Tag Archives: stress

Feeling Settled

18 Aug

I’m not even sixty yet, but lately I’ve experienced a weariness that reminds me of how I felt after giving birth. It’s my own fault—I spend way too much time worrying about other people’s problems—mostly those of my elderly mother and my four grown children. I have this ridiculous habit of immediately making other people’s problems my own.

The other day, I mentioned to my daughter that I must be a serious empath, and she gave me a look. You know that look—where your kid thinks they know more than you?

“Mom,” she said, looking me squarely in the eye, “Maybe you’re not really an empath. Maybe you’ve just spent your whole life thinking that it’s your job to fix everyone.”

Woah. My kids are definitely smarter than I am.

Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, I honed my role as middle daughter/worrywart/peacemaker at an early age. On my little shoulders, I carried the blame for the chaos and drama that permeated our family, thinking that if I did everything right, I could fix it—and life would finally feel settled.

Settled. What does that even mean?

My eighty-five year-old mother (who lives with us) recently spent three weeks in the hospital for a massive abdominal infection caused by diverticulitis. She had to have major surgery, and for a time we were worried she wasn’t going to make it. Coupled with the stress of possibly losing my mom, I had to take care of her three Dalmatians. In the flurry of getting Mom the care she needed, she neglected to tell me that her thirteen year-old Dal, Fiona, was supposed to be taking daily medication for arthritis pain. Seeing the rapid rate at which Fiona declined, I seriously thought I was going to have to call the vet to come put her down. Imagine having to tell your mother that her precious dog died while she was in the hospital! Eventually we figured it all out, and with her meds, Fiona is back to her old self.

“Okay,” I thought, “Fiona is good—now things will settle down.”

The day we went to the hospital to pick Mom up and bring her home, I was optimistic that we had made it through the hard part. But no. Ready to leave, with of her belongings stuffed into plastic bags, Mom began vomiting. It turned out that her intestines were not functioning properly (a common hiccup that occurs early on with this type of surgery, but Mom’s symptoms came much later in the process.) She ended up staying another four days in the hospital.

Definitely not settled.

Mom finally came home and is now miraculously regaining her independence. “Yes!” I thought, pumping my fist into the air, “Back to normal! Now I can finally settle down and relax.”

Not quite. More changes are on the way in the Mireles household. One kid is moving out, two more are moving in (along with two more dogs and a cat!) Household projects are in the works—the chaos ensues.

Life is always offering us lessons. There will be no settling down around here for the time being—and this is definitely something I need to learn. The truth is, I need to recognize that feeling settled is not about having peace and quiet, but it’s about feeling supported. Feeling settled is having your grown kids around to hug you and tell you it’s all going to be okay. Feeling settled is watching the reaction of my mom’s dog see her for the first time in three weeks. Feeling settled is making a face and laughing while changing my mother’s colostomy bag.

Feeling settled is accepting that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

So I’m just going to stand up tall, hold my arms out wide, and try to catch all the good stuff that’s being thrown my way.

Here’s one example:

The House Next Door

4 Sep

fall 5I can’t quite believe it, but they’re finally gone. A sense of peace has settled in over the neighborhood and for the first time in a very long time I feel like I can breathe again. I no longer have to close every window, turn the ceiling fan on full blast and shove foam earplugs into my ears just so I can get some sleep at night. Now I fall asleep to the sound of singing crickets, wind chimes tinkling in the breeze and the train conductor sounding his forlorn whistle while stopping at the station a few miles from my house. For the first time in years, I can finally leave the windows wide open during an August heatwave.

Living in close proximity to your neighbors has many benefits—those of which I’ve certainly reaped over the years. My kids have always had other children to play with—currently, my ten-year old daughter’s best friend lives right across the street. There are a couple of homes on our street whose kitchen larders are like a veritable corner market from which I can borrow on a never need to pay back basis—a stick of butter, a cup of rice or a roll of toilet paper are mine for the asking (Thank you, Annie and Bonnie.) Our neighbors are friendly, mostly made up of semi-ethnically diverse middle class (if there still is such a thing) productive people who all go to bed at a reasonable hour because they have to get up in the morning to go to work. Other than a persnickety, older childless couple who has managed to alienate everyone in the neighborhood, all of us get along just fine.

Enter the “Renters” as I call them. The house next door to us has been a rental for over twenty years and for the most part the tenants didn’t cause any real problems other than the occasional loud party. They kept to themselves and that was fine with us. Then the New Guy moved in.

We always made it a point to be friendly with the people who moved in and out next door and we were with the New Guy, too. We’d chat with him for a few minutes, wave from our cars and return his mail that had been mistakenly delivered to our house. Things were fine until we noticed that the New Guy and his roommates lived a little on the wild side, having an exorbitant number of parties in their backyard, and not just on the weekends. And these backyard parties were epic—with massive alcohol consumption, cigarette and pot smoking, and raging bonfires that would last until the wee hours of the morning. These people had no idea how to talk to each other in a normal tone of voice. Everything was amplified—every word communicated with a shout. Let me make it clear that they were not free-wheeling college students whose frontal lobes hadn’t yet matured—they were all adults. On numerous occasions I had to yell at them to please turn down the music and take the party indoors which sometimes worked but mostly didn’t. I even called the police a few times but didn’t want to sign a complaint because you never know what people will do when you put them on the defensive.

Then the New Guy decided that he wasn’t going to pay for his refuse or recycling pick-up anymore. He left dozens of bags of trash to accumulate and rot in his side yard and soon there were rats visiting on a nightly basis. We would sit in our hot tub and listen to the skittering and rustling on the other side of the fence as the rats feasted on an unlimited amount of delicious garbage. Before long, the rats came over to our side of the fence looking for a warm place to bed down in our laundry room. Last winter alone we trapped at least ten rats. Along with his pet rats, New Guy also had two Pit Bulls (they were actually great dogs) and a pet pig.

The New Guy also had some questionable aquaintances. He wanted to help out a friend who recently got out of prison (we figured this out after repeated visits to their house by a parole officer) and decided the best thing would be to let his friend live in a rundown trailer that was parked in the driveway. It was a pretty nice set-up—including a huge flat screen television which every evening would flicker blue light into the neighborhood along with the smell of constant cigarette smoke from the chain-smoking parolee. I know, I know—here I am sounding like a judgmental old lady who is spouting “not in my backyard” but seriously? Living in a trailer in the driveway?

The noise next door began to escalate. New Guy drove a big truck with a loud engine, but worst of all, he had a stereo woofer in his car that he would play so loudly that it actually made our house vibrate. Often I would go to bed at eleven p.m. and the backyard next door would be quiet—I’d breathe a sigh of relief and sink into a welcomed slumber only to be awakened a few hours later by loud music and people partying. How these people drank so much and still managed to go to work the next day is beyond my comprehension. As time went on, more junk began to accumulate in the front yard and the house deteriorated even more. The stress of living next door to these people was beginning to get to me.

Suddenly, there was some good news. The homeowner decided to move back in to the house with his family. The New Guy was given his evictiion notice. My heart leapt with joy when I saw the U-Haul truck parked outside one afternoon. The owner is currently fixing up the house and will move in shortly. I got to peek inside the house before the owner carted off three full dumpsters worth of trash. Let’s just say I’ve never seen anything like it before in my entire life.

I’m happy once again on the street where I live, in the house that I love and where I can go to bed each night with a sense of peace and tranquility.

And who says there are no such things as miracles?