Taking a step in fear

Earlier this week, my mother called to let me know that there were two possible dates for her shoulder surgery. She has no vehicle and limited transportation options besides me. I take her to almost all of her doctor's appointments, and although I dislike be burdened with it (I have so much on my plate), I have found it is helpful because she is prone to re-diagnosing herself or exaggerating her condition. By taking her when it fits in my busy schedule, I know the truth about her medical condition. This surgery is almost elective; the doctor cannot repair the shoulder but can clean out some bone spurs and inflammation which may (or may not) improve her pain level.

The first date was fine; the second is my birthday.

"You don't have anything BUT your birthday that day, do you?"

This is pretty typical of the relationship and the lack of give and take. There is a very one-sided level of respect many times. I'm not trying to whine; I'm trying to establish the dynamic of our "unhealthy" relationship. Initially, although in shock that she thought it was perfectly normal and acceptable to schedule voluntary surgery on my birthday, I didn't argue the point or tell her it was unacceptable.

But, honestly, it made me very angry. And the anger was beginning to eat at me. In my world, I respect other people's special days. In fact, I wouldn't schedule anything but emergency surgery on one of my loved one's special days--birthday, anniversary, graduation, whatever.

And as it ate at me, I realized something. I was expecting someone who has never lived by the normal rules of etiquette and respect to suddenly change their stripes and do so. I was being unrealistic. I WAS ALLOWING HER TO HAVE THE POWER BY EXPECTING HER TO BE SOMETHING I KNOW SHE ISN'T, AND THEN BEING ANGRY ABOUT IT. She wasn't bothered by her decision. She was sleeping well, eating, breathing, going through her day as though everything was okay because for her it was. I was the one being affected.

And in the same, old broken way I've done for years, I second-guessed myself. I told myself I was being petty to want her to reschedule the procedure. I told myself I was the one who was in the wrong. But the new "me" wasn't buying it 100%. Deep down, I knew I needed to talk to others to see how they would react in a similar situation. All of them agreed that it would upset them if they were in my shoes. And yet, I chose not to do anything.

In the past, I learned to be the martyr. Not always, but enough to be unhealthy. And I was beginning down that path again. I could already feel it tearing me apart.

So tonight, armed with the knowledge that I have the right to ask her to reschedule to a day that is more convenient for me, I called and asked her to do that. At first she seemed put out, reverting to the "But I'm the center of the world, my needs MUST come first," and then immediately backing down. She suggested that I call and reschedule the surgery since her schedule is wide open and mine is not.

I faced my fear of repeating the past, of being yelled at for being selfish and unreasonable. And it worked out in my favor. I feel tremendously better about the situation (although a small part of me still feels petty and selfish--I know that will pass in days, if not hours). As much as I hate to be responsible for scheduling all of her appointments (she likes to pass on all responsibility to me), I like that idea better than having my time trounced upon.

And next time I'm face with someone trampling on my personal boundaries, I will have the memory of stepping up and facing my fears and the positive responsive I received by reinforcing my walls. Maybe I won't always get a positive response, but I can always face my fears!


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