Desire for the Simple Life: A retrospective. Part 2: Life as an overwhelmed caregiver

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My work to have a simple life all but vanished when I met and started living with my partner.  She had seemed as independent as I was, and I was under the impression that she wasn’t materialistic and was fiscally responsible.  Unfortunately, due to a rough childhood, her feeling inadequate and incapable about many things, and that having “things” seemed to make her secure, our living experience turned out a lot different than I expected and derailed my plans for a simpler life, plans to be a writer, and totally altered what I expected out of relationships.  My later duties as a caregiver were not the problem, and in different circumstances I would not have had the same personal issues with being a caregiver to a disabled partner.  I have found that I am a nurturer, and given the right circumstances I am a good caregiver.  I am not, however, good at being overwhelmed, particularly when it’s unnecessary.

So, I met my partner the end of 1995 and moved in just over a month later, as she was expecting to be sent over the road with her job and her cats need taken care of when she would be gone.  Since it would be an across the town bus-ride for me every day anyway, seemed it would be easier if I just lived there.  I moved in, and she ended up not going over the road (yet, at least).  At that time, she was in decent health, aside from some heart concerns, and was fully mobile.  However, any action she or I said we wanted to do (i.e., shared our dreams or comment on things we wanted to do in the future) somehow became my responsibility to do RIGHT NOW, and me agreeing to her ideas meant I was volunteering to do them, plus I needed to be responsible of carrying out my dreams.  Either I had the knowledge or experience that she didn’t have (desipite her being older and always bragging about all she’s done in her life), could figure out how to do it faster than her, or she just didn’t want to do something so i should do it and I was a loser and would hurt her feelings if I said no.  I was  going to school, working part time, trying to study & do homework, became responsible for taking care of her pets, for cooking, for taking care of the apartment, taking our new dog to training, AND was responsible for making sure I got the ball rolling on anything else we wanted to do in life.  Yeah, just a bit overwhelming.  Several months later she did get a truck driving job and was injured less than a year later.  Physical therapy was too hard after knee surgery and she later developed a bad reaction to chemicals and meds that shut down her system, and eventually she became totally and permanently disabled.  Since our live-in relationship started with me being responsible for everything, there really wasn’t a change other than the little help my partner felt capable of doing before became non-existent because she was “disabled.”  That didn’t decrease all the things she wanted to have done, though, so what I though was overwhelming before became inconceivably overwhelming.  And I was made to feel beyond inadequate when asking for help and saying I was way overwhelmed, that there was no reason for me to feel that way.

On top of that, having to go out of town to visit her friends in another state or going shopping for hours on end where we would fill up the car with stuff we “had” to have has led to a life of clutter and financial disasters.  When I moved in, I made just enough to cover my expenses as a student and planned to work full time starting in the summer because I hated not being able to put money into savings and was anal about being financially responsible.  Turned out she couldn’t afford her apartment, had trouble keeping up on car repairs, etc.  Became worse when I moved in, and she would get quite upset if I tried to claim we couldn’t afford bills if we spent all the money we were spending and then spending extra on car repairs that may or may not be needed.  I had excellent credit at the time, so I ended up maxing out the $3,000 credit card that used to have a zero balance and got credit anywhere that would allow it.  I hated it and it made my stomach churn, but what I hated worse was being yelled at and accused of being wrong.  I learned to deal with being financially overwhelmed.  I’ve always hated it, but learned to deal with it.

And the “stuff” kept piling up.  She had a one-bedroom apartment, sparely furnished when I moved in.  All of my own belongings fit into a mini-van.  Less than 6 months later, when we moved from that apartment, we had a large U-haul full of stuff, we needed the 2-3 bedroom model.  And as the months, years, and decades pass, our “stuff” multiplies.  We have a couple bedrooms that are just full of stuff, along with lots of stuff in the garage and in part of our barn.  And we have lots of cats from first working with “rescues” that disbanded, and then later running our own.  We have a few other barnyard animals and 1-2 dogs at a time, but we always have a lot of cats.  So, I’ve been overwhelmed with a houseful of clutter and cats.  And cured me of thinking that I’m a cat person.  Also cured me of caring for physical objects.  The internet and my digital devices are important to me–I can store my music and books and share ideas with like-minded people.  Plus, they can’t get shredded by the cats like my long-ago cherished vinyl collection.  And they are portable and easy to move.  My job will move with me, too.  Just need  broadband internet and I’m good to go.

With all this going on, I had all but forgotten my prior dreams of living simple.  I’d have a flashback here and there, but after watching a documentary about people building their dream tiny houses, it reminded me of what I used to want, which is what I still want:  a simple life to enjoy what I like and have relationships with people I can related and express myself to.  Currently I’m just trying to figure out how to accomplish that.  I am still with my partner, and I still care for her a lot (not sure if I can call it love yet), and I still have many animals to care for, so while I have been just wanting to pack it all in and go, I can’t leave my responsibilities.  So, I’m just trying to work out how to bring that simple life to fruition.

photo credit: Monch_18 via photopin cc

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