It’s really upsetting when people don’t keep their commitments. Many of us really blow up, thinking, “When somebody asks me to do something, it happens YESTERDAY!” This can cause amazing amounts of stress, but many of our responsibilities cause stress that we cannot control; we don’t need any more. I’ve had to remind myself to control the stress of disappointment with this section from my first book, TO SURVIVE CAREGIVING: A Daughter’s Experience, A Doctor’s Advice. (available at amazon.com, Audibles.com, iTunes)
Avoid Disappointment: Don’t Lean on Reeds
Laurie Beth Jones published a book called Jesus in Blue Jeans that describes traits in Jesus’ personality that can lead to fuller lives for anyone, regardless of their faith, or spiritual orientation. In the chapter, “He Did Not Lean on Reeds,” Ms. Jones cautions us not to continually rely on people who prove unreliable.
Mr. E. has three daughters who live at opposite corners of a triangle that covers the entire metropolitan area. R. is the middle daughter. She and her own daughters (Mr. E.’s granddaughters) take turns caring for him without any help from R.’s sisters. The oldest sister has a hectic work schedule. The youngest sister is so upset about Mr. E.’s illness; she admits, “I can’t handle this.”
Whenever caregiving options arise, instead of making the distance convenient for her, R. always looks for resources in the center of the region “to make it easier for all of us to get there.” She gets angry when she has to travel a long distance to visit Mr. E. while the others “don’t even come to see about Dad.” R. plays out this cycle with every new care decision, burning herself out in the process.
R. is leaning on reeds. She isn’t upset because her sisters won’t participate in the care plan. R. is upset because she keeps expecting them to. She could save herself disappointment, anger, and stress if she would just accept that her sisters are not going to do what she wants them to do. R. should arrange her dad’s care for the convenience of her daughters and herself, the people who actually provide the care.
If people keep proving that they are unreliable, stop relying on them. Work with social service professionals to find resources and convenient ways to get the job done. *****
What we ask may be totally reasonable, but is it unrealistic, given that person’s past actions? Instead of getting angry, rely on people who’ve proven to be reliable, even if they aren’t family. Don’t wear yourself out expecting help from people whom you’ve decided SHOULD help. My grandmother always said, “There ain’t no SHOULD; there’s only IS.” Accept help from friends, church members, neighbors, or any other trusted person who is willing to help and actually does.
Finally, you get what you pay for. You may have to hire help. You believe you can’t afford it, but you may be able to reorder some priorities. It’s worth investing in decreasing your stress. What about basic cable, instead of the premium package? I mean, how many hours of TV can you watch in a day, anyway? How about filling your Kindle from the electronic lending service at the library instead of buying books? Look at your accounts and see if you still need all of those automatic debits. Do you use that membership? Sometimes, people who won’t give time, WILL give money. It’s worth asking people to chip in; just don’t feel hurt when they won’t.
It isn’t worth ruining relationships over repeated disappointments when our experience tells us that we should know better. People will be what they are; you can’t change them. Love them where they are, and instead of leaning on reeds, stand on rocks.