23 March 2011

Guilt And Responsibility

Or should that be responsibility and guilt? Regardless, they come as a pair. So...decisions. Any decision that weighs responsibility and guilt against self will never be an easy one. But sometimes one has to be selfish. And in order to be selfish, to take that first step, one (to paraphrase from the words of a very wise and beloved Kris) can't just know it's the right step...one has to feel it.

Family and I...family is a dirty word. Don't get me wrong, there were good times. Not many, but some. But they, along with two people I loved, two people who...accepted me, are gone. And what's left is...in a word wrong. The relationships I have with two of my three remaining family members are unhealthy. In hindsight, they've always been so. And when those I loved left (not deliberately I know, but..it feels like it on occasion) I stepped up to the plate and shouldered the responsibility of acting on behalf of two family members (one of whom belongs in the aforementioned unhealthy relationship category and who played a major role in my formative years) who are, for the most part, unable to do so. And I've done this for over 3 years. To the best of my ability. All the while dealing with a third family member (another of the unhealthy relationship duo). Some apples don't fall far from the tree. (Such a comment is beneath me I know, but...considering the...prevalence of a certain character trait...apt.) I accept responsibility for my part in these unhealthy relationships. I compromise, I hide, I say and do whatever in order to keep the peace. I build situations up inside my head and panic over them. Maybe our relationships would have been different if I was stronger, confident. Then again, maybe not.

But I can't do it any more. I'm...drowning. In responsibility, in...everything. My whole life is in limbo... I keep thinking things will change, things will get better. But they haven't. And those two aforementioned family members won't change. And then I keep thinking I'll catch up and have some time for me. But I never do. And so the internal struggle commenced...do I walk away? Do I stay? Do I reduce but not discontinue my involvement? And the whispers start. You're responsible. There is no one else. And then guilt charges in on a white horse. They are family. It's your duty. You can't walk away... But that's what I have to do. Not from both of those family members who need me. Just from one. In all honesty I've wanted to walk away from this family member before. Not just in the last year, but earlier - back at the dawn of civilization when I was a teenager. I used to drive to dance class and look at houses and picture living there without him. Where I could be me and that would be good enough. And I need to be honest, if he was hale and whole I'd be gone.

I was watching the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica on Sunday (I know, it seems like an abrupt subject change but please bear with me) and near the end Commander Adama makes a comment - I have it written on a piece of paper and tacked to my bedroom wall, but I always forget it (to my detriment):
It's not enough to just live. You have to have something to live for.
And I think he (Commander Adama) means something for you. Not something for someone else. But I don't...have something. And, I have also forgotten, again to my detriment, my promise to my mother not to spend the rest of my life looking after these two family members. She...knew! Because she was that person. But...I needed to make this decision for me, not because of a promise to her. Because if I don't then it will be the right decision for the wrong reasons, and..I won't go through with it. I've cave, like I always do. And I can't. Not this time.

Anyway, you'd think making this decision would make things easier, but...there is so much to do. I've given one month's notice - I'm not just walking away - and will work with said family member, his residential care facility and his solicitor to ensure a smooth transition. And yes the past tense was deliberate. I announced my decision to said family member today. He (unsurprisingly) reacted stoically. I also know not everyone will understand this decision, will think I am being selfish. And I am. Being selfish. But my life is just as important as those family members I act on behalf of. And I deserve a chance to be happy. And if I sublimate what I want for what is considered to be for the best, I won't have my life. I will have theirs. And I refuse to bow to that fate.

Edited to add: I wanted to say thank you very much for all your comments on my previous post (Pushing Water) - I appreciate your thoughts and your support more than I can say. I'm very lucky and privileged to have met you all.


  1. I don't know that I can convey in mere words how much I admire your courage, orannia, in sharing this so very difficult process with us.

    It's difficult for me to even comment on these posts because I deal with some personal issues (not quite similar) that I am--literally--unable to bring myself to share so openly, so bravely, so publicly, as you do.

