I have a saying: 'the weak can never help the strong", you all know what I mean. Sometimes I look for help with something but I know a lot of those I am friendly with cannot help me, they have too many troubles of their own. I know I am a strong woman, I looked after an invalid husband for 12 years, the first four months after Ray had had six months in hospital and rehabilitation unit I also looked after my Mum and Dad, Dad with cancer, Mum with Alzheimers, then my Dad died and I continued to look after my Mum for two more years. Then my husband had another stroke (he had seven major strokes all up) and I had to put my Mum into care, partly because she was running away all the time and I couldn't safely leave my husband to look after himself while I chased after Mum. It seemed so easy when I only had one person to look after. But because we all know this ends in widowhood I can say he slowly went down hill, had more strokes then fits, seizures and a whole raft of medical problems, became harder to care for etc and died three years ago.
I think there used to be a sign on my forehead that said "Rescuer". I have had counselling experience, eight years on a Suicide Line, did a Diploma which majored in pastoral care and worked for Social Security so maybe that is in the back of people's minds when they come to me for help and advice. Last week we had a big hailstorm resulting in a lot of damage to homes. I was one of the lucky ones, no damage apart from a few shredded plants. I went to the shopping centre today and four different people came up to me and told me their story, of dismay at the damage, dealings with the insurance company, where they were with that right now etc. A couple said they would need to move out of their homes at some stage.
I did feel sorry for all of them, offered what help I could and moved on. I can't rescue them all. I could take in an old friend if she needs it, probably when her floor coverings are ripped up and she needs to move out while they are being replaced but it would only be for a few days. Can I rescue families with dogs, no, families who want their own ensuite, no, families who want to go back and forth to their homes three or four times a day so I don't know when we are eating, no. I have a busy enough life already and I can only do so much for people without getting burnt out now. So if anyone needs me, yes I can help, but there are conditions. Once I was not like this, my arms were open to everyone but age and a kind of weariness has stopped me feeling that way in this present situation.
Through my pastoral care role in the church I do a lot of visiting. I love the work and find it rewarding. I also find it emotionally exhausting some times. I think partly because there is no-one to debrief with now. Once I would come home and tell Ray. I would leave out details that would breech confidentiality and just tell him general facts. He would listen and then go on with what he was doing. That was fine. Now on my own I have no-one to share any of this with and I find that a problem. Three years since he died and I am still finding more ways in which I miss him. A long term relationship like we had is irreplaceable. I could get a new partner but there is no way he could replace Ray in so many ways.
And so I am no longer the rescuer. I am the listener instead. I can help people to see what the problem is and maybe help them establish priorities and even make plans to deal with their problem but I cannot rescue them, maybe I never could. And now I need to make more boundaries because I know how much I can take emotionally. I wish we could go back to when I thought I was superwoman and could handle it all but back then I had a good backup in Ray. How much things change when that person you relied on for so much is gone. Okay he was not that strong man those last few years of his life but then I had dropped everything else to look after him so he had no need to be. Now I am back in the mainstream of life I am realising more and more what I have lost.
My children still see me as "Mum who can cope" and sure I can, most of the time anyway but sometimes how I long for a hug, for someone to discuss my problems with, for someone to give advice based on who I am and what would help. No-one knows me like Ray did. He and I had traveled the same road for so long. I know people who have been in a long term relationship will understand this, 44 years of marriage, making a home, raising three kids, a lot of shared history was ours. We had know each other since we were young. If I take on another partner now he will not know all of those things, we will be starting all over again. I am not sure I can manage that. I am beginning to understand why people say they will not remarry or even get another partner. As time goes by it is hard to imagine being that close to someone else at my age.
I am not shutting the door on the future, I have always been open to change so I am hoping to continue that way. I just find that in the long hours of the night when I am sleeping badly a lot of these kind of ideas present themselves for review. What will the future bring? Whatever it is I hope I can handle it gracefully and continue to live life with some laughter and joy.