self-pity. Who was this whining person? Me? I wasn’t like that and if I was becoming this way then it was time to take corrective measures. So  I went on a little journey of introspection and knocked on doors within me which had been so far kept firmly shut. Most of these doors had bits of benign junk that I found easy to clean up but every time I did the junk kept coming back again, it just refused to go away for good. In the end I figured that the door with the biggest padlock and which I was avoiding for so long held the broom which could clean up all that was behind the other doors. I knew that once I opened that door I would have to pass a test to get that magic broom and that test would be daunting to say the least.

When I finally opened that door I found fragments of myself and the test was to put myself back together again like Humpty Dumpty. I tried for a long time but even though each piece was my own all of them were distorted so that they didn’t seem to quite come together in a neat fit. But what had distorted them so much? Why wasn’t I myself anymore? And then I remembered an old CD I had once left on my car’s dashboard out in the sun and which had become warped just like my own self was now warped. The culprit was an external force in both cases but the blame was mine because I was careless and did not take care of them. The CD was damaged by the sun’s heat and I was damaged by all the negative input I was allowing people to send my way. Slowly over a period of time these minor inputs had managed to chip away at a substantial part of my self-esteem. For someone who teaches other people about self-esteem this was not just shocking it was also shameful. I felt like a fraud – what right did I have to stand up in front of a group and talk to them about a subject in which I had myself failed? But then I realized that this was not really a failure it was a big lesson. I learnt that even if your strength is left untended for some time it will start to weaken. Atrophy is never far behind.

Once I realized this I could use my secret chants and potions to restore all my pieces and assemble myself once again.  Having passed this test I was then handed the magic  broom with which I proceeded to clean all the mess behind the other doors.

Moral of the story? It doesn’t matter how hard you try to improve yourself and it doesn’t matter how many self-development books you read, if you don’t work on improving your self-esteem nothing will work.  Also, while working on your areas of improvement do not neglect your strengths otherwise they too will become weak. And on more thing that I learnt from this experience was that the root of all our problems lies within us. Circumstances and people are neutral, how we respond to them gives them negative or positive labels. I am happy to report that since I started working on myself, even my mom’s situation seems to have improved. Her dementia is not better but now I keep her preoccupied with jokes and light conversations so that she doesn’t keep going around in circles and asking the same things again and again.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Life In A Loop

‘Ground Hog Day’ seems to come to mind whenever I try to describe my life.  Every morning I get up to relive the same day again and again, nothing changes, no surprises. When you are the only person living with a dementia patient there is not much room for anything else in your life. Their life and their reality becomes the dominant factor so that at times you are incapable of anything else but to get trapped in their world and it is a world that plays over and over again in a loop. My mother’s dementia worsens with time and now it seems that there are 4 or 5 questions she keeps asking all day over and over again and I have no choice but to keep answering them over and over again.  The fun and friendship I once shared with this woman is now gone forever – there is no conversation anymore just the same questions and the same answers. So instead I talk to myself.

Being an only child talking to myself is something I have done pretty much all my life but now it is my means of survival. One advantage of this self dialogue of course is that one does not have to hold anything back – you can be completely honest about your emotions and your fears with yourself. No need to keep up the mask of politeness or norms of acceptability. The disadvantage of course is that sometimes you ask yourself questions for which obviously you have no answer and then you try and reach out to someone who might. I find it hard to talk to people so I write instead, in the hope that someone may have an answer.

They say “good things happen to good people” if this is the case then am I a bad person to have been put through this situation? Some people tell me that this is a “trial from God” and good people are given this trial period as a test of faith. But both these statements seem to negate each other. I you believe the first one then bad things should not be happening and if you believe the second then if life is happy and good you are bad because you are not being tested. Somehow I am not able to reconcile these statements in my head. If someone else can please let me know.

There is another pet statement that most people make in order to make me feel better – that I will be rewarded with Heaven as a result of the care I am giving my mom.  Frankly after a while this statement makes you feel worse rather than good because you realize that nothing good will come from it at least while you are alive - and when you die? Who knows? This may sound heretic to many but when life becomes a living hell your faith in an undisclosed destination starts to falter. At least mine has. Besides implying that you take care of your parents because you would be rewarded makes this act so selfish and greedy. If there was no Heaven or Hell then would we still do the right thing? I think the test of humanity is to try to be good and do the right thing not because you expect a reward for your labours but because you cannot perceive any other course of action.

In the beginning I used to think that I am doing this out of love, but I had to face the harsh truth that it wasn’t love that was my motivator, it was responsibility. The love is there but this person is not the person I once loved – she only inhabits her body. Her personality is gone, she is only half a person – the physical is present but the spirit which made her unique is gone. You cannot love half a person completely. But there is a strong sense of responsibility which has taken over and all my actions, decisions, and will power now stems from this. I wasn’t a very responsible person so that comes as a bit of a shock for me.  I am too shallow and too selfish to really have a strong sense of responsibility. Being an only child I never really learnt to think for anyone else but myself. Perhaps this sense of responsibility is really a mask to hide my selfishness? I realize that once she is no more the house will be very very silent – no one to even ask these 4 or 5 questions. Perhaps that is why I endure this spin cycle of emotions every day.

I go through a daily cycle of resentment, guilt, frustration and remorse. I resent the state of limbo that my life is currently in and I feel guilty about having these thoughts. I feel frustrated that my life is on hold and then feel remorse at allowing these thoughts to come.  Each morning I get up with a resolve to be happy and each night I go to sleep completely spent and drained. Perhaps the one emotion I feel most often is that of loss. What happened to all the dreams I had? Where did all that promise fade away to? Sometimes I feel that my life is nothing more than a utility for my mom. I was sent so that she would not be alone in her old age and I’m of use only till she is here. This thought used to make me feel angry now I’ve kind of reconciled myself with it. The image of a flat lined cardiac monitor comes to mind when I think of my own life. No spikes at all just the same constant flat line. I grew up thinking I was destined to do something big something important so perhaps the hardest thing for me to accept has been that I will probably amount to nothing. There is no sudden bend in front of me which will take my life on another path. I am blessed that I was able to travel and have new experiences early on in my life and perhaps an attempt to recreate those days is futile but no one has ever really been able to control their wishes.

My most important question remains unanswered – why? Is there really an explanation for why this is happening? Or is life just random and we conjure explanations just to make ourselves feel better? Am I good or am I bad? Is this a lesson or a trial? Am I being blessed or is this my punishment? Is the present a consequence of actions in my present life or is it the karma of a previous one? I realize that I am going round and round in circles and perhaps I too am now trapped in a little world of my own like a person in a maze from which they cannot find their way out.