I consider myself to be pretty stoic. I have to be really sick to complain or ask for attention. My spouse, however, is the opposite. Every rash is skin cancer, every headache a brain tumor. You’d think they were the only person on earth ever to suffer through a bad cold. I know I’m supposed to be sympathetic when they don’t feel well, but all I feel is a big eye roll coming on.
No thy in my empathy
Do you live in my house? Because you are describing it perfectly. Your problem here is that you are expecting actual adults to actually behave like adults. Silly you! I also have next to no tolerance when it comes to the whining, worried well. I’m not saying it’s not a bummer to get a bad cold. No one likes it. But the bubonic plague it isn’t. I used to tell my kids, “If you’re not bleeding, puking or running a fever, you’re going to school.” Maybe this was because I also had one kid with some serious episodes of illness, so the common stuff just never got my pressure up. All that crying wolf doesn’t serve anyone well. On the other hand, even I have to admit that everyone loves a little sympathy and “poor you!” when feeling under the weather. Cultivate the voice that sounds empathetic on the outside. It looks like you’ll get plenty of practice! On the inside, I know that you would rather be lancing your own boil than playing Florence Nightingale, but that’s ok because it’s our little secret. If your spouse hasn’t already sensed your pique at their sore throat-triggered regression, they almost certainly won’t catch a whiff of your insincerity. Let’s face it: this is one of those times in which, truth be told, truth should not be told.
I live alone and nobody has entered my home in ten months. Why should I keep cleaning?
No reason whatsoever! Go wild! Do you! No judgy! Let the dishes pile up, the newspapers languish, the dust mice turn into dust storms. However, should you see a real mouse saunter across the floor – smoking a cig and wearing shades – to join a few hundred of his nearest and dearest like it was a Muridae convention (I know, big word!), time to rethink. Or get cats.
My aging mother resists hiring help. She’s happy to have my brother and me come over and do things for her. But I’ve got a job and kids to look after. What should we do?
At a loss
Dear At a Loss,
You are in a tough spot, a spot occupied by many, myself included. You don’t mention whether any of you have the resources to hire some help, or if your mom is someone who would tolerate such help. That would be an obvious solution. However, I’m guessing someone as smart as you already thought of that, and that mom is resistant. Here is the thing. You have to figure out what you and your brother can reasonably do for her while still taking care of yourselves. Then, you have to tell her what you can and can’t do and stick to it. Set her up with a grocery delivery service so that everyone’s life is easier. A bedside commode if she needs, to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, etc. At her age, she has earned the right to live the way she wants to (provided she is of sound mind and body). Even if you think it is dangerous, it is not up to you. My mom is 92 and wants to be alone every minute, even after two broken hips. We finally compromised on some help, but in the process, I had to come to terms with the idea that it was quite possible that she could fall and die alone on the bathroom floor because that is how she wants it to be. I don’t like it, but I don’t get to make whatever time she has left miserable for her either.
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Friday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby here.