I’m Learning How it Works

Boy, I blew it today – but I also realized more clearly the way we influence each other now.

We’d been having a good, calm week – pleasant and well-balanced with activities and rest. The morning had been friendly and easy; we went grocery shopping and to the adjacent farmer’s market. I had thrown in a small load of laundry with 3 new items that needed their initial wash. When we got home, I went to pay some bills upstairs, and when I came down realized that I heard the dryer going. Uh-oh. Before I could stop myself, I was laying into J, “DON’T put my laundry in the dryer without ASKING me first!!”….about the fifty-seventh time I’d said this in the last two years.

It wasn’t actually a tragic outcome – all three garments tolerated the dryer just fine. What set me off was knowing that J had not assessed this, that she had forgotten that I prefer to deal with my own clothes, that she thought she was being helpful, and what IF the dryer was too hot for those particular garments, and they were ruined as a result….etc., etc.

J immediately burst into tears, but pulled herself together quickly, as did I – I offered a sincere apology for barking at her. The storm subsided. For a while.

As the time came for J to get ready for the afternoon respite group session, she told me she didn’t think she’d go today, her skin was irritated and it would bother her too much. Monday was a holiday and there’d be no group that day, so I was most eager for her to attend this afternoon’s (Friday). So, I proposed that she go to group and see how it went, that it was going to be a long weekend, etc. She was adamant, and started to cry again. I pointed out that if she stayed home, she’d just worry about her health and be bored – if she went to the group, at least it would give her something else to think about for a while. More tears.

So now I felt like a total heel, having pressed her when she already felt bad, as well as feeling angry myself about being robbed of the little respite I would have in a five-day span. But, I called the group and told them she wasn’t coming today, and she went to lie down and I went to do a quick errand and to get my head together to deal with the rest of the afternoon.
What I have realized, I think, is the connection between my barking at her and her having a flare-up of skin inflammation. It’s almost automatic – has happened many times, and I knew it had to do with stress, but I didn’t connect it with my behavior quite as directly.

I also realize – over and over- that she CAN’T remember these things, and that she is very eager to do helpful things, but almost unable to initiate or complete them adequately, if at all. A really, really tough position to be in. For both of us. But the more relaxed I can be, and the less easily triggered by what once would have been an accountable lapse, the better things will go.

We have some light structure for the next few days, fortunately, all involving a few friends or close family, for a few hours each day, and the activities are flexible enough to re-draft as energy and attitude require. This’ll get us through.

I’m learning…!

5 thoughts on “I’m Learning How it Works

  1. As we all get older we have to figure out the challenges and changes of ourselves and others. If I understand correctly you and J had a nice fine tuned relationship before and now that the two of you have been stricken with this awful illness you are forced to redesign it. I wish you weren’t so hard on yourself as you learn how to do that redesign. You didn’t attack J about the laundry you aimed your frustration at the illness that came between you and J. God bless the two of you while you learn a new dance everyday.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Tricia. It certainly IS a new dance! I don’t think that I am THAT hard on myself – just observing that when I do x, J does y, and it now has more a much more complicated set of consequences than it used to.


  2. We have to take care of ourselves, as well as our partner in life. These (sometimes) competing needs can result in missteps along the way. A little peace and quiet and time for ourselves. Is it too much to ask? As our caregiving responsibilities increase with passing time, making sure our own needs are met will become more challenging, but even more important.

    I’m so grateful for your blog, and for Alice’s blog. The ability to articulate so eloquently what life is like in the caregiving world is truly a gift. For those of us who are walking this journey, we are walking together. Thanks for writing and sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Carole – competing needs are always an issue in relationships, but when you lose the ability to discuss or negotiate them, it gets really tricky! I am just feeling my way along, now, and yes, for sure there are missteps at times. The act of writing helps me connct the dots and get a better overview of how we are now.


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