Don’t Be Mad

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I have a soft heart. It may not seem that this brash, loud person is vulnerable. A friend whom I love, who is occasionally abrasive, but a tell -it-like -it-is person, keeps a part of herself hidden. She and I are alike in that we seem to be extroverts, but I found I’m really an introvert pretending to be an extrovert and always out there. We have loud personalities. We take up causes. We have loud opinions. Hidden underneath that out-there personality of my friend is one of the softest hearts I know that gets hurt easily. She keeps that hurt hidden.

Going through the transition of my husband moving into memory care has brought much soul searching. I’ve never lived alone. Acknowledging that I’m scared is hard. It’s a secret to be kept inside and I realize over the years, especially the last five, I have run on fear. Fear of upsetting the person I lived with, fear of upsetting my children. That fear came out of me as someone that was always whining, asking for help from my family, and in desperation it came across to others as a person to stay away from because I wasn’t pleasant to be around. By being opinionated and verbal about issues that weren’t mine, and taking up some other cause, I could hide my fear or put it out of my mind for a short time. My behavior distanced myself from people I love.

I was breaking inside but on the outside I was pretending, trying so hard to be this I’ve got this person to those around me that weren’t family, this social person, the perfect grandma and good friend. And I complained and cried. Why weren’t family coming home more often to see us and help, to ease what was happening. The Pandemic caused isolation and loneliness but when it was over the visits still were sporadic. I knew it was because of busy lives, but still I suspected it was the drama our life represented because of the memory loss, and me being completely emotional and irrational. Maybe emotionally they couldn’t handle what was happening either. Don’t get me wrong, if it was an emergency they were there immediately for us. Now having some quiet and alone time I pretty much accept it was me that kept them away for the small things, for more frequent visiting.

I have spent the major part of my life wanting people to not be mad at me. I can just hear Dr. Phil saying, “And how’s that working for you?” Looking back I tried too hard, came out as over the top, giving mixed messages and being wishy- washy in my actions. I am always being told by my family , “ Make a decision.” And yes I have been very outspoken. I will tell you right now that those who are caregivers 24/7 don’t think rationally either. They are too caught up in the drama of their lives.

I now see it wasn’t the situation, but me and my crazy personality that made close ones stay away. And it was fear that made me act that way. Fear of being rejected, of making the wrong decision. Fear that I would never get out of the nightmare, and fear of saying I felt I was living in a nightmare, not being able to say those words to anyone because the person I lived with really was living a worse nightmare, so what he needed is more important. His fear was there but not expressed as fear, but anger. Who wouldn’t be angry? So I felt my fear was not rational because I was fine, the healthy one. .

I suspect I am not the only caregiver that doesn’t show who they are to their families, doesn’t express their true feelings, and what they do express comes out wrong because the stress turns their ability to verbalize their emotions, making the words irrational. Not only are we fearful but angry. We keep that inside too. Caregivers compromise who they are, withhold their anger and sadness about the situation to keep the peace, and not have their families upset with them. And yet it isn’t working.

Family is love and that love doesn’t leave because of discord, but it may be hard for all of us to remember that. Our kids live in a world today that is very stressful. They are busy just trying to live and excel and don’t have time for all the drama we may bring to their lives. They have learned to set boundaries to protect themselves. And because of that, we as parents may not understand. Us oldsters were brought up in an entirely different world. We didn’t know about boundaries and stress reduction. We didn’t have media telling us to protect ourselves by staying away from toxic people. The mental health help was not there.

The two worlds of the younger generation and the older generation today are having a hard time, in some cases, understanding the dynamics of the world growing us up differently.

My generation didn’t know it was acceptable to put the toxic people out of our lives, even if they were family. If my mom would have known that she might have put my grandma out of her life. My grandma was always yelling. You can ask her grandkids, we never remember her smiling, but because she was family she was taken care of until she died. My parents sacrificed a lot to take care of parents and brothers because that’s what you did in the olden days. The nursing home and mental health weren’t options.

My mother wanted to teach in Alaska. She wanted to travel the world, but gave up her dreams to stay home and take care of her mother. Others did the same. Family came first. I always thought that was why she was crabby, now I surmise she was crabby from Caregiver burnout, not because she sacrificed her dreams. I did not understand how hard her life was. The generational difference. But the one thing I understood was that family was everything above work and even money. Both my mom and dad financially helped out family members when they had a need. Occasionally supporting them financially until they could get back on their feet. They helped both sides of the families. They helped friends. I still have my dad’s billfold with all the IOU notices from people he lent money to. Their brothers and sisters were the same way. Before her death my mom told me what she had wanted to do with her life, but that she did not regret giving up her dreams to help her family. I believe that. It was the caregiver burnout that caused the crabbiness and I didn’t understand. It was a different generation.

I think my generation has a hard time understanding the difference of today’s world and where the shift is. So we hurt, we hide it and we don’t make sense to our kids because they don’t understand that our expectations come from our past. And we don’t understand the world they live in and how stressful and time consuming the reality that is their life is.

