I really do practice what I preach most of the time. I do a lot of thought work on myself, and when I don't, I can really feel the difference. I start thinking so many thoughts that aren't true and then I end up feeling a bunch of negative feelings. I thought I would share a bit of my own thought work with you in hopes that it will help you when you are doing some of your own work.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, my mother in law, Nancy, has moved in with us. Nancy has terminal cancer and is dying. They told us three years ago that she had two weeks to live- and she is still with us-and going quite strong! She is such a rock star.
Anyway, she moved in with us about six weeks ago and I have had many thoughts about it since. I have thought the following very unhelpful thoughts:
I hate seeing her like this.
She shouldn't be dying.
She shouldn't be in so much pain.
She shouldn't be so mean to me.
She shouldn't have to go through this.
When I think this way, I get angry and sad. Most of the time she doesn't recognize us or where she is. She has a hard time understanding the basic information we tell her. She is not the Nancy that we have all known before she got sick. As a mother-in-law she was great. She was always very supportive of me and my marriage to her son. She always welcomed me with open arms and was kind and loving to me and my family.
Now, that she is sick, she does many out of character things. One minute she will be yelling at me for not bathing her properly, and the next minute she is trying to get me to sneak her in some cigarettes. She will ask me who the guy is that comes into her room (Chris-her son) and then she will tell me about her second husband (she was only married once).
Since she has moved in, I have felt so many emotions because I have thought so many thoughts. When I was doing my thought work I came up with a thought that has turned it all around for me. The thought is:
I am growing as a person by being on this journey with Nancy.
It feels so true and good and freeing. This thought allows me to be with what is instead of arguing with it or wishing it different. I get relief just reading it now.
The other thought that saves me from feeling badly is:
This is so funny.
When she gets mad at me and yells at me or when she wakes up at midnight wanting ice cream, Chris and I have learned to find the humor in it. We find that laughing is so much better than crying in every single way. When she comes upstairs and calls me Billy and treats Chris like the maintenance man, we just smile and giggle with each other. We don't take it personally. We get as much enjoyment with her as we can.
Everything is exactly as it should be. I am growing and learning and laughing along the way. I can see how this circumstance, based on my thoughts, could wear me out and depress me. I have worked with many clients who have gained significant amounts of weight caring for a dying parent, and it is understandable how this might happen if thoughts go unchecked.
I can't change my circumstance: Nancy weighs about 90 pounds and she used to weigh 160. She sleeps about 20 hours a day. She is grumpy sometimes. But I can change my thoughts. And I will.
She still knows how to laugh.
And I will laugh with her for as long as she can.