|Rachel with a Damsel Fly in her hair|
Everyone has a mother, human, animal… all life has a mother. Earth is a mother!
I often wonder why we can treat our mothers so poorly and blame them for all the wrongs in the world. We often have high expectations of our Mom's and when she doesn't bend to our every demand, she suddenly becomes a villain in our lives; responsible for all of our missed opportunities for joy.
I speak from experience here, I blamed my mother for becoming ill and suddenly believing that I was her mother, the evil villain, the person responsible for her decline. It felt like my life ended on the day I began to need to wipe my mother's behind for her.
Rendered helpless by my beliefs and emotions, I could not see the true blessings the Universe was showering over me. I didn't understand that my mother became my daughter so that I could experience motherhood. Through my time as my mom's caregiver, I experienced a mother's love for a child. The love I have for my mother-daughter, has shown me that LOVE is the true mother of the universe. It's out of this love that each of us are here. Our mother's loved us enough to give us a chance at life.
I am grateful to be on the other side of the chaos that seems to come with being a caregiver to a parent, especially one with dementia.
My MIL and I didn't always get along as we do today. Just a few short months ago, we seemed to loath the sight of each other and the sound of our voices were akin to nails running across a chalk board from days gone by. Our expectations of each other, ideals that were shielded in the silence of our existence, overshadowed our relationship.
Our troubles heated up when I picked a fight with my MIL. I attacked her only perceived sense of independence, her ability to come and go as she pleased. Rachel is an old lady who defined her independence through driving her car. I was thrilled in the fall of 2012 when she had made a decision to give up driving. She told us that she didn't know when she felt well enough to operate her car.
I suppose having a head on collision with another motorist who was stopped at a stop sign made my MIL think twice about her ability to drive. Rachel didn't see the car as she cut a corner way too sharp. The driver at the stop sign saw Rachel coming and attempted to back up his car to avoid the collision. He was able to reduce the damage to his car, but his car still needed a tow truck.
The accident shook Rachel up a bit. She wasn't wearing her seat belt and sustained a head injury. Rachel refused to go to the hospital and insisted that my husband bring her home, bloodied head and all. The sight of her coming through the door with blood dripping down her forehead was horrifying. The following few months would prove to be challenging for our Mother in law and Daughter in law relationship.
In order to solve his mom's transportation issue, my husband took time off from work to help Rachel figure out how she could get around without a car. The senior center in town, a beautiful place for folks with lots of activities every day and people to spend time, appeared to interest her. Rachel led us to believe she would take advantage of the senior services. She didn't. "Those people are too old." She answered me one day when I asked why she didn't want to go. Ok… and 90 isn't old?!
The winter months passed. My MIL had made peace with the fact that she shouldn't drive her car. Until, last April (2013) Rachel began to feel better and decided she was going to go out to drive her car again. I was sitting at the table eating a late lunch. I heard Rachel's car keys jingling. "I'm going out!" She exclaimed like a defiant teenager.
"What? In your car? You are driving your car?! It's 3:30 in the afternoon!" I lost all feeling in my body. I began to think of her getting into trouble with her car, causing property damage or worse, killing someone. I worried about my husband and me being liable for his mom's actions because she lives with us. I feared losing everything because Rachel felt the need to operate a motor vehicle, even though she couldn't see very well.
I was prepared for this day, I knew she would drive again because I wasn't able to always jump and take her out at a moment's notice. My MIL didn't like the idea of having to plan when she could go to the store; her reasoning was "she didn't know if she would feel well enough." Her logic made no sense to me. I had to do something to protect us from any potential lawsuit brought on by Rachel's recklessness.
Immediately after she left, I printed out a complaint form from the States Department of Motor Vehicles website. I filled the form out, writing all the reasons why her privilege to drive should be revoked. I talked about how she refused medical treatment after her head on car accident and that she refused to see her primary care doctor. I was scared for the public and didn't know how to get everyone else off the road when Rachel was in her car driving. The only solution I thought of was asking the DMV to reconsider their decision to allow my MIL to operate her car legally. She barely passed her vision test when she needed to have her license renewed a few years ago (I took her to get her license renewed!)
I hopped in my truck with the sealed and stamped envelope, drove to the post office and handed the clerk the filled out form to be sent to the states complaint department. It was a risk, my MIL could find out who turned her in by writing them a letter and asking who did it. I didn't care. Our relationship already was horrible and I didn't see any hope for us mending it. I needed to protect our assets and any innocent person who could possibly be injured in an accident.
