Sunday, 28 July 2013

Compassion-fatigue is real and this is what mine looks like

A friend and I belly-laughed on the phone today, as we recounted the hateful, angry-making, mad-making, crazy-ass nonsensical antics of our parents.
The things that occurred at 10, or 12, or 16, which broke your heart.
The things happening now which, were you 10, 12, or 16, would break your heart but which now befuddle or anger, those two emotions sometimes acting as a wall against hurt.

At 10, and 12, and 16, I was able to listen for hours to my Mother, and empathize with her pain. Her pain at recollections of a difficult childhood, her pain at loneliness, her grief over this, or anger over that. I listened because I could feel her pain and wanted desperately to do anything I could to alleviate it.  I sensed that listening helped. Listening does help, doesn't it? I'm a good listener when I sense you're in pain.

I once held the hand of a boyfriend who had cheated on me with my sister (yes), and listened as he told me how confused he was.  I listened well enough for him to confess, for him to confess in every tiny detail. I didn't let go of his hand, and I didn't stop stroking his head.  I told him I'd forgiven him.  He held on to me like there was no tomorrow, and cried his eyes out. He said he'd be back after a short trip with friends, and we'd pick up where we left off.
Never saw him again.

It wasn't easy for me to be angry at him, but I have never forgiven him.

It is becoming easier and easier for me to be angry at my Mother.  I desperately want her to feel better. Because I love her and because (and here is the guilty-making part) I can feel her pain.  I can feel it.  I don't kid you.  I have a heavy heart and a tight, cold band of pain across my head when I listen to how much she misses my Father, or how "shattering" her loss is.  I feel crucified to her pain. So I try to offer a word of advice or a positive message.  I try to offer a different perspective because we are both trapped together in her sadness.

This is not what she wants.

She wants a listener. I can't listen to any more sadness, anger, fear or confusion.  I just can't. I feel it, and I also feel enough of my own to fill me right up.

I want to help - her and myself. But conversations don't go well, and my head and my heart hurt.

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