Thursday, February 02, 2006

Old memories give perspective

Old memories give perspective
Today I'll go to the audiologist for a checkup. Their office is in the same complex where my previous wife Nancy struggled with leukemia, where I lived with her in the Oncology ward for 102 days in 2002 before she finally relapsed and died in April 2003. Those are painful memories, yet they also give me a perspective that I would not have otherwise. Despite my everyday troubles, I must be grateful for this day.

To be alive and healthy,
to not be in the hospital,
to not have to endure a bone marrow biopsy like she did.

To be able to see another spring arrive in Middle Tennessee,
to hear the birds sing,
to breathe the fresh air of another day,
to see another sunrise.

For all these and more I must be thankful.

In just two weeks I shall celebrate my 60th birthday.
What does that mean?
It means I have maybe 20 or 30 years left,
depending on Mack trucks, cancer
and the genetic luck of the draw.

Still playing keyboards professionally,
still at the top of my musical game,
still leading the pack in my day job,
creating new analysis and tools.

I relish the occasional challenge
and often have to make up challenges for myself.
Boredom sets in too easily,
so sometimes I create emergencies for myself
by delaying work on important tasks until the last minute.
My survival instinct never lets me down,
so I always make it through somehow.

Still feeling young physically,
thanks to 18 years of Jazzercise
and good genetics,
thanks to mom & dad,
rest your souls.

Wondering about codependence,
realizing passive-aggressive tendencies.
I can see those traits in myself.
It's painful to realize.

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
I certainly had to learn my share of new tricks
when I moved here at the ripe of age of 53.
So I guess I can do it again.

Codependence (excerpts from Wikipedia in blue)
Codependence a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress caused, for example, by a family member's alcoholism or other addiction, sexual or other abuse within the family, a family members' chronic illness...

I wonder if my upbringing set me up for codependence?

The codependent person tries to provide and control everything within the relationship without addressing their own needs or desires, they set themselves up for continued unfulfillment.

Symptoms of codependence are: controlling behavior, distrust, perfectionism, avoidance of feelings, intimacy problems, caretaking behavior, hypervigilance or physical illness related to stress. Codependence is often accompanied by depression, as the codependent person succumbs to feelings of extreme frustration or sadness over his or her inability to make changes in the other person's (or persons') life. [emphasis added]

This could be me. I had to take care of Joan, I had to take care of my mom, my sister and of course Nancy as she went through her battle with leukemia. Am I stuck in the caregiving model?

Individuals who are suffering from codependence may seek assistance through various verbal therapies, sometimes accompanied by chemical therapy for accompanying depression. In addition, there exist support groups for codependency; some of these are Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) and Al-Anon/Alateen, both of which are based on the 12-Step model created by Alcoholics Anonymous.

I really don't think I'm too bad, but I also realize that I may be the last person to recognize my own symptoms. I'm too good at hiding behind rationalization, one of my many defense mechanisms developed over the years.

Many books have been written on the subject of codependence, including the work of Melody Beattie, who has become one of the standard-bearers for the codependence self-help industry. She is also the author of Codependent No More among many other volumes. It should, however, be noted that not all mental health professionals are of the same mind about codependency or its standard methods of treatment. Katz & Liu, in "The Codependency Conspiracy: How to Break the Recovery Habit and Take Charge of Your Life" state that codependence is over-diagnosed, and that many people who could be helped with shorter-term treatments instead become dependent on long-term self-help programs.

I'm checking out one of Beattie's books from the library, and I'll probably also read the Katz & Liu book too to get another perspective.

I reflect back now on my angst at coming to Nashville in 1998 and feeling betrayed by my old friends
who never kept in touch and didn't seem to care what became of me.
I think maybe too much of my self-esteem was entangled in seeking approval from others.
Perhaps this is part of my codependent complex.

My 1999 Odyssey across the US in a traveling band
seemed to be part of my stuggle for individuation,
trying to break free from those old bonds
but re-establishing them again in a new context.

This is all part of my journey toward
becoming who I am,
who I always was,
and who I will always be.
Tugging at the chains that bound me
and still bind me
from my real self.

Whoever that is.

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