Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For The Peeb ... I'll Try Harder

I seem to be writing quite a few Draft posts lately. Am not yet sure, as I start typing this one, if it'll end up the same. But here goes anyway ...

Life feels weird right now. A bit heavy, if I'm honest. There is a lot going on in my mind, and not about my life really. I guess it's all about perspective. And while I already know my life is pretty good, I still find plenty to gripe about in my day-to-day. Okay, let's be honest, that mostly has to do with relying on other people in the work place ... I don't really often have much to complain about in my life outside of the office. Oh, wait, there are also all those many, many Service Providers that never fail to annoy as well. Okay, but really, the rest of my life is really good :) <3

I know, I know, it's that whole Pyramid of needs thing, at it again. When you have the luxury of nothing else to bring you down, these small and trivial things can feel enormous. But it's good to sometimes get a wake-up call highlighting that they really are small and your life really is quite simple, easy even. Spoilt, perhaps. Spoilt with love (from both my lovely boy and my fabulous family), spoilt with luxury (hello, we just bought new cars and a new house!), spoilt with opportunity (a good job, those fantastic annual holidays), spoilt with activity (my weeks tend to be full and my weekends even more so, as no doubt you've read about here, packed to the brim with every interest or experience I can fit in).

Anyway, I digress, this wasn't really supposed to be about me, it was about the chasm between here and there.

I had a long conversation with my sister, The Peeb, yesterday. And, while that in itself is a pretty momentous occasion, that's not the point of this. It's more about the content. And trying to understand Life For Another. I don't think I'm very good at empathy. For some people, it's innate. It's not for me. I can sort of understand things as other people explain them, but if I fail to identify with them or haven't experienced anything remotely similar, I struggle with it. I guess it's probably like trying to understand how hard it is to stop smoking if you've never smoked (yeah, I don't get that at all). And I don't really have a clue what to do or say if someone close to someone else dies ... (aside from the truth: "I'm sorry").

I like to think I'm more interested in the plight of animals than people, I'm not terribly active with that either. Not like some other people I know. I am not explaining this very well.

Okay, okay so enough with the "I am a terrible person" narrative. My point is, that in the last 24hours I have had a lot to think about, and while I can't say I know how anyone is feeling, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it and trying to understand. And I won't lie, the stiffness I feel today, after 2 days at Boot Camp (of really trying to make up for missing last week), has given me a (albeit) minor inkling. But tomorrow I'll feel back to normal again.

The Peeb has probably recently arrived at a hospital in Cape Town for an operation later this afternoon. That is what she called to tell me last night, and that spiraled into many other discussions about her life and all the differences between our lives. We are sisters, but we've never been similar or close. The differences may always have been there, but living far away it's easy for me to forget how many and how real they are.

Aside from the superficial differences between us, she has more medical issues than I would wish on anyone. I asked her last night how many pills she takes in a day. It varies, but as she started reeling them off (not even getting to the final number), I realised how different our lives are. None of her pills are vitamins (well, maybe she throws in a few of those too, but you know what I mean). She needs all of them, some to make her life a little bit easier, to make sure she can physically get out of bed in the mornings, some to make her mood a little lighter, to make sure she wants to get out of bed in the mornings and even more to make sure she gets a few hours of sleep each night. I don't think I've even covered all of them o_0

Sure, I take a few things for my allergies, my birth-control ... but that is pretty much the extent of it. There is no experimenting with new dosages and new types. And aside from all the pills, there are the underlying things that she needs the pills for. Her life is much harder than mine. And, mostly, I've never really understood just how much.

I was grappling with all this when I read this article: Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. And it also fell resoundingly into place for me.

In some ways they seem so related. When your day to day is consumed with the right here and now and just making it thru the day (as it sounds like The Peeb is often also doing), it's hard to worry about the rest of it.

I love the Spoon Theory, I've read it often, trying to relate to The Peeb's experience. But that's also hard. Often I feel like I have my own spoons which I run out of (particularly in those instances I mentioned above: the office, dealing with Service People) ... when it feels like you just can't anymore. And that's the problem. It's not at all like that. While I don't get to chose who I deal with and whether or not they will frustrate me, I can rebuild my spoon collection during the day. They are isolated instances, which we deal with in the moment and then they're gone.

Also she doesn't have a flashing counter on her head of remaining spoons for the day or a litmus indicator of how she's feeling on any given day, so it makes it hard to sometimes tell. And it's hard to ALWAYS remember she is experiencing life somewhat differently from the rest of us. Her priorities are different and for her it is just, quite simply, life. Same as we feel about our lives. She has a lot to be thankful for too, and I'm sure she probably is, when the other overwhelming bits of her life give her space to be. But we forget, and she lets us forget ... because my little Peeb doesn't talk about it much to us (her family, perhaps to other people?), and she never has. Like everyone else, we take our familiarity with family, who've known us our whole lives, for granted and I guess she just assumes we understand what it's like for her, every day. But I don't think any of us really do. It's been a very long time since we all lived together in one house, exposed daily to each other's magnified ups and downs. Forced to face them head-on.

And to be fair, she's rarely as chatty with us as she was with me last night, in that almost-hour-long phone call. I can count the times on my fingers. My go-to reaction when I saw her calling was, honestly, panic. She tends to phone me when people have died. That is when we truly draw together as sisters, when there is a family crisis. That's when we're really not so different after all.

I don't really know what I'm saying. But I feel sad today. Sad for the lives other people have, sad for changes they can't make and have no control over. I also feel lucky. Superbly lucky and blessed that I've had a storybook life (with the regular up and downs, but nothing I haven't managed to survive, yet).

My heart breaks that it's not like this for everyone ...

Author's note: I wrote this earlier today, but I waited to get the thumbs up from The Peeb before I hit publish. It is, after all, her story as much as mine.


The Chantal said...

Wow, sometimes you write stuff and I figuratively nod my head while reading it, saying yeah that's me too, I know exactly what you mean. Especially in terms of the lack of empathy if you yourself have not experienced it, and the animals, I only really care about animals. My sister and I also do not have a close sisterly relationship at all and she lives in chronic pain which she takes out on me alot of the time.

I must say you have a life I am very envious of, a good stable job, a loving boyfriend, kids on the horizon, your own home. I have none of those, if I were you I would never sweat the small stuff, just would smile all day long everyday. I've had a relatively easy life too but one or two years from now my whole life is going to change, completely and it's so scary and sad.

lol as for the smoking, it is easy to quit, I smoked for literally half my life and stopped, just stopped. So did my uncle and my father, it's about a strong mind I think. Also I never felt addicted to it I just enjoyed it but stopped for health concerns.

Thanks for the personal post, they are the best, hope your sister has a good recovery.

phillygirl said...

@The Chantal: Thanks for your words. Although I'm still feeling pretty raw this morning after writing this yesterday and wondering if I should hide it or not, your words make me think it's worth leaving up.

I will try to smile all day long today, remembering this. Thank you.

MeeA said...

I love the Spoon Theory. My oldest friend also relies on a whole bunch of meds every day just to be able to get out of bed and function. She introduced me to the Spoon Theory a couple of months ago.

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