Because I've been absent from SP so much recently, it may have seemed as if I'm about to quit, but that's not the case at all! So much is going in real life that it's been very hard to make time to sit down here and catch up, and since I'm afflicted with an all-or-nothing mentality, I can't limit myself to ten minutes for a Spark session. No, I have to go all out or not log in at all. I have to read every single blog every single friend has posted, or read none at all. I have to thank every single person who left a warm, supportive comment on my blog, or thank none at all. My compulsive personality won't let me just make a blanket statement thanking everyone in general, because what I love most about blog comments and my SparkFriends is their treasure-like individuality. Every single comment evokes a different response in me, and there's nothing I'd love to do more than tell each person how her comment made me feel. I wish I had enough time to do that, especially when people tell me their own stories in response to something I've said.
Anyway, I'm writing today to tell you why I've been absent so much and to say that I look forward to getting back into a Spark routine, for this place truly enriches my life and comforts my soul.
My father-in-law, who was scheduled to enter an old people's facility at the beginning of June, is still living at home. He keeps postponing entering the nursing home, and this means that my husband and I, and my husband's two sisters, feel like we have no choice but to take turns going to his house (a three-hour drive each way) to make sure he has enough food and that his house is sufficiently clean. My husband has a really demanding job and is away from home every day from seven in the morning until ten or later at night, and often on the weekends, too, and he is too tired to do much when we make the drive over to check up on my father-in-law, so I'm the driver the whole way while he sleeps or rests in the passenger seat, and then when we get to my father-in-law's house, I do all the cooking and cleaning, while my husband talks to his father, who, being alone most of the time, has a real need to talk. Fortunately, my husband and his father are deeply interested in the same topics, so they have long, loud discussions while I cook and wash the dishes and do whatever else needs to be done. I am not complaining, just stating. However, I must admit that while I understand my father-in-law's reluctance to leave the house he's inhabited for 89 years and nine months--he'll be 90 in October--I do have just a teeny tiny bit of resentment that he doesn't hurry up and start living in the nursing home, which he has already started paying for, as his contract started in June. It's a very nice nursing home, brand new, with a kind staff and good food, only a seven-minute walk from where he lives now. We all offered to bring my father-in-law into our homes, but he declined our offers. I am starting to think he wants to die before he is forced to leave the land where he was born, but he is in good health except for weakened legs that prevent him from walking far and make it dangerous for him to live alone. However, because his house is slated to be demolished a few months from now, due to long-planned road construction (for which he'll be generously compensated), I do know there is a time limit for how long his stalling can continue. There are no financial obstacles. He will have a private room with a pleasant view. Still, he lingers at home, and we all feel obliged to take care of him from afar.
Second, my son has been suffering mental and physical exhaustion and will be taking a leave of absence from his Japanese company. He's surrounded by good people, but the lifestyle of a Japanese corporate employee is extremely stressful. Overtime work is the norm. If you follow my blogs, you know that I teach English to Japanese businessmen at their companies, and whenever I ask these men what time they go home from work, almost all of them say nine or ten at night. Of course, they are paid well for this overtime work, but the long hours and pressure can take their toll. Like me, my son is a perfectionist and gets upset when he makes mistakes or can't do his job as well as he thinks he should, and being fatigued all the time has made it hard for him to think straight. I am grateful that the system here allows leaves of absence so that employees can recover from the conditions that the system created in the first place. Everybody knows something's got to give, and change in work culture is indeed happening, but change is too slow, and people still suffer and blame themselves for not being able to meet what they believe to be society's expectations.
So my son will be coming home in a couple of days for a few weeks of rest. I'm relieved and am looking forward to seeing him, but his upcoming stay reminds me that the more people there are in the house, the busier I tend to be.
Then there's my twin sister. She has polycystic kidney disease, which killed both my mother and grandmother. It's hereditary. My mother had four children, each of us with a fifty-fifty chance of inheriting the disease. My sister, born fourteen minutes after me, was the only one of us four who inherited the disease. She has suffered various ailments due to the disease and is on the brink of entering stage 4, whereupon she will need a transplant or many hours of dialysis each week. My mother was not interested in receiving a transplant (I offered a kidney but honestly don't know if I could have gone through with donating) and went the route of a grueling dialysis schedule before dying at age 71 in 2002. My grandmother died in her late forties in 1952. Modern medicine marches on. My sister is still in the preliminary stages of being tested for a possible transplant. I must plan some visits to the US to support her through this process and try to spend some quality time together before she becomes too limited by a dialysis regime or the transplant ordeal.
Through all this (admittedly not bad compared to so many others' problems), I have been inconsistent in my motivation to regain my health (or gain it, as I'm not sure I've ever been very healthy).
To be perfectly honest, I have got to give up alcohol. I can go long periods without alcohol--weeks or even months--and then start drinking it again every day or every other day for several weeks.
This brings me to a question Caroline Knapp asked herself in her wonderful book Drinking: A Love Affair. After completing rehabilitation for alcoholism and then being smoothly and happily sober for a while, she finds herself lying in bed one night wondering "Am I really an alcoholic? Maybe I'm not." She has the urge to experiment. Just one drink, she thinks. That's all. I can handle just one drink. Then for a few minutes, she debates the issue inwardly of whether or not she's an alcoholic, concluding with the logical thought that if she were truly NOT an alcoholic, would she be lying in bed wondering if she WAS one, or fantasizing about having a drink? Thus did Caroline avoid relapse. I have never thought of myself as an alcoholic, though it runs through my family like kidney disease, but if I'm not an alcoholic, why is there so often a drink in my hand late at night, in times of both joy and sorrow?
Compulsive overeating and alcoholism are complicated and interrelated, but the solutions to these problems are not at all unclear. There's a difference between being simple and being easy. The solution to my problems is simple, but it may not be easy to carry it through.
To tell the truth, I'm pretty sick of making excuses, knowing deep down that whenever I make an excuse, whenever I postpone confronting my problems, that I've got everything backwards. While I have been abusing substances to help me cope with problems apparently too dreadful to acknowledge, the substances themselves have made everything much harder to face. In other words, I have underestimated my own strength. Life would seem MUCH less overwhelming and scary if I could overcome my addictions and face life with just my unaltered self. How mystically fulfilling it would be to recover the patience and strength required to get through time without substances to dull the pain of living!
Though I can't give much at the moment, except to share my experience, which I'm afraid is not much at all about weight loss, I keep coming back here because my SparkFriends shine so brightly. Instead of being absent from SparkPeople when I feel I have little to offer, I will come here with a humble heart and say thank you for the comfort and support. On many occasions, feeling very down and not intending to interact, I have logged in to SP and discovered a message on my friend feed or a comment on my blog, kindly sent by someone in a faraway place, someone I may never meet in real life, asking me if all is well, offering solace and support, telling me her own story, and giving me hope. Maybe I'm too sentimental, but thank you, dear SparkFriends.