My parents were extremely abusive to my brother, sisters and I when we were growing up. None of my siblings are close to my parents emotionally, nor do we spend time with them. My aunt called recently to say that my mother is developing Alzheimer’s disease and that my father is too frail to care for her. My siblings think that I should be more involved in my parents’ lives since I live closest. I don’t want to be; it causes too much pain. Am I responsible for caring for my parents?
You are responsible for ensuring that your parents are well cared for. Your siblings share accountability with you, equally, in this endeavor. Distance is a factor of convenience, not valid criteria for assigning percentages of obligation.
The real issue here is the history of abuse. Childhood abuse is a wound that remains with us throughout our lives. However, we always have the choice to live out of any wound and respond to life as a victim or to live with the knowledge of the wound and from the consciousness of one who has been transformed by it. Consider the Christian story of Yeshua (in Greek, Jesus) of Nazareth. After his resurrection, he retained his wounds but appeared so different (transformed) that his disciples and friends did not recognize him. Yeshua chose the path of love. You can, too.
Put yourself in therapy—both massage and psychotherapy or spiritual direction—while directly providing one or both parents with a weekly visit in which you offer some form of care, such as a walk or a bath. It may be hard, but it also will soften your heart. After all, just because you have not been loved well does not mean that you must give back the same.
I have a friend who is rarely in contact, but when she is, she showers me with compliments. She acts like we are close friends and asks really personal questions. She pushes to get together and then nearly always cancels. (She is self-employed, so work is often her reason.) She just sent an e-mail inviting me to hang out over coffee. I don’t want to spend any time with her, because I feel used. How can I tell her off, politely, so she understands that her behavior is not acceptable?
Why would you tell her off at all? Friendship is one of life’s true joys. It is a relationship of mutual trust, affection and support, so sharing your definition and expectations of friendship is always an option. Direct communication allows both parties the freedom to make clear choices.
Trying to “teach” your friend what friendship is by pointing out what you dislike about her behavior is unkind. If you don’t want to see her, simply respond to her e-mail with “No, thank you.” If you are willing to stay in touch, but not to sacrifice time in your schedule for someone you consider flaky, tell her to call you spontaneously when she has free time.
If you retain residual emotions of indignation at the way she handles the relationship, confront yourself. Do you consistently live as if people are more important than making money? Are you easily affected by compliments, believing that they mean more than the face value of the words? Do you feel compelled to answer personal questions and then resent those questions as intrusions? Consider your situation to be an opportunity to determine if you handle friendship with as much integrity as you expect from others. If not, make corrections in your own behavior as necessary.