Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #56
–Sessions: 46 of 53
Monday, April 5, 2010 11:00am
I told Elsie about Snap trying to get the refunds from the nursing home and the collections agency for himself. I felt I had been cheated. She told me that what Snap did wasn’t about me, he didn’t ‘cheat’ me, he saw money he could get. What she said was very important and I thought about it for a long time. I want to be clear that I very much believe Snap lied to me, repeatedly, and cheated me out of money that belonged to me. However, Elsie’s point was well taken.
I didn’t need to waste my time being upset about what Snap had done. I needed to realize that what Snap did came from his world view. Snap really believes it is ok to lie and steal because in his mind, his actions are all justified. Instead of being upset about what Snap did, I needed to realize this is who Snap is and it won’t change. Many people would agree with me being upset, but, it would be like being mad about gravity or the motion of the planets. These things just are and you need to deal with them.
Elsie said something else that was even more significant. Referring to Snap and his trying to get the refunds that were owed to me, she said, “he did you a favor.” I didn’t immediately understand what she meant, but it came to me after our session.
I asked Elsie how Pop can tell me he wants photos from our mother’s personal items while he refuses to help with her end of life care. Elsie said Pop’s behavior won’t get him what he wants. I asked her how much effort I should put into getting Pop the photos he wants, after he refused to help me. Elsie said she had no answer for me, but added that Pop’s request was ‘insanely selfish.’ It was rare that Elsie didn’t have an answer. I think she meant that Pop’s request was so absurd that I shouldn’t waste any time on it.
Since Pop had so many excuses for not helping with the cost of our mother’s care, I wanted to ask Elsie if I did have to pay, for example, the nursing home bills. I realized that I had no legal obligation to pay these bills, that no one could force me to pay them. Elsie said that ethically, yes, I had to pay them.
Several sessions ago, we had discussed how long I should help Snap as he transitioned from living with our mother to living on his own. I told her that I was wondering if a year was long enough. Elsie said a year seemed very long to her. She also said that no matter what, for a child, a parent’s death is a big deal. I think she means that Snap was going to have issues transitioning to living alone. Similarly, Pop was affected by his mother’s death, no matter how much he came up with excuses for not being involved.
I asked her if, given Pop’s emails, if I should have any more contact with him. She said there was nothing wrong with contact with Pop as long as I had boundaries. For me this means I won’t allow myself to be manipulated anymore. I asked her why Pop doesn’t see the benefits of participating in our mother’s care. Elsie says Pop has lots of fear, it was much easier to justify his not participating. She brought up again that my traveling to see my mother, the last time I would see her alive, was healing for me.
Elsie told me that I had scars that came from my family but I didn’t have any impairments. I had to look up what exactly ‘impairment’ meant. It comes from Vulgar Latin — to make worse. I had scars that, after many years, caused me to have symptoms and seek treatment in therapy. But I wasn’t impaired, I could still see what was real.
As I have said many times, and as I will say many more times, you don’t have to have crippling emotional problems to benefit from therapy. I was doing pretty well, with the scars from my family, but when my symptoms appeared, I was helped by getting therapy. Many more people would be helped by therapy if only they would seek it out. Many people think their problems aren’t serious enough, that therapy is only for victims of horrific tragedies. That isn’t true. That is a perception that needs to change.
After this session I decided that I would indeed respond to Pop’s formal refusal to help me. I sent Pop an email that contained the following: “Thank you. The clarity of your refusal to help me will help me make a number of decisions now and in the future.” I wanted Pop to know that I was grateful that he had, finally, answered my simple question.
I went back and checked. I was curious exactly how long it had taken Pop to give me an answer. It took Pop four separate emails spread over 24 days, and 1180 words, to say ‘no’. He could have said ‘no’ on day one.
Because Elsie had asked me, more than once, if I was mad about Pop’s refusal to help me pay for our mother’s care, I thought about this carefully. Here is my answer to Elsie’s question, why was I not mad about Pop’s refusal to help pay. I had not been allowed to even know about my father’s death. I knew that if I had the chance, I wanted to be involved with my mother’s end-of-life care. When Snap called me and asked me to help, I carefully considered what I could and could not control.
Because Snap had lived with our mother for many years, he had physical control of her personal items. I could not change that. When our mother’s apartment had to be cleaned out in a week, I paid to have her items stored. That was something I could control. When the situation changed and it became clear that our mother would never be returning home, I offered to pay to have items shipped to me and that I would handle distributing them to the siblings. This was something I could control. Snap decided what items were shipped to me. I could not control what he did or did not ship to me. I did not have a master list of all of our mother’s personal items.
I decided that I wanted to pay the nursing home bills, the credit cards that had gone to collections and many other expenses that came up. I also decided to pay off Snap’s payday loans, setup him up in an apartment and help him through the transition from living with our mother to living on his own. For all of these expenses, I made the conscious decision that I wanted to see these things get done. I didn’t pay for these things because someone was forcing me to. I didn’t pay these expenses with any expectation that any of my siblings would ever send me money later.
Because I decided what I wanted to do, and did it, I didn’t allow my sibling’s actions to upset me. I didn’t pay for things expecting my siblings to contribute, so when they didn’t contribute, I wasn’t mad. I also recognized that there was no way to get any consensus from my siblings as to what to do and when. There wasn’t time to ask my siblings what they wanted done and what they would contribute to each task that needed to get done. I also knew that if I asked my siblings what should be done they would claim that most things didn’t need to be done, they would dispute the cost of anything I said needed doing (“a funeral can’t cost that much!”), and they would accuse me of inflating the costs to increase what I expected them to contribute. I chose to not allow my siblings to manipulate me in this way. My deciding what I wanted done, and paying for it myself, didn’t allow my siblings to play their games.
At the same time, I also knew that my taking action, and paying for things, exposed me to the accusation that I had taken over and I had not allowed my siblings to help. They would use this to excuse their not helping. I informed all my siblings about everything I was doing. When Pop made his hollow offers to help, I asked him exactly what he wanted to do to help. As time went by and things simply had to be done, the opportunities for Pop to help diminished. I’m sure Pop realized this and was hoping I wouldn’t notice. I directly asked Pop to help with the expenses because that was the last thing there was that he could help with. I required that he formally refuse to help so that he couldn’t claim I never allowed him to help.