We have a communication gap between what our hearts feel and what we say. If we choose to share, how we say it because of our emotions, it comes out wrong. Emotions that we keep hidden and don’t always recognize ourself such as fear.

Caregivers have so much fear hidden inside of them. Their world is changing. The people that love them don’t always see that their needs are getting lost in the abyss of whoever they are taking care of. A caregiver wakes up in the morning, if they’ve gotten any sleep, and puts one foot in the front of another and takes a step, and occasionally that one step is all that is holding them up. If you know a caregiver ask them what they fear. Do they feel their security is gone and they no longer feel safe? If they are that tender hearted person with a brash exterior, you may have to read between the lines because if they let all the hurt out that they are hiding, they might break. Or they may be that soul who doesn’t want to make anyone mad for fear they will disappear from their life and they will be totally alone, and so the decisions or words they speak may come out as complaining or whining, but really it’s a cry for help, for you to help them be who they are. And love them anyway.

My Family Has A Language Barrier

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We have a language barrier in our house. Or we could call it a communication problem. It’s not new to me. I grew up in a household where there was a communication problem because of language, but I didn’t think it would extend to my adulthood.

Boris and Natasha, my two shyster cats, refuse to learn English so we can better cohabitate. I get tired of trying to decipher the tone of their meows. It is hit and miss. I think they’re tired of it too because as they get older, they’re stretching their vocal fold cords to new heights. I must not be getting their new commands right. In the early years, they were quieter, ignored us when we spoke to them, and yet we did what they wanted. Apparently, we were better trained ten years ago than we are now.

Early morning and late evening Boris sits by his bowl and glares at me. That means he wants to be fed. Natasha, on the other hand, gets my attention early morning by putting her paw on my face and waking me up so I will administer her a morning massage. We had our routines down. The minute there is a hole peeking through at the bottom of the food bowl, Boris demands vocally that we fill it. If they think we are going to forget, they open and then slam shut the cupboard door a few times to get our attention.

Lately, they have been directing us more often with their meows. We have a hard time figuring out the new things they want us to do. “There’s a mouse in the basement, let me down there.” We missed that one. The mouse is gone and the meows at the basement door has stopped.

“I want a treat, not my regular food.” as the meowing starts at another cupboard. And then of course, there is the… “You are sitting in my chair.” It took me a while to realize the meow at my head and the push at my back meant I needed to get up and let Boris or Natasha in the chair. The older they get the more demanding they are.

Boris saying, “I want my chair. Get up!“

I tried to teach Natasha to nod yes and no. After all, if my son could train his cat to use the toilet, I should be able to make my cats learn yes and no and to shake their heads. Natasha just blinked at me that she loved me, but she was adamant that nodding was beneath her.

I think of all the arguments we’re having about language these days. Recently, I saw a post that said if you’re going to live in America you needed to speak English. While I agree learning English may be a good idea, I thought of my grandmother.

My grandmother lived in America from the time she was 19 or 20. She never learned to speak English. I have no idea why. That’s what I mean when I say I am used to language barriers in my home. We lived with my grandmother. I never had a conversation with her that I could understand. For some reason, they never taught me Polish. I could understand a few words but that’s it. When my relatives would visit my dad and I would laugh because we couldn’t understand a word. I can’t say I was ever bothered by it because the one thing I did understand was that she loved me.

We are still having language barrier arguments all these years later. I wonder if some of what we are arguing about, only having people speak English, isn’t because of fear. I remember waiting on a couple of customers that spoke Spanish. They spoke English to me and then when talking to each other, spoke Spanish. I must admit I was a little fearful or paranoid because I had no idea if they were talking about me or making fun of me, or were planning something else. Media had put fear in my mind of a different culture. I no longer feel that way once I recognized it for what it was.

Different cultures view language different ways. Young people in other countries and now too here in our own, are learning to speak many different languages. I have friends whose children know how to speak Chinese because they went to language camps in the summer. Knowing each others languages breaks down barriers.

If you’ve ever had teenagers you know that may create a language barrier in your home. They speak teen-speak. The hard part is their language changes with each generation and now…it’s a language with letters and emojis. I can translate LOL but anything more my grandkids text me, I have to ask, “What does that mean?” I think I need to hit them with some shorthand or cursive, although my one grandson can read cursive.

I would like to think if we look someone in the eye and see them, really see them, the language barriers would fall away. If we take away the fear of insecurity of what we don’t know when they are speaking, maybe we wouldn’t be so judgmental.

As I grew up, I knew people who spoke Polish, German and a few other languages. They were the immigrants that were here during my generation. Not all spoke English. The argument was the same as it is now and so was the judgment. Guess what? We survived it and we integrated these people into our culture. I would not be here today, living in America if it were not for my Grandmother who never learned English. Yet in those days their culture was not accepted either.

