The anticipated two-week stay in Chicago in order to escape the record-breaking heat of Arizona morphed to almost three months. The remarkably pleasant weather allowing all of us freedom to be outdoors, visit patio restaurants and bars (with masks and distancing, of course), and reconnect with friends and family was too enticing to leave. It is now October, and seasonal changes are evident as Chicago chills towards winter and Arizona cools towards inhabitable. It is time to go home but not without trepidation.
I have enjoyed being retired with little responsibility and time to explore whatever suits my fancy. I am returning to a new environment shaped by the corona virus pandemic compelling ED to work from home, Mowgli to school from home, and putting Blue Boy on an adapted schedule. Rumor has it that some of my space is otherwise occupied. I reassure myself that I will be able to set up my office outside occasionally.
Here is the paradox: I look forward to the sounds of family, the voices of the boys, the exuberance of the dog while dreading the sounds of family, the voices of the boys, the exuberance of the dog. But mostly I dread the guilt these sounds of love provoke.
Recent discussions with friends confirm that I am not the only woman who claims my independence while dogged by feelings of guilt if I don’t attend to everyone’s real and imagined needs. Ironically, I am not needed. I don’t say that with regret. After all, the role of a parent is to raise children who don’t need them. But how does one discard a lifetime of conditioning and practice?
Let me say, my family is very accommodating when I withdraw into myself. ED actively encourages me to do my “own thing” while Mike passively agrees. No one is nagging me to serve their wants and needs. Were it not for sharing the house, there would be no guilt because “out of sight, out of mind.” Even so, now as I write and Mike works in the back of the basement, I am aware of an inability to ignore him; my mind remains alert in case he needs anything, compromising my attention to this writing. Honestly, he won’t need me.
Fascinated by neurology and neuro-psychology and the ongoing discoveries regarding neuro-plasticity, I appealed to Google for help. Scientists are exploring “’neurally inspired behavioral therapy.’ . . . a kind of therapy that identifies the brain activity underlying an emotional trait you wish to change, such as a tendency to dwell in anger, and then targets this brain activity with mental exercises designed to alter it.”
Hmmm. What brain activity underlies societal expectations internalized for 70 years?