My mother and I go through our lives, now, in a kind of dreamy haze. Each day plods by the same as all the others. Everything is such an effort for Mum. Just getting out of bed, washed, dressed and up to the living room into her chair, is a major part of the day. A shower day, Mondays and Fridays, has to be planned for and courage summoned. The drainage from that bathroom is all wrong, so we can’t make it into a wet-room, all on one level, so Mum has a scary step up and step down from the shower. She lies in bed first thing after I go into her room in the morning, doing her breathing physio exercises. These exhaust her so much, she needs a break before attempting to get up.
We both pass our lives in a dream. She watches telly, listens to music while dozing, listens to her audio book when she feels up to it. I dream of the future, looking forward to the new phase of my life, but dreading all that I’ll have to go through to get there.
In some ways it’s an easy life, in spite of the frustration and lack of freedom. Compared to the anxiety over lack of money that blanketed my life before I moved in with Mother and choked any pleasure I could get, this relative financial comfort is such a relief. Mum isn’t well-off. Her pension, (widow’s pension from Dad’s scheme, basic state pension and attendance allowance) is not high when compared with an average family income, but the fact that there is no mortgage or rent to pay means that compared to a younger family living on the same income, she is quite comfortable. It is a relief no to have that fear from not having enough to get by each month, but I hope I don’t lose my skills at living on very little, for when I am on my own again. As long as I can live rent- and mortgage-free in the future, I think I’ll be ok.
But I ask myself, is this all that life is? We grow up, beget children, then just maintain ourselves, keep comfortable, potter along, then slowly fade out and finally die.
I see life as continuous growing and becoming. I feel, in spite of the restrictions of my present life, that inside I am coming into the fullness of myself. I am deepening and grounding myself, and all this is preparation for the next stage, where I will be ready to build something, and add something into the whole. I’ve always tried to live my life by putting something back into the world , but in the past I’ve done it in a way that sacrificed myself, and dissipated my energy trying to meet everyone else’s needs rather than my own. I don’t mean that I’m going to just live for myself in future. I can’t see any point in that. What reason is there for us to be here, as embodied beings on the Earth, if not to try to add into the whole? But I think I have learned to find some balance with my needs and others’. This time with Mother is helping with that as I have to keep my boundaries firm with her, and I find it easier to do that than I’ve ever done in relationships.
I hope that when I reach the stage Mum is at, of being too frail to do much physically, of needing to be very still and quiet, that I could still expand and grow in spirit. Still be connected, come into deeper connection with Spirit. But this can only happen if I’ve developed a spiritual practice before I get to that stage – I think. The foundations need to be laid, and to become habitual. I’m longing to get back to that. I need my own space for it and it’s been too many years, decades even, since I’ve had that. You can’t do your thing if you are living with someone who is hostile to it or just doesn’t get it.
Mum was trying to do this too, in her own way. She said she thought being on her own and being older would be a time when she could get closer to God. Her way of doing it was to read the Bible every day. But really, what is there to get out of that bizarre collection of grotesque, tedious and very occasionally sublime writings? There are too many ugly things in the Bible, even the psalms and other passages that are reflections on relationship with God, usually end up calling down curses on their enemies or something like that. No wonder Mum has given up, even though I did get her an audio version.
For Mum, her great achievement in life was having us. She doesn’t really see herself as anything in her own right. But we can’t all say we are here just to give birth to the next generation. It calls into question what is the point of it all? At some point someone’s children have to actually do something, apart from just begetting the next generation. If you live your life only through others, you never develop your own centre.
This takes me back to my puzzlement at not really having any particular feelings of connection with Mum. I mean, I can feel a sort of impersonal compassion and caring for her, or impatient, or disgusted by her coughing up gunge from her lungs, I can feel stifled by the slow round of toileting and meals, I can feel afraid of what it’s going to be like at the end, or anxious when I’m on a day off and I don’t know if the carers are doing their job. But I’m puzzled by the lack of any sense of connection with this woman who I’ve known all my life and from whom I have half my DNA. But now I wonder if it’s because – on a deep, deep level – there is nothing actually to connect with. How can there be if she has such a vague, vestigial sense of self? If she sees herself solely as someone’s wife and the mother of her four children? Only someone in relation to others, a grandmother and great-grandmother.
Maybe this aspect of her is just more pronounced now, even though she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or anything like that, she is kind of fading out anyway. Do we all go like this?