Saturday, August 4, 2012

Anxiety, Parents, and Writing Through


I've been pretty hard on my parents of late. They are in the process of moving into a new house after living for fourteen years in the Thousand Islands. Their new place is close to my house in Syracuse and we will be seeing a lot more of them now. I'm happy about that even if I admit that I'm nervous about it also. At forty-three years old I'm still trying to find a way to be myself around these people who have raised me. But that's my problem and not theirs, which is why I realize that I've been hard on them and it does none of us any good.

My father is tired. I can see it. I hope that moving back here will help him find more energy, but I don't know. He went last night to play cards with old friends and that sort of thing makes me very happy. His friends here in town were a healthier bunch than those he knew up in the North Country. Here, before he retired, he as a professional, a business owner, and it showed on him. Up there he was something else and I think that it wore on him some.

He also has to struggle with the relationship that he and my mother have built. Without talking too much out of turn, I'll say that he has, for as long as I have known things, catered to my mother, made sure that things didn't upset her, and steered her clear of her anxieties. It sounds like a pretty good plan and, being someone's husband now, I see where I have tried to protect and to serve in similar ways. I also see that it hasn't been my best plan. Everyone needs support but very few of us benefit from having the world hidden from us.

My mother is an anxious woman who has kept things pushed down for most of her life, but now either those things have become more powerful or she has become less so. Whatever the case, her anxieties are more and more difficult for her and she has retreated from a lot of people in order to better cope. Being far away in the 1000 Islands made that coping easier and she wanted to stay there. Moving back here is going to make it much more difficult to hide.

Speaking of hiding, I'm not going to be able to steer clear of things as much as I have. Today, moving boxes and furniture into their house in ninety-degree temperature, I found myself drifting. At one point, my wife asked if I was okay and gave me that look. I said I was feeling tired, hot, worn out, but she knows that it had just as much to do with being around my family as it did with the heat and fatigue.

Funny that I feel both sides of my parents' situation. I am tired and anxious. I get that way quite often and the two feed on one another. I don't think I'm alone in this. It's a good way to get depressed.

I've been having all sorts of trouble getting out of bed in the morning, falling asleep at night, getting things done during the day. I just don't feel up to it. I can't imagine how it must be with a house filled with boxes to unpack. Actually, I can imagine it pretty easily and the thought of it fills me with anxiety and tires me out.

I figure that there is a way to help them and help myself at the time, but the method has to be almost Zen-like. If I try to help them, I'll fail. Instead, I just need to be involved with them, to go over to their house and say hello. I don't have to unpack boxes, I don't have to energize Dad, I don't have to draw Mom out. I don't even have to act energetic or calm. I can just go there and be whoever the hell I am.

That's more difficult than it sounds. I make it more difficult than it has to be.

In many ways, it's like writing these words. I didn't want to sit down and do this. It's too damn hot. My family is all outside talking with the neighbors. My friend will be over soon to watch a great Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie with me. And I was feeling anxious about writing any of this. Turns out, just writing it made things better. Once again, I find that it pays to write on.