Friday, October 8, 2010

The Icing on the Cake

How responsible are we for other people? Other adults, I should say. Some people seem to feel no responsibility at all to take care of their fellow humans, unless they are using "caring" as a manipulative tactic.

The other extreme is occupied by people who take all the responsibility for other people and none for themselves. They think that, with enough energetic meddling, they can fix all your problems, but they have no idea how to address their own.

The most useful truth lies somewhere in between. Interdependence.

I have erred on the side of co-dependence for most of my life. Now, as I grow a older and wiser, I'm learning to take a more balanced approach.

My step-dad, whom I dearly love, has developed cardiovascular disease. Recently we all got a scare when he went into heart failure due to untreated (he refused to accept medication) high blood pressure. Now he's taking his meds, and stable, but his circulatory system isn't in perfect shape. He should be eating a low-fat diet. He should be watching his salt intake. He knows these things. But what is he doing?

Eating in restaurants. Rich foods, salty soups, lots of sauce and gravy on everything. Cake, which he picks apart in order to get all the icing from between the layers. Most of the spongy part of the cake gets tossed in the trash. He's a hedonist. He's not happy eating any other way.

Once in a while he'll start talking about working out a healthier diet that he can live with, but so far it's been all talk and no veggies. Unless my mother cooks for him (keep in mind that he hasn't moved back in with her yet), he's probably eating in restaurants, ordering according to his whims.

When he's doing something bad, like eating a chocolate bon bon, he'll say "I really shouldn't," (with a little embarrassed giggle) before dropping it into his mouth.

I've talked with him about his eating habits a few times since his heart failure incident. I'm not the only one. My mother bugs him day in and day out. Even his business partner is getting in on the act. He has books, and internet links, and enough time and money to change if he wants to. He doesn't want to.

So what can I do? I'm letting it go. If he only has a few more years left to live, I don't want to spend them arguing with him or nagging him. He's changed a lot since I was a kid, but one thing that remains constant is that he's stubborn as a mule. If he wants to eat buttercream icing, he'll eat buttercream icing. I can't stop him. I can't change him.

It's about quality of time, not quantity. And now I'm going to eat a chocolate cupcake with icing. (And sprinkles.)


Warped Mind of Ron said...

So true, I can identify with him as I should be doing things differently, but sadly it's easier said than done. Personally if you live another forty years eating what you hate and constantly craving that which you can't have what real use are those forty years?

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

My uncle has been a heavy drinker and smoker his entire life (and let's not talk about all his recreational drug use in his younger days). He is now in his mid-60s and his health is failing. He has type-2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis and is going through treatment for pancreatic cancer. You'd think the side effects from any one of these diseases would knock some crazy sense into him and he'd change his lifestyle. He hasn't. I harbor a lot of resentment towards him for that. Not because he's killing himself (it's his life - do what you want, as far as I'm concerned), but because of the strain and stress and responsibility it puts on my aunt. She loses out because she has to take care of a man who won't take care of himself. There has to be a balance there somewhere... where he takes better care of himself, but is also able to enjoy life. Same for your step-dad. Sigh.

Jameil said...

Life changes never come from us nagging people. It has to be some sort of final straw for them. Every time I go home I say I'm done nagging my family about the way they eat... but it's so hard.

DarcKnyt said...

If an near-fatal heart failure isn't going to change him, nothing will, most likely. It's good to know you've reached a point of understanding with that and can accept and just be. :)

Scarlet Ily said...

You just reminded me of the carrot cake I left on top of the fridge...yum! I'm not heavily into sweets, but I love carrot cake and pumpkin muffins...and of course, chocolate!. (Yeah, that's not having much of a sweet tooth, is it?) lol

I know what you mean about trying to help a loved one. If he/she hasn't changed after all the warnings, no amount of nagging is going to help. I wish your step dad a long and happy life!

LL Cool Joe said...

I don't think it is for us to try and nag another person into changing their lifestyle. It has to come from them. We all make our own choices, good and bad, and have to live with the consequences of those choices. I have a real, real fear of doctors, and my phobia about not going, will probably shorten my life. It's a choice I've made, maybe not a good one, but it's my decision.

DarcsFalcon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DarcsFalcon said...

I think ultimately we're responsible for ourselves. You can't control another human being, even when you think it might be for their own good. Who's to define what's for their own good better than they are? If you have a choice of living 3 years eating what you love and doing what you enjoy, or living 5 years (MAYBE, because what's the guarantee?) wishing you could eat and do the things you enjoy, I think most of us would opt for less time more happy. More time really isn't worth it if it feels like being in prison. We could get hit by a bus tomorrow - better to enjoy the time we have while we have it. Live your life, don't wish you could live it.

I hope the cupcake was awesome!

Sparkling Red said...

It's comforting to hear that all y'all agree with me. And FYI that cupcake was delicious. If anyone ever visits Toronto, make sure you visit a location of the "Open Window Bakery". Their chocolate buffaloes can't be beat.

Just Plain Tired said...

I don't think nagging works in this situation. You r approach is the one I'd be taking too. (and us guy's are notorious for not taking good health advice)

Sandra said...

I feel for you. My dad's favourite saying was, "When your time's up, you're times up!" He died of a massive heartattack at 54. And you know what, I wasn't even angry because really, he did have a good life.
Good luck with your dad. Maybe something will trigger his desire to tweak his lifestyle just a never can tell.

Claire said...

I think you're doing the right thing, honey. We cannot make people change. They need to do it for themselves (with help and assistance when they decide to).


Jenski said...

My Dad has the same habits only he doesn't acknowledge that he shouldn't be eating certain foods or exercising. Sound like your step-dad has decided not to worry about these things, so I'm glad you are letting the worry go too!