Cars, mothers, dental work and drowsiness-inducing painkillers: on mutual self-care

The thing about being in a car-centric place is that you can’t take your mum to a doctor’s appointment if you don’t drive, and she will insist on driving. If you were in your natural habitat, you would hail a cab, and take it home. There would be no option for her to drive after being put under, operated on, and having three different types of painkillers. We had gotten up early, rushed to this hotel on the south side of Edmonton to catch the Red Arrow bus to Calgary. She was having dental surgery there. And then we got back on the Red Arrow bus back to Edmonton, that same day. And she insisted on driving home after we got off the bus. It was a lot.

She’s always telling me: just take a cab, if your knee’s hurting just take a cab, its not worth it. And that’s what I’m learning to do, not push myself, not do a marathon worth of activity after a surgery, or even on a regular day. I’m learning to take care of myself. Always, not just when I have time or can afford it. I have the luxury, when I can’t afford it, of a credit card. I am not forced to work a job that disables me. I felt frustrated that she wouldn’t let me help her, not even carry my own backpack, let alone carry her bag. To me self care is about accepting help when you need it and giving help when someone needs it more, if you can. But she wouldn’t, she said, “birdie I’m fine. Tell you what if you notice anything unsafe after one block I’ll pull over and call a cab.”

The sticker on the anti-inflammatory she just took flashes in front of my eyes: may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Merde I thought, I’m going to rip her face off. So I stormed into the hotel the bus dropped us off at, that her car was parked at, and looked for the bathroom. I only found the men’s and didn’t want to walk farther cause I didn’t have my cane and my leg was hurting so I went and spoke to myself in the mirror of the men’s. Gender is silly anyways. I wanted to hold my ground but didn’t want to force her out of her car, motor running, bags packed in and all. I wanted her to accept that I might have a reasonable point, along with all the nurses we spoke to who said, no driving or anything strenuous. But she was ok, she was fine. She is a bull-headed, sweet spoken lion woman, and will not back down from her belief that she can and will do everything all at once. Won’t take T3s, won’t ask a friend for a ride, won’t stay the night in Calgary, won’t even let me walk her to the bathroom. Because that would mean… what? That she, along with everyone else in the world, needs support and help sometimes? That her self-image and the image she puts out in the world will be degraded? Does she see needing help as a degradation of her self image, her pride, her confidence? Does she see it as fine for others to need help but not herself? How does that make me feel, when I am openly working on accepting help when I need it. And why does she only accept help when she is at the complete end of the possibility of doing something herself? Am I talking about my mother or myself at this point?

Its a sensitive subject for me cause I’m trying so hard to not be ableist towards myself. And I forget that when I come home, after being away and changing my perspectives, that I can’t expect others to receive that perspective through some transmissive process as soon as my plane lands and walker wheels hit the dry Edmonton ground. I can’t get mad at someone for operating how she always does, frustrated that she’s more concerned with my arthritis pain than the two incisions in her own mouth. I can try and make her see that its important to take of herself too, and that means resting sometimes. I can try and lead by example, by explanation, by sharing my experiences with coming home and putting a heat pad on my legs, or leaving my house messy or not pushing myself in the pool even though I want to swim soo fast and forever. But I can’t just get mad and slam doors. Damn I said to the mirror in the men’s hotel washroom with the potpourri and urinal scent, how stubborn and bull-headed was I this summer when she was helping me heal my broken leg?image

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