    However, there are things I must say, so...

    Looking after yourself and putting yourself first is not selfish when the alternative is disappearing, becoming nothing, subsuming your self (personality, individuality, needs) to others. It is not selfishness, it's survival, and it's legitimate, necessary and right.

    I applaud you for your courage on making this difficult decision for all the right reasons, and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, hoping this transition will be easier than anticipated.

    You are very much worthy of living your own life, finding your own happiness, following your own dreams, orannia. It makes me glad that you are seeing that too.

  2. orannia, I know how difficult it is to be the "go-to" person in your family, because I'm that person in mine as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time for and doing for your self. It's so true that you need to take care of yourself and be happy. And destructive relationships, no matter who the people involved are, only make us unhappy.

    Remember to do what will keep you healthy and happy, because that's key. Good luck, and always remember that you have a community out there supporting you.

  3. I do NOT think you are being selfish. Brave, yes. :)

  4. I completely agree with the ladies... You are most definitely not selfish. I don't often feel guilt, responsibility in droves, but not guilt. Whatever decision I make is never with malice, so no reason for guilt. I now help with what I can, but refuse to let them dictate my life. You deserve happiness; no one, be they family or not, deserves to deprive you of it.

    Be safe and well.

  5. I too agree you're being wise and strong, not selfish.

    I'm here if you need to shoulder.

  6. I know this is a dilemma you've been struggling with for awhile, and without knowing any of the specifics all I can say is--good for you!

  7. Chris is right. You are being brave. There's nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to take care of yourself emotionally. I'm still sending prayers and good thoughts your way. *hugs*

  8. When I was diagnosed with cancer I did not think 'I might die' I thought 'I won't outlive her.' it made me realize how much of my energy was taken, how much of my life wasn't being lived. I applaud you.

  9. azteclady - thank you for your heart-warming comment. And I'm sorry I didn't realize commenting on these (personal) posts was difficult for you. Thank you for the courage it must take to do so. And I wish you all the best in dealing with the issues you face. I'm working on the feeling worthy part - it's hard, when you've never felt worthy..never felt good enough. And it's also hard to stand up for that, when you are so used to compromising and...subsuming your happiness and dreams. But you're right...I don't want to disappear. I watched a family member do that and I don't want to be...her.

    Lori - thank you ;) And I hear you on the destructive relationships. I never realized that is what they were...but now I do I need to do something to change them. Because I deserved to be happy. *looks at last sentence* WOW. I said it :)

    Chris - thank you sweetie. I don't feel brave. Maybe it's learning not to panic so much...feeling more like I am in control of a situation?

  10. Whatever decision I make is never with malice, so no reason for guilt.

    Mariana - thank you for your kind words :) And I don't make decisions with malice either (or at least I don't think so :) But the responsiblity and guilt are...always there. (They say children are a product of their parents, and daughters often model their mothers...and mine was very responsible.) I guess I just need to learn to temper them :)

    Kerry - thank you :) Not sure about the wise...and if I am it is thanks to the honest and straightforward counsel of good friends like you :) And thank you for the shoulder offer - it means a great deal.

    Kris - I'm remembering the 'Courage' text Blaine sent Kurt in Glee. Thank you. The courage you've shown of late - you inspire me. Love you too. *hugs*

  11. heidenkind - thank you. Yes. I've been dithering over this decision for...about a year I think. I've known the right decision, but I haven't felt it. And yes, I was rather vague - sorry :)

    Eyre - thank you for the thoughts, prayers and hugs. The funny thing is, I'm not really very brave at all. I guess I've just reached the point of no return.

    Meoskop - I so hear you on the life not lived. I was looking at my bank statement last night, and...there hardly anything fun on there. I'm not living, I'm existing... I'm one of those people that the police would investigate and think 'no life'. That's something else I have to change :) And my mother had cancer, so my thoughts are with you.