I want to run away from carrying out my duties to my elderly mother - help!
The questioner's philosophy
I come from a broken (age 13), explosive family of origin, and I am the youngest of six. My father passed in 2000, leaving as his legacy his positive, fun loving, gregarious and uplifting spirit. My mother is 84, and has a flat to semi-depressed personality. She is a staunch Catholic. She now suffers one illness after the other, the latest being incurable cancer. I find myself wanting to live far away so I don't get involved in the remaining family dramas. I would like to divorce myself, and never be called or involved again, if I could release myself to do that.
Family circumstances resulted in me ending my schooling at 15, and leaving home as soon as I turned 17. It was a relief compared to my family life. I am in conflict because my mother did do good things for me in my life, and nothing was ever too much to ask if I would do so (almost never), but I just abhor the way she has lived her life (head in the sand and don't look for any way up and out). Part of the resentment I feel for my mother involves her lack of taking responsibility for life. She often laments that "things just happened." Lately the lament is "PLEASE make sure I don't go to a nursing home." I find myself wondering why, if she has done nothing to prevent this herself (financially or practically such as taking on a home health aide when offered), should this become anyone else's responsibility?
I feel obligated to take over my share of getting her to hospitals, etc., which lately has become a big job between myself and one local sister (the rest got smart and either emotionally or physically moved on). Yet, I feel no happiness at being able to do this. I just want to be totally, absolutely, left alone. I look forward to her (peaceful) passing for this all to be behind me. And, I feel unhappy that this is how it is for me.
We fulfill these lessons by carrying out our duty toward our parents until the day they die. I admire you for not shirking or running away from these duties. We do not grow in love by avoiding difficult people and circumstances. If these enter into our life and it is our duty to attend to them, then attend to them we must.
I want to give you three stages to move through in your relationship with your mother that will help you more in your personal growth than any personal development course. These stages are as follows.
- Duty without love is deplorable.
- Love with duty is desirable.
- Love without duty is divine.
In the first stage we love out of a sense of obligation but there is no heart in it. We are going through the motions. We are doing our duty mechanically, without joy, without a song in our heart. In our mind we dream of escape, of running away, we fantasize about avoiding our duty and in so doing attain what we imagine to be personal freedom.
Love with duty is desirable
In the second stage of love we carry out our duty but we have grown in love to a point where we do so with heart, with joy, whatever that duty is. We no longer dream of escape, we no longer seek to avoid our duty but instead embrace it because we know and acknowledge that this is our path in life and by walking that path we are nullifying our karma and as a result we grow and mature as people. Our focus is outward on serving others and on seeking to carry out our duties to them with a song in our heart. Because we now recognize and accept our duty, our sense of resistance is lessened and we derive joy from carrying out our responsibilities. We recognize that we can have no sense of personal freedom that does not include a commitment to carrying out our duties.
Love without duty is divine
In the third stage there is no resistance to any activity we may be called to undertake. We do not need to be nudged by a sense of duty to carry out our obligations. This is because we love in just the same way as we breathe, naturally without strain. We are happy to shower that love on all those who cross our path because we have realized our very nature, which is love. All has become consumed in God - in universal consciousness. All resistance has disappeared. We are free.
I want you to ask yourself where in these three stages you fit at the present time in relation to carrying out your duties towards your mother. Next I want you to ask yourself how you can use your current relationship with your mother to advance through these stages. If you do this your relationship with your mother will improve, perhaps even dramatically, you will derive joy from your relationship with her and once she passes you will attain great peace and happiness and be possessed of a clear conscience.
You describe your philosophy as, "my life work is to be a happy creator, gaining and sharing wisdom, security and love all along my path." I invite you to live a life coherent with your own philosophy. Carry these words into your life.
Further Help and Resources
Ken Ward has some interesting things to say about love and duty in his article, What is Love? For example, "Love is a disposition. It is like an agreed upon duty. The word duty sounds unpleasant. It makes us think of something we do, not because we enjoy it, but because we have to do it because of the law or a moral code. Yet duty also means a binding force of what is right and good. It is a goal, function or mission. Fulfilling our function or mission can be very enjoyable and satisfying. In this way, duty can be a pleasant, even joyful experience."
Chuck Gallozzi (Duty and Responsibility) makes the point: "Learn the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do."