My family kept their traditions alive by speaking their language and keeping close to the rituals of their heritage. Their roots were important to them. Perhaps it’s hard for those of us that were born in this country to understand that. It took me until my later years to get it as I sort through the things that were important from their native land. Though my mother was born in this country, her roots and heritage mattered to her. She never forgot where she came from and she never neglected to try and teach me their traditions. Sadly, I never realized the importance of keeping another culture’s heritage alive in family until she was gone

I find it exciting to learn about different cultures. The next time you eat Lasagna or Chinese food or take part in a tradition of another country, enjoy it’s richness. I am learning more about my Polish heritage and I am proud of it.

I think Boris and Natasha are proud of theirs too. I am sure Natasha is meowing Siamese and Boris is meowing Alleycat, and both are going to be stubborn and hold tight on keeping their language skills to meowing in their language. How lucky are we that our love for one another transcends those language barriers so we can bask in the purrs and blinks they give us on a daily basis.

Traditions, roots and culture remain important no matter what nationality we are, especially if it connects us to another country rich with history of our ancestors. It doesn’t make us less of an American to embrace our lineage.

Barriers can be created by closed minds and hearts. I am lucky love always won with my grandmother and my shysters. My life is richer because of it.

Are You An Influencer?

Are any of you confused by the popular rise to fame of influencers in our society? The definition of an influencer is a person or thing that influences another or a person with the ability to influence a person to buy a product or a service by promoting it on the internet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In searching for the popular influencers the names listed were Daily Dose, Huda Kattan, and Cameron Dallas who were the first three in the top 9 I found. Others on the list were Selena Gomez and Kylee Jenner, which were the only names I recognized, but then I am old and I don’t follow them so apparently, none of these people are influencing me. I wondered how my life would change if I let them into my social media life to give me tips.

I checked out Daily Dose on Instagram and it appears to influence you to think positively and is inspirational. Huda Kattan is a beauty influencer and sells beauty products. I would guess it is women, not men she is influencing. Cameron Dallas, according to Wikipedia is an American Internet personality and actor who has produced some of his own reality movies. Do a search for influencers and the list is endless. These people were made popular by pitching themselves and/or their product on social media sites. Americans tuned in and made them famous. Many of them have spun themselves so there are books and products representing them. Many live their lives online sharing some intimate details such as the couple who gave up their adopted son and put it all out there online.

I was influenced for a short time by Marie Kondo. I still like her but do not follow her methods after trying them. Let’s face it, I do not like being totally organized and don’t like a perfectly clean and organized home. It takes too much time to be perfect and I am not into perfect. I feel more at home in my organized chaos so I let Marie go.

Not only do their followers propel them to the top so they can be famous, but they also contribute to their financial success beyond any of our wildest dreams. What would happen if we took a worker in a care home and propelled them to influencer fame and threw our money at them as we are doing to those whose only claim to fame is what they put out for others to see on Social Media?

The internet has gained a power over us that we are drawn in and hooked on following people who would not be celebrities without it. Some are deserving of the status but others make their living conning us by letting us be voyeurs into their lives. We don’t know these people. We used to call them salesmen in real life. A good salesman with a gift of gab and a charismatic personality was at the top of his or her game. Some were sincere and some were able to lead people astray because of their magnetic charm making them believable.

We are all influencers in one way or another. By the way, did you know that now Influencer is an official word? I had to look it up because my spell check kept tagging it. Apparently, spellcheck isn’t up-to-date on what is happening with the word the same as we aren’t all up-to-date on how our society is changing because of it.

How do you influence someone in your everyday life, silently without social media making you famous?

Early on I was influenced by my parents to believe in God and to pray. I watched my dad interact with customers in his shoe store and I was taught honesty, caring for others because if someone came in and they were down on their luck and needed a little cash, he gave it to them. I still have the IOU’s in his billfold that he knew would never be paid. I keep them to remind me of the kindness my dad showed to others.

I was influenced by my friend Karen, and Orrie, and Jan, who all faced cancer with courage and hope.

Every day there is someone that I actually know that does something or says something that makes me step back and consider following their lead. it isn’t only soul-changing influences but also small things that might not change my path but add to it. Such as Sally, who encouraged me to try Stained Glass, or Charlotte who encourages me to paint, making me find a new way to release tension. They influenced my choices for creativity.

The women in my trivia group got me hooked on Avon Banishing Creme. Their stating how much they loved it made me want to try it. I knew them, I trusted them.

I know most of the influencers in my life do not turn off their magnetic personality and become a different person when not in the media spotlight. They are sincere. They are trustworthy. Why is it then, that so many people put their trust in an unknown entity and it is happening regularly with our teenagers. Do we model that for them?

My point is that we don’t need to turn to the internet guru Influencers to find our path. You are the influencer. You make a difference in what you do, what you say to your family and your friends. The influence is in our daily words, our daily lives, the way we laugh, the way we look at life and the way we treat others. The world might not know who you are but those who count, do, and that is most precious contact in the universe.

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Napoleon Hill