I’m overwhelmed by all of the support and encouragement I’ve gotten since posting about my experiences yesterday. It means so much to me, and really does help. Typically I deal with things by getting into some sort of non-human mode, where I shut off my emotions and feelings and put on the ‘stiff upper lip,’ but I’m trying to break out of that habit. Sometimes I think we all get so caught up in our post-human etiquette that we forget to embrace our frailty and darkness; to allow ourselves to seek support and reassurance from others (especially when sharing may be of a greater good than just helping an individual). I think I’ve gotten to a point where I just can’t take being denied mattering anymore, in the sense that I am abandoned during most all of the struggles I’ve faced.
One theme that keeps surfacing in the responses I’ve gotten is that this ordeal was/is a test of character. When we evaluate someone’s character, we have to look at many factors; if a person is dependable, if they are true to their word, if they back their words up with actions, if they are willing to make an effort to make things better rather than try to place blame or use guilt trips, if they give others the benefit of the doubt, if they don’t feel a need to control things but prefer to try to empower you and lift you up, to be on your side. It’s not conditional; there are no criteria someone needs to meet beforehand. Someone that cares about you is there for you, through good and bad. They give you the benefit of the doubt on the days when you’re not your best self and appreciate you – and show that appreciation through words, through actions, and through just being there. But some people are just not capable or equipped to handle hardships and change. They can’t process someone else’s grief, so instead they shift everything to an internal focus; everything is about them. They may constantly feel looked down on, ganged up on, treated unfairly, etc.; so long as the focus remains on themselves. Unfortunately, when you are going through a severe hardship, people like this tend to not only be un-supportive, but make things worse. Sometimes a person’s true colors are revealed only in times of great stress and strain; so long as things can be about them or are going well, they’re happy. That’s what I had to deal with, in addition to everything else.
And sometimes people are just ill-equipped to deal with handling a stressful situation. When my mother fell ill, my stepfather didn’t know that her stubborn refusal for help was, deep down, her fear and her need for reassurance (that she could trust and depend on him). He took what she said while she was sick literally, and let her piss herself for two days before she died on the toilet. It was hard for me to reconcile a lot of the emotions I had about that; on the one hand, my mother was a horrible, bitter woman, and in a way her death was a relief. But she didn’t deserve to die like that; it was neglect. My stepfather wasn’t sitting around feeling sorry for himself or turning it into something about him, though; he just had no education or knowledge of how to deal with that kind of illness. It wasn’t a lack of empathy on his part, just of understanding. Was he responsible for her death? Mostly; if she had received medical treatment, she would not have died.
When he died a few years later, it was truly a case of the ugliest side of human nature emerging. He had remarried in order to obtain health benefits, and had a pre-nup with his new bride. Over a year past his death, we’re still dealing with her lies, her thievery, and her true lack of character or decency. It’s disgusting to see what money and things bring out in people. [I'm not entirely unconvinced that she didn't kill him, which is a disturbing and frightening thought. How could it be so easy to get away with murder?] She felt entitled to things that he specifically said she wasn’t entitled to (which she’d agreed to), so she took them anyway. There is a lot of ugliness in people, and it really does shine when people think they deserve something (whether earned/justified or not). I think a big part of character is what people (try to) justify, what they feel they are entitled to. The more we assume people are ‘supposed’ to do things for us or that we ‘deserve’ something, the less focus is on the needs of others and the more self-absorbed we become. But there are exceptions to that; when we are suffering, when we have needs, the people that care about us are supposed to be there for us, and we do deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. We have to be willing and able to reciprocate that, though. People are never perfect, but integrity is not supposed to be rare.
It’s a shame that someone’s character can disintegrate so rapidly when you need them. But it’s amazing how much good character there is out there when you reach out for help. It restores a lot of my faith, and enables me to see that I am the one who passed the test of character.