My mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who is 36 and sweet as can be but severely, severely mentally challenged) will be visiting/staying with us from El Salvador (where they live) for five weeks, starting August 15.
I won’t go into the specifics of why this is such a big deal…it’s not just cultural and language differences…and I am not here to bash them; I’m not a malicious person. She is a wonderful woman who has had many challenges in her life and raised an incredible son, my husband, and a wonderful, very special daughter–all single-handedly.
But, to be blunt, it’s a lot for me mentally and emotionally (as well as physically) having them here for that long for many, many reasons.
One of which is, I am a control freak, and I don’t deal well when I am thrown in situations that make me uncomfortable.
But really, let’s be honest here, five weeks is a long time to host anyone.
Complicating things, let’s just say it’s not only me who is upset by the duration. Last year she was here for four weeks, and it was incredibly difficult on all parties–even she acknowledged it was a long time to be here in our home.
In fact, it was a truly awful personal time for me, where the stress actually caused my period to be three weeks late (Steph at Back in Skinny Jeans linked to that story in my guest blog, Out of Pills, Out of Sync).
So this year, recognizing how tough it had been for me back then, my husband had asked her to call us before booking her tickets (not too much to ask!) and to look into three weeks in August because he was starting school and would prefer to have them here before that so he could enjoy the time.
Well, she went and booked without speaking to us first…and did it for five weeks, not three.
Needless to say, I was not pleased and neither was he–but because he’s such a wonderful person and because it’s his blood family, he handled it significantly better than me and can overlook it.
And me? I just don’t handle this kind of thing well; call it my “hardware…” but right away my stomach was in knots and I was in tears because it was something I had no control over.
After my initial hysterical reaction, my husband and I had several long heart-to-hearts (he does understand my feelings, which helps a lot) and we agreed to be the united team we are, and make the best of this situation, working together to enjoy the time as best we can.
But I’ll be honest, in spite of trying to look past it, I am still not ok with all of this; in fact, I’ve been stewing over this since we found out two weeks ago. I’m already a stress-case and just knowing what’s looming over me–five weeks of the “home invasion” (as my mother-in-law jokingly calls it!)–makes it even tougher.
Dr. G.’s advice to me, after listening to me rant and rave during the hour-long session, was really quite simple: instead of working on quelling my anxiety at this time and over the next five weeks, she wants me to look at this pragmatically as “five lost weeks”, where I have no expectations.
Not what I’d expect to hear from a therapist, but she explained further: If I have no expectations, I can’t be disappointed, and it might end up being better than I expected.
Essentially, these five weeks will be, as she said, real-life “flooding.” I’ll be put in a terribly uncomfortable situation in which I have absolutely no control. (They’re coming, and I can’t do a thing about it).
But I will make it out ok and, hopefully, end up with an even tighter bond with my husband as a result. As she noted, “flooding” tends to be more painful but it works.
And if I can put aside my own anxieties about them being here and all it entails, and make my mother-in-law feel welcome and loved, I might even end up being a better person, too!
My own parents arrive for a weekend visit today, and I am beside myself with joy to see them–I literally can’t wait!
I need to remember my excitement and, a week from now, for my husband’s sake, welcome my mother-in-law and sister-in-law into our home with the same graciousness and love I have for my own parents.
It won’t be easy the whole time, and I’m sure I’ll be relying on the blog and therapy to help me avoid emotional eating and over-exercising (two habits I fell into last year with them here…) but I will try to remember her words.
It might be “5 lost weeks” but I can gain some insight during them, and come out calmer and happier. It’s all in my attitude.
As my cheerleading coach used to tell us before a big competition: “Your attitude and your aptitude determine your altitude.”
How about you? Has the literal or figurative technique of “flooding” helped you overcome a challenge, food-related or not?