I recently retired from a high-pressure academic job in a country which is not my native country. I had a very, very difficult life with many traumas and hardships, but managed to bring up two children on my own without support from anybody.
I was a stressed-out, busy and somewhat angry mother and couldn’t give my children a sparkling, rich and fun life, but God knows how I tried and what I sacrificed. I’m old now, 69. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the obligations I still feel to make my children and grandchildren satisfied with me.
My children expect me to be the good and cheerful mother, but aren’t interested in my needs. I do not want to tell them about my problems because they usually don’t listen. I do not want to ask for help because they procrastinate, forget or ignore my requests.
There isn’t much dialogue between us. I try to be a placid, understanding older person who cooks good meals, plays with her grandchildren and such. My children are by all accounts well-adjusted, but I find the way they treat me irritating.
I try not to show my feelings. It’s like a charade. I sometimes wish I didn’t have any family at all. I want to silently disappear from their lives, make them forget all about me and live a quiet, solitary life.
I contemplated moving to another country or city, but that is difficult at my age. I contemplated suicide, but that would be a cruel way of breaking up.
How can I slowly slide out of their lives without causing bad feelings?
Linda, the past is crushing you so much you contemplated suicide. That’s how much trauma you feel. You aren’t being crushed into a diamond. You are being crushed into not wanting to exist.
We don’t always need to be counseled out of how we feel, but there are reasons not to consider suicide. Death closes opportunity and solves nothing. Suicide would hurt your children. It will taint their memory of you. They will ask, what did we not do that we should have done?
More importantly, suicide sets a precedent for those left behind. It makes it more likely one of your kids or grandkids will kill themselves.
Now you want the time to be quiet and your own. There’s nothing wrong with that. Not many people can admit it, but you can and this is your life.
Write a careful letter to your children. Don’t blame them in any way. A hint of blame will lead to argument and denial, and you want silence. You’re not looking for dialogue. Your letter is not open for discussion. It will be a statement about how you feel and what you are going to do.
Give them a because. To accept and yield to the desires of others, people need a because. For example, I want solitude because at this stage of my life, I feel I need to fully focus on my spiritual connection in the universe. I want to think about my life and what it has meant.
That’s hard to argue with. That is private thinking. Tell them, My soul needs to go on a spiritual walkabout, and I can’t take anyone with me.
If you stay, decide how to restrict contact. If you move, leave a point of contact, like a lawyer, so there is no search. Assure them they don’t need to feel bad.
Once you get away, you may find another life. You may find something to be passionate about. Or you may spend time just being, enjoying what is around you without pressure. Shuck off the emotional burdens and you may be surprised how much life you have left.
We don’t all like the same music. We don’t all have to live the same life.
Follow the Nike slogan.
Just Do It!
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of February 3, 2014
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