Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Biting The Bullet

I decided yesterday that I needed to stop being such a big old egocentric baby and actually get off my butt and do something about seeing my family in Ballarat (in Victoria, about an hour or so out of Melbourne) for Christmas. Tickets were booked and I'm off to see them for 4 days. If you've read this blog for a while you might already know that both my parents died while I was in my twenties, about five years apart and both from cancer, and that since then it has been my two sisters and me.

Don't get me wrong, I have great relationships with my two sisters. Although I need to qualify that to some degree. My oldest sister (I'm the youngest of the three) had a massive stroke about 4 years ago, and although she started off quite well, her progress stalled and has actually backslid since then. This sister and I are the most alike, and the closest of the three of us, even though all three of us have always gotten along well. When I was a late teen and in my early twenties we would hang out together quite a bit, go nightclubbing and stuff.

Initially it looked like most of her personality had survived the stroke, despite the physical incapacity she now has. The time of her immediate recovery from the stroke was very strange though. She had a brain bleed type of stroke, brought on by an AVM (a malformation where two arteries in the brain meet), and when people have this type of stroke and blood in the fluid that surrounds the brain it affects them in quite startling ways. My sister had no idea who I was at first, and yet we could sit there and endlessly run through all our favourite snarky lines from movies like "A Touch Of Class" and from "Absolutely Fabulous".

Since then she is more back to normal mentally, despite being very physically incapacitated and wheelchair bound, except that she has a much shorter temper, is more negative and can be quite demanding. Part of this is physiological and I guess some of it is frustration, diappointment and anger at her situation. Unfortunately my other sister, who helps her out in the evenings to supplement the daytime carers my sister has, cops the brunt of much of this.

So. The egocentric part of this is that my initial reaction is to want to sweep this mentally under the carpet and stay here with my friends and have a Christmas that is about fun, laughs and good times. Christmas with my sisters will still be fun much of the time, but I tend to get used as 'piggy in the middle' to some degree. Both sisters will bitch to me about how bad the other is when they get me alone, and it puts me in the horrible situation of seeing both of their points of view, while not wanting to agree with either of them. The other aspect of this is that it pains me terribly to see the way my older sister has given up, and now spends most of her days watching cable and chainsmoking.

It's hard to write this because I feel bad about being so resistant to going. My other sister puts in so much effort and has restructured her life, and her family's to a degree, to accomodate the needs of my sister. By comparison I lead a carefree life in Sydney, with few responsibilities. So I've decided to go, and to put my own needs aside and go with an open mind and an open heart. I'll try and use the teachings of the Buddha to cope with my own negativity, and to see it as the valuable lesson that it is. I'll try and be supportive without becoming too involved in all the snarking, and try and help the situation if I can even if only for the short time I'm there.

The situation may well not be as bad as I fear, after all much of my resistance comes from the stories I have told myself about what might happen. But then, isn't that the same for all fears?


Michael said...

Good call, I think. I look forward to hearing how well it turned out.

TOA, you make me laugh, you make me cry and then you even make me think, you devil.
after all much of my resistance comes from the stories I have told myself about what might happen. But then, isn't that the same for all fears?

The Other Andrew said...


When I started to get my head around the realisation that the only one thing I can really change in this world is me, my mind, how I relate to things, how I react, how I act based on my prejudices, fantasies, fears etc, well on one level it was very freeing and on the other level it reflected just how much work I still have to do. :-)

I'm doing a lot of meditation on equanimity at the moment. The Buddhist concept that so much of how we act towards people, how we label people as "friend", "enemy" or "stranger", is based on the little fantasies and stories we make up in our heads all the time. Often not based on fact but filtered through ego, fear, grasping etc. It's a very interesting concept to try and get your head around, it doesn't take away the discernment that we all need but instead it makes you try and examine the situation objectively without getting to caught up in ego. Wisdom instead of ego.

Sorry, getting a bit preachy!! :-)

luscious loulou said...

May I ask why your sister is taking the brunt of the caretaking duties, Andrew? And how it was decided?