My husband was nervous when I told him what I had done; our relationship became a little rocky. Something had to be done with Rachel who was behaving like a spoiled child with the upper hand. Fearful of the war that was about to erupt in our home between Rachel and me, tensions grew. I didn't care. I was sick of Rachel and her bullshit. My emotions were still raw with the loss of my mother.
About a week passed and the letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles arrived for Rachel. I handed her the letter when it came in the mail. We had stopped talking to each other before the letter had arrived. I had attempted to explain to her how irresponsible it was for her to drive when she couldn't see very well and admittedly told us she couldn't determine when she felt well enough drive. I told her that if she thinks she can drive, she can do everything for herself, get her own food, do her own laundry… "you are on your own." I stopped cooking for her. I stopped talking to her. I began to imagine she was invisible. I ignored her and she ignored me. Life sucked around here.
My husband took Rachel to the doctor to get a physical and a note stating she was capable of driving her car. She mailed the form to the State Department of Motor Vehicles. She was okay to drive according to the doctor and the state continued to extend her the privilege to drive in this state
Life became rougher. I was angry that I had to live with my MIL who did not give me any respect. Never has she wished me a happy birthday, not even my 50th birthday a few years ago. She didn’t go to my mother's service, boy did this hurt my feelings. My expectations of her were not being met. I hated her more for not being something she wasn't able to become, a loving mother in law. The more loathing I did over my MIL the worse I felt. Everything was turning to crap around me. Something needed to change and I knew from past experiences that I needed to be the change.
I went to a Institute for Brain Potential seminar that told me how to deal with highly volatile people. I learned about personalities and the disorders that many people have, even myself. For the first time in my life I started to understand narcissism; humans, all of us, have narcissistic tendencies, some of us take it to the extreme. The course didn't answer all of my questions, it left me asking myself, "how do I get bigger? How do I fix this?"
Questions remained and my relationship with my family was not improving. I cried a lot and knew that I needed help. I found a psychologist to talk to me, someone to help me make sense of the epiphanies I was having about myself and my relationships. My shrink, she helped me figure things out and peace returned to my heart and mind.
My heart grew eyes.
I changed myself. I changed how I viewed my Mother-in-law and every person that is a part of my family. I realized that our expectations of people when they are not met, is what causes all the troubles in our lives. Suddenly, things became clearer for me, I couldn't fix everyone's problems, everyone has free will and love, real love, comes without strings attached. I cut the strings I had attached to my expectations of others and began to focus on myself. I had learned years ago that the best way to change any situation in life is to change my perceptions. Only I could change me, only I can control my thoughts and actions.
I filled my heart with love. I worked every day on myself. I began to live consciously and became more aware of others feelings. I practiced communicating my thoughts, minus the emotion that seemed to fuel flames of discontent in the past.
I began to cook for my MIL and feed her nutritious foods. She had been eating junk and prepared packaged foods that she would pick up for herself at the local supermarket. Her health was declining. She looked horrible. She continued to drive her car. I still worried about the innocent lives she could snuff out with her car. Enough! If I can't beat her at her game, I will join her. If I could help her feel better, to have better days, she would possibly be a more alert driver.
I'm not sure what changed my MIL's view of me, maybe it was the day I brought her to get her driver's license renewed a couple months back. I don't even know when the change in her occurred I wish I paid more attention, but I changed too and our world was renewed.
I released my fears and expectations and something amazing happened to me, all my unhappiness was replaced with a sense of freedom. I chose to be happy and have a full heart, even for my MIL, my husband's mother.
Today, I see her as the woman who did her best to give my husband a chance at life. She was unwed and pregnant. She could have aborted him, but she didn't. Her love for him, even though it may have gone unnoticed, remained strong and caused her to look at me with suspicion. She loves him, he is her greatest accomplishment in this lifetime. My husband is her only child, her only son. I was the "other woman" in his life and she subtlety let me know I would never replace her.
I didn't want to replace my MIL. I wanted to include her in our new family, make her part of our lives, give her more good days until her last day…. Just like I did for my mother. Mothers have lots of love for their children, even if we can't see it, mother's love stay with us long after they have left this Earth.
Personally, I am grateful to have experienced my mother's love, she may be physically gone but her essence lives on inside my heart. Mom, she's part of me and I am part of her. My wish for everyone is that no matter how much you blame your mother for all your troubles in life, your mother loves you and you are forever connected by love. Free your expectations and experience your mother's love.