Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Being a Black Hole of Emotional Need

The best news I have to share with friends these days is this: my fear that enrolling myself in educational programs was somehow causing my loved ones to develop life-threatening or life-ending illnesses is now demonstrably untrue. For the first time, a loved one has been diagnosed with one of the "oh shit" illnesses while I am not anyone's student.

So, there's that.

I tend to hole up somewhere when I am in this sort of emotional state, and wait for six months or so until I can call people and chat about my life without getting sloppy about it. It seems tacky to emote all over people who just want to be happy and tell you about how their 2 year-old draws perfect replicas of Monet's greatest hits. But that wouldn't really be fair this time, because the person who is now mortally ill is Heomodor, and, truth be told, EVERYONE likes her. My friends like her more than they like me. By a lot. My ex-friends lament the loss of my mom in their lives. They do not miss me.

I'm a grouch. I scare people. I stand outside libraries in my leather jacket and discuss battle poetry. I ask uncomfortable questions. Since working as a CNA for years, I have very little sympathy for people with bruises and papercuts. Hard to get worked up about a papercut when you've seen a gangrenous leg almost fall off a guy. Since studying medieval literature, I have very little decorum left. Things that other people think is the most filthy thing imaginable I would say in church, because I got it from 12th century nuns anyway. I have been called tough countless times, and people were astounded and amused when I attempted to object.

My mom is not like me. She was raised to be ladylike, to be stoic when necessary, to be taken care of when possible, to listen. Strangers tell her their life stories because they feel like she will understand. People confess crimes to her, because they "know" she won't judge them harshly. Repairmen charge her less than they charge others, because she's so gentle a soul they can't take advantage of her. Once, when I was in undergrad and my income did not allow us to live in a great neighborhood (OK, but not great), I was reprimanded by a plumber for making my mother live in a working class town, when she clearly belonged "by the water." This was code for on the North Shore of Long Island, where the wealthy to obscenely wealthy live. Richard Nixon once pronounced my mom adorable and gave her a little booklet full of newly minted five dollar bills as a souvenir of meeting him. Luciano Pavarotti once hugged her when she "gently corrected" his phrasing. I'm not kidding.

Due to a fear of being alone, and some financial and health issues, gentle Heomodor has followed surly old me around for quite some time now, from undergrad to grad school cities, and now resides with me several states away from home in Virginia. So, I am the party responsible for disseminating some very bad news to lots of people with whom I don't always communicate as much as I should. Again, I hole up when stressed, and being responsible for my mom has often stressed me out. So, I have to call these folks and say "Mom is dying." And I really, really want to have a nervous breakdown, and get very uncharacteristically sloppy about it all. But I can't really request that level of support from people with whom I have not put in my time in some time. And they will be suffering themselves. Plus, I am so very bad at being emotional. I do it all wrong and upset people.

I really, really hate being weak and needy.


JC said...

Your poor, poor thing. It must be truly horrible to have to care for your mother and be the bearer of such horrific bad news to people who you know care about her deeply.

I'm an intermittant reader of your blog (have been for years) and I live on the other side of the world but I think you need someone to say, "take care, look after yourself too" so I'm saying it.

Aven said...

I have nothing at all useful to say, because I really don't know how I could even begin to make things better, but I just want to say how very, very, very sorry I am to hear your news. I have been reading for a while, but rarely comment -- but if all I can do is convey my condolences and support, I can at least do that.

Chris said...

Hey Heo, don't know if you still check your email over at AOL these days, but I wrote you over there. If there's somewhere better to write you, let me know.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Like your first two commenters, I'm a reader who hasn't commented much, if at all, and am very sorry to hear this news. Also I second JC's advice to look after yourself, too, and will add that feeling "weak and needy" at a time like this seems simply appropriate. You're human. Being human sometimes sucks. Best wishes.

Heo said...

Thanks for the sympathy and well-wishes, guys. I really do appreciate it.

heu mihi said...

Dear Heo, I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say beyond that--how awful; I'm sorry.