My son sent me a link a while back about a book he read called something like The Fine Art of Not Giving a Fuck. I suspect that might be his new MO for dealing with things including his mother. Not that I think he doesn’t love me. I’m sure he does. And when people tell you things like that you suspect Shakespeare’s old adage that indeed: “me thinks thou dost protest too much” since if one really didn’t care, one wouldn’t have to read the book at all. And if it were as simple as just “not caring” he would have already done that a long time ago.
I think about a world like that. People on blogs write constantly about creating safe spaces or islands where no one can touch them. I am a rock, as Simon and Garfunkle attest.
I’ve met a few people in my life who truly seem not to care about much–or only about things that affect them directly. You know–those narcissists we all know. I knew one sociopath in California and he was interesting study to ponder.
Maybe there’s a balance about how much you “care” about others and their needs and feelings and how much you care about yours. In practice, I don’t know how one goes about achieving such a thing.
As I care for my father, there are so many aspects of this. I think the very hardest is that as caregiver it’s so difficult (if you are a family member and sometimes even if you’re not) to watch someone suffer emotionally and physically and not match the feelings–it’s hard not to feel it’s not happening to you. As care-giver, it essentially IS happening to you. When my dad chokes and passes out or his blood pressure drops and he passes out, it is me calling 911 and trying to Heimlech him and me trying to hold him up when he loses balance or footing. And it seems nearly impossible not to feel what he’s feeling.
I suppose “they” think that’s a selfish thing on my part.
The good liberals tell us universalism is dead. One cannot POSSIBLY empathize with another ethnic group or another person at all, really. It diminishes (usually the collective group) to claim you can understand in any way what that group or person is going through. Empathy is not only not possible according to them, it’s insulting, presumptive, patronizing, cultural appropriation and more. What a sad place we now live in.
So according to them, since I do not yet have Parkinson’s disease, to think that I could possibly empathize or understand my father, that I could possibly feel what he is feeling, is patronizing, even though it’s my arms and legs holding him up at times, my hands buttoning his shirts, my hands scratching his back. I hold his hands sometimes when he’s out of it and my arms shake along with his.
But they are right. I am NOT HIM. But they believe the rest of us have no ability to put ourselves in someone else’s place and more over, we shouldn’t.
Sometimes I’d give anything for that faculty.
Still, this world is becoming crazier and sadder. People appreciate uniqueness precisely because of the basic humanity we have in common. We all want to be loved and appreciated and we all want to be warm and have food in our mouths. And every good and kind inclination we have is because we can put ourselves in someone else’s place at some point. That ability to empathize has made the American people the most generous people on the planet. So we throw out the baby with the bathwater. It’s all about difference now.
A gay man, for instance, can’t possibly know the discrimination and loneliness that a black man might feel.
How incredibly sad.
Some days I wish I had that ability. I wish I had the distance to not feel what I can plainly see my dad is feeling. I wish I didn’t feel his fear, his sadness, his frustration. Because after all, who I am to presume I can? Wouldn’t that be a lovely thing. Some days I’d give anything if I couldn’t. (And this is apart from all the baggage we all have within families–when you care for a close family member, there are always those dynamics as well). More over, wouldn’t it be nice to build up a little wall around myself so I could feel happy and still have a life when he has none. I keep thinking that might be possible for me to get just enough distance to get a writing schedule, to feel a bit of peace, and once in a while, to keep some sense of myself. I have a few days I think that might happen.
So far, I have not been able to string those days together much.
It’s just one of those mornings. It’s Monday after all. And the Counsel on Aging called and told me the medicaid mychoice program will pay me $13 for 20 hours per week (Mind you, Dad can’t be alone ever for long — 24 hour/day care). Twenty hours is what they figure I am worth. And that will be enough, if I save up the money, to leave here for a week every six months or so. Unless, of course, I use their respite care and take him to some joint — kind of like taking your dog to a kennel, I guess. I had trouble talking to them, so told them to call me back tomorrow. It’s better than no help, I know, and it’s just that, like everyone does occasionally, I’m having a bad morning–sinus headache, leaves that need raking, prescriptions that need filling…
I know in the next couple days, I’ll write about all I’m grateful for and the list is long. I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet. I know that, too…
Happy Monday. The fat man (a disk jockey in the U.P.) says there is no such thing as a bad day and I know he’s right. He should be right!
It’s funny. The same people who say it’s insulting to empathize with your pain will be the first people to put themselves in your shoes and criticize you–for all kinds of things. Mostly, I’ve gotten criticized for telling my truth about things. Isn’t that ironic? People can criticize me for my story, my experience.
Luckily, I don’t think distance is really possible. Or really desirable. Maybe there’s a balance to it, but I am not sure how you find that.
Sometimes you just need to write things down. (A blog is a vignette–a snapshot–a glimpse. It’s a moment in a particular morning on a particular day–it’s not a summary of a person’s life. Or even the final verdict on any subject. After all, we are complicated, complex creatures that defy definition.) So if you are feeling like me, know it’s ok for you to say so, it’s ok for you to put yourself in my place if you have a mind to. I won’t feel insulted, or patronized or disenfranchised, or minimized. I give you my permission.
And if you don’t feel like me–feel free to criticize. It’s a free country.