The New Normal

Some days I feel like I’m sacrificing my personal sanity for that of my family.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to show them this blog.

It isn’t exactly fair for me to think this way; after all, Mom and Dad have the burden of caring for Gram and Great-Gram in addition to me being an added financial burden. They are my buttresses, bearing me up when Gram just snapped at me and I have to vent. Who bears them up?

When will we get a break?

I keep wanting to say, “This, too, shall pass,” but no; that isn’t always true. Sometimes it isn’t a storm that will soon blow over, but rather a new normal to which we must acclimate ourselves. And that’s the more terrifying.

I can’t give up my dreams for lost now that I’m tethered here, monitoring Gram’s every move and struggling to see things from her point of view. I just have to dig in and push extra hard to get to those dreams.

But what about Mom and Dad? What about their dreams? Why have they struggled all their lives for a little bit of stability and never seem able to maintain it? Why do they overcommit themselves for our sakes? How on earth do they hold together?

I can survey my circumstances with a grim philosophy and say, “Well, this will turn out useful in life.” But Mom and Dad are already out there in life. They’ve gone through the things that will turn out useful and now they’re applying them. And for what?

I don’t want to see my parents end up like Gram: worn out and used up, pining away the days staring at gray walls in a borrowed room, with nothing better to do but demand sympathy, apologize, mope, and then forget it all happened and start the cycle over again.

I don’t want to end up like that.

Jo and I were talking about this last night on our sombre drive to Bible study. Our family can be very manipulative, Jo in particular. We are so good at reading people (me the least of all, but I still excel in comparison to many of my peers) that we know how to twist them. Sometimes we use it to our advantage, sure, but most of the time we end up taking on those peoples’ burdens because we get them, and we know how to help.

My family spends our lives on other people. It used to inspire awe, but now I feel a little panicked. Dad has often said Mom doesn’t know how to say “no”. She keeps giving of herself, until she’s worn thin and stressed out and borderline-depressed. And I see it, and I’ve tasted it, so I’ve resolved to be there for her. I’ve resolved to not send ranting texts in the middle of the day because I know she’s dealing with Great-Gram’s hospice.

I spent six months in my last job stressing out and blowing things out of proportion and wearing myself down into a nervous wreck, and Mom and Dad were there. And I learned plenty, and in a dark way I’m glad I went through that. Lord knows I need it now. But I’ve grown, and as much as it hurts Mom to accept it I am an adult who now commands the helm of my own life. And I don’t want to be one of the thousands of baby birds screaming at my parents to pay attention to them now now now.

This is now how I intended this blog post to turn out. But maybe I needed it. That’s why I’m writing this undercover; so I can say what I need to and fling it out into the world for someone else to find and empathize with and find hope in, rather than scribbling incoherently into my journal.

Weird how an anonymous blog can be such a release.

So I sit here and I borrow of tomorrow’s worries and panic over how my parents aren’t living the life they deserve, and inside there’s a voice pulling me back. It’s widening my view and saying, “Look. Look how much they have achieved.” I have to stop squinting blinding through the lens of the world and pull on God’s glasses to see it clearly; to the world, my parents are an average middle-class couple, defying the odds by not destroying their relationship in the midst of this stress, plugging on and staying faithful for no apparent reason. But I know.

Mom and Dad are fighting daily against a tide that screams at them to stop and save themselves. They are pouring out grace and love and beauty and patience and strength, drawing on the deep recesses they have dug out with years of turmoil and heartbreak and growing pains. I have never heard anyone who knows my parents say a cross word about them, unless it’s that they’re pushing themselves too much. Instead I hear, “Your mom is awesome. I don’t know how she does it.” “Your dad is such a good teacher.” “Your parents are such a cute couple.” “I love your parents.”

Because my family is made of tough stuff. And while it terrifies me, because I know my genes and my upbringing have set me on a kamikaze course of whirlwind days and draining myself of more patience and love and kindness that I thought possible, it also excites me just a little. Because I have seen, over and over again, that people are capable of whatever they set their minds to; also, that what the world counts as useless God sees as precious and priceless.

Yes, I do think highly of myself and my family. I do put us on a pedestal. People always say, in an offhand way, “I know you’re fine, because you’re a Morryce.” “You’re a Morryce; you can handle it.” It gives me the drive to keep going. I set such a standard for myself that I have no choice but to work toward it.

We do snort among ourselves and shake our heads at people who have to take a vacation after helping a family friend plan a wedding, and then have to stay home sick to recover from their vacation. Um, what’s a vacation? I think I’d die. There are so many better ways to spend your time and money.

So I may not feel like I’m doing much now. I made plans to accomplish so much now that I would be home all the time, when instead I’m shadowing Gram and making five or six meals a day and keeping the house clean. And it can be frustrating that I’m stuck here. But I have the choice to either pout and dream of the day when I’ll have my independence back and roll my eyes every time Gram repeats something annoying like “I’m not usually this bad”; or I can square my shoulders and accept where I’m at and learn as much as possible.

Because, knowing my family history, things are only going to get more interesting. I can’t decide most of those circumstances, but I have total control of how I respond to them.

Part of Gram’s problem is that she always limited herself. She didn’t go out of her way to meet new people; Grandpa had to force her. Sure, she was resourceful, but she didn’t always push herself to try new things and to learn new talents. I don’t know if I can beat the odds by sheer force of will, but I have resolved to do all in my power to not end up weak and bitter and forgetful, or die trying.

And I know Gram did accomplish a lot in her life. Dad has said Gram was a great mentor to him when he was younger. She was always a strong Christian and a faithful one, doing what it took to survive. But she slowed down and something happened and she settled. I don’t know what. I don’t know if she got “weary in well-doing” and gave up. I don’t really want to find out.

I hate being so disparaging toward my elders, in particular relatives I know have lived hard lives. And I don’t mean to say I know more than they did and am capable of more. I’m just trying to acknowledge that the odds are in my favor and I have the chance to muster my strength and give my all. I have them as examples, but also as challenges to accept: can I be as strong as they were, and not give up, and do my best to make myself stronger and braver and more loving and more full of fierce grace, and give the rest up to God, and accept it? Or, if God’s course is not the one I’ve envisioned, and I end up with a poor memory and a failing body long before I had hoped, will I use what I’ve learned to bolster the courage and love of others rather than sink into despondency and bitterness at not being able to do all I had hoped?

I guess time will tell. As Gram says, “I can only do what I can do.” But I don’t know my own limits. And I hope I never discover them.

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