Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poor, Poor Me

Poor, poor pitiful me. Poor, poor, pitiful me. Oh these boys won’t let me be. Lord have mercy on me. Woe, woe is me.

 Warren Zevon

Oh woe is me, life is too hard. I don’t know how we ever got to this place, why is this happening? It happens in a flash, I can go from a feeling of contentment to a full blown pity part in seconds. All it takes is for me to see a picture of people enjoying a vacation or a couple walking down the street and all of the sudden the stark reality of my life with Marty hits my pity button and sends me into full bore whine. Why us?

It can be pretty easy to live awash in self pity. I could throw a pity party for us most any day of the week and some days, at times, I have to check myself and make sure I’m not wallowing in our tragedy. Some days, at times, I have to “hitch’em up” and simply get over it to make sure the stark reality of our life doesn’t overwhelm our life as we live it today.

Self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself, is one of those deadly sins of care giving. It robs you of who you are, it casts you into the role of a victim and you can’t really care for anyone if you are a victim. Self pity gives power to the circumstances and saps you of your ability to live through those circumstances and enjoy the life you have before you. Self pity drives you to focus on what has been, not the promise of what will be.

It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of complaining about how hard life is for Marty and me, how unfair the strokes are to both of us. After all, why should this have hit Marty, why should anyone, especially me, a good hard working Christian, white, American have to deal with all of this? We worked hard, we saved, we gave money to our church and other charities, we volunteered, why us? Living in a shroud of “why me” can just absolutely suck the very life out of you, it very simply magnifies any unfairness, any tragedy, any calamity that is a part and parcel of any life.

It is my personal struggle. I see people living their lives, enjoying the things Marty and I so wanted to do and I get envious. I see the couple in the grocery store and it reminds me of how much is lost. I see my friends picking up and going places and I feel restricted, imprisoned by my wife’s tragedy. I can’t work, I can’t travel, I can’t go anywhere without the concerns for dear Marty creeping into and controlling my thinking. It’s just sad bordering on pathetic, don’t you think?

There are times I could live in that sadness, that ego-maniacal self-pity, but it is such a clear and blatant waste of time and waste of the hours of our lives. Self pity inculcates itself into every aspect of your life and very simply gains control of it, self pity lets the tragedy of our life, the strokes, define who we are and what we do. I can embrace the sadness of what has happened to Marty but I must never let that sadness, that grief morph into feeling sorry for myself.

I see Marty, I talk to Marty, and she has never uttered “poor me” words. I’ve asked, I’ve pushed her and not one time has she succumbed to the sin of feeling sorry for herself, I’ve never heard her once wander into that swamp. There have a been occasions where she has said, “I’m pathetic”, but even then it’s not about pity, it’s not about feeling sorry for herself, it’s about the loss of her ability to control her circumstances, a recognition that she is limited in what she can do for herself. It’s not a fine line, it’s embracing the difficulty, it’s facing the facts, it’s dealing with reality.

That’s the difference, that’s the line a caregiver can’t cross. There is a big difference in recognizing reality, feeling grief and sadness and living with self-pity. Reality, grief and sadness help clarify; they help you to move to a healthier place where care giving is possible. Pity, well, it just helps you stay wondering what calamity, what “woe is me” moment is about to happen and if you are always waiting for another hammer to fall it makes it really hard to enjoy the life you have, at least that’s what Marty teaches me.

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