When I wake up most mornings, I have a habit of looking immediately at my cell phone to see if there are any messages from Janet. I would say she leaves me at least three messages, more at other times. This morning was a record; there were eight. I knew what they were about, since I did talk with her a few minutes yesterday afternoon about the chances of her boy friend calling her up and taking her out to dinner. So I knew from the quantity of my voice mail that he did not.
Janet is someone on the fringe of society, not because she is living on the street, or lacks normal intelligence (in fact she is well above average in that department), or looks different than most others). Out in public she acts ok, though perhaps a bit too open with those around her, asking strangers their opinion on what to buy etc. For instances it will take her three hours to buy just a few items. For one of her issues is she can’t seem to make any kind of decision until she talks to at least five other people about it. I am always one of those people.
She is on certain kinds of medications to help her with her anxiety, for she does have a serious disorder in that regard and because of that everything is an emergency, no matter what it is. If her phone goes out she has to let everyone know how horrible it is. Just about anything that affects her can set her off into sending out all kind of urgent messages to those who have the patience to at listen to part of them. For if she sends three, six, or like tonight eight messages, they are repeats of the first.
She has a boyfriend, let’s call him Joe, who seems normal when you first meet him. Though later you can see that he is compulsively driven, works very long hours and then at times will volunteer to work overtime just to get more money. He is generous with others, but it is of the compulsive kind, so he is often angry, has been married two times before he met Janet and will ignore her for long periods of time. For instance he did not show up for the prearranged date and did not call to explain himself. This happens over and over again. Each time this occurs Janet is devastated and Joe does not seem to have any indication on what he is doing to her.
She is an older woman, now seventy, though she looks younger, and is still quite pretty. She fears aging, so on her birthday it is always her fifty ninth, kind of a joke with the both of us. So yes her life sucks in many ways. She lives in a motel, has been there for the last six years, just a small room, with a very tiny kitchenette, but for her it is home. Different people do help her with the rent, and from time to time help to fix her car. Her mental condition can’t take all the blame for her life as it is lived now, but I think she is still worthy of help and yes love and consideration.
Got a call from her daughter last week asking about Janet, who she has not seen for the last six years and would like to get back in touch with her mother. Janet’s brother gave her my phone number with my permission, so I was expecting the call. Now, Janet tells everyone that when she lived with her daughter they were abusive towards her and has all kind of stories to back it up. In the beginning I did not know what to think of her memories with her family and I guess I believed at least some of it. However the more I got to know Janet, the more I began to understand that she could drive anyone crazy who actually had to share a home or apartment with her. So yes in families things can be said and done that are cruel and abusive Since Janet feels that she is correct in her remembering, and thinks she was the victim, she wants nothing more to do with her daughter; is in fact terrified about seeing her.
So I talked with her daughter (Pam) who seemed to be normal on the phone. She just wants to get back in touch with her mother for she knows she is getting old and is worried about her. She finally kicked her abusive husband out of the house and is trying to get her life back on track. She is having some serious health problems and cannot work, though she is getting some disability for her problem. Her sixteen year old daughter is working just trying to keep the lights on in the house and they are behind in their rent. She took a big chance in getting her husband out of the house, but in spite of the struggles, she does not want him back, neither does her daughter. My heart went out to her but I had to tell her the truth about the desires of her mother not wanting to see her. I also told her that I did not believe all the stories Janet told me about the abusive treatment she says she went through. Her daughter told me that any time they tried to ask Janet for just a little bit of help she would yell at them and then back off into her room. Janet, like she does now, slept all day and got up late evening, so really there was not much exchange. So yes with Pam having to deal with an abusive husband and a mother who has some serious emotional and mental issues, I can see how things could get real tense.
Pam did tell me how as a girl she always wanted to be close to her mother, but she was ignored for the most part. Alice gave all her attention to Pam’s older sister, who now also wants nothing to do with her mother. It is a sad circle, which seems doomed to remain closed. So the only thing I could say to Pam was to write her mother a heartfelt note and then let it go. Do it for herself not for her mother. I also told her, that at least for now she might be better off not being involved in her mother’s life; there was too much going on. Pam said she understood and hung up.
My heart was very heavy for Pam and I wish I could do something for her. I guess if she does write her mother that heartfelt letter and Janet brings it up, I may encourage her to at least give it a try. Though again, I am not sure Pam would be able to take all the phone calls and emergencies that her mother talks to everyone about. Also money, Janet is always looking for money, since she is always on the edge, which could also be too much for a daughter that is struggling herself.
Janet is a little more of a narcissist than most of us. Bottom line, while she is capable of caring, still, you are really only as good as your last favor. I know that, yet she is still in need and like all humans needs understanding and compassion. Janet is simply trying to survive now; it is always one thing after another which for her is one urgent situation after another.
It is hard for me to keep boundaries, but I am doing it with Janet. I let her know clearly when I can or cannot help her, a few times very loudly for she tends to tone out what she does not want to hear more than most. I really believe she can’t help the way she is, does not understand how she at times treats others, her daughter Pam for instance, nor the wounds and pain she has caused. It is not a good place to be but for Janet it is her world, her truth and I see no way out for her.