The word I would use to describe the environment I grew up in is drama … well, hmm, perhaps upheaval is a better choice … but, then again, now that I think about it, unknown is a good word. Actually, all three – and a few more I won’t even bother with – describes aspects of our home environment.
Typical when a parent has an alcohol addiction. Now, make said parent the step-father and the three aforementioned descriptive words are intensified. Yes, obviously a case of tangled hearts lived in our home.
That is all I need to say about my home environment here. However, it needed to be addressed because it plays into the importance I place on the environment Gene and I share in our home.
Life stresses, and probably most importantly, the way we respond to the stresses have a way of seeping into the home environment and undermining its general tone – whether it feels calm and peaceful or has an undertone of heaviness from simmering hostility and/or frustrations.
After my diagnosis with ALS, when speaking to various people, it became apparent that the disease is not only paralyzing and deadly to the body but to the relationships of ‘pALS’ (person with ALS). If married, that is the relationship that gets hit the hardest; which, as I’m sure you’re aware of, is true of any couple dealing with a serious and/or terminal illness.
When life gets turned on it’s ear it has a way of exploiting every idiosyncrasy that normally is overlooked or even found amusing or endearing about the person. In such a setting it no longer is amusing or endearing. As I contemplated the changes Gene and I were facing, and, more importantly, how they were impacting our relationship it became clear one of us needed a major attitude adjustment …. me.
Uh, huh. You just knew I was going to point the finger at Gene, didn’t you? Now, I’m not saying Gene is a saintly husband without flaws or quirks – but, the point is, we each are responsible for our own actions, reactions, feelings, attitudes, etc. I can’t change Gene. In fact, looking back on some of the more difficult times in our marriage, it was always in relation to my trying to force Gene to change in some way.
But I can change myself.
I’m talking about changes that reflect the consequences of mulling a matter over in my heart – looking at it from all angles and weighing how it affects both of us, not just me, me, me. It has nothing to do with being a “people pleaser”, trying to be someone you’re not, because that will eventually catch up to a relationship. To me it’s being your true self while being true to those you love.
Ah, my true self. That was my problem – I couldn’t face my true self – I refused to acknowledge the changes in my life, our life. It created an anger that always seemed to be simmering below the surface, right below the surface, which meant little provocation was needed to cause an emotional geyser to let loose.
The way ALS has affected me physically has been difficult to deal with emotionally – the assault on my feelings as a woman created a sensitivity to everything Gene did or said. My perception was being shaded by my own insecurities and blown out of proportion by the simmering anger.
Everything that I thought had been safely stuffed away in my heart was seeping into our life at home. It was time to look at what was going on in there – clear the heart and clean the house.
- I had to let go of the wanting for things to return as they once were, before illness.
- Though I didn’t look forward to each day, I had to learn to embrace it.
- While I still struggle to accept my prognosis, I am learning to acknowledge it.
It was time for me to stop being afraid of reality … because it was time to face it. Ahhh! That is when that sense of calmness became palpable once again when spending together time at home. I was no longer allowing my insecurities to influence how I listened to Gene because he was helping me to live in the moment – as I am – instead of how I thought he wanted me to be.
Facing reality helps me see Gene as the man I married and not as the husband stuck with caring for me. He is generous with his patience, tenderness, and humor. Oh, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our, uh, I’ll just call them “moments” … but, that is what they are – moments – and not drawn out stressful mini-series.
Yes, I have learned that while it may be that home is where the heart is … it’s so important to know what is going on in that heart.
Image: Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net