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The Injustice of Aging

You’re young. So very young. This post will seem like a lot of whinging about what a drag it is getting old.  You’ve witnessed several elderly patrons at your place of work fall; and as the compassionate soul you are, you have helped and identified the problems to management to assure the incident is not likely to happen again.  It is that kind of consideration that gives me faith in humanity.

I don’t believe you were aware of all of the things I witnessed while visiting my mom. As well as the things I am ashamed to falling prey as a caregiver having little to no experience with dementia other than my teenage self re-living the same frustrations I did when my great-grandmother came to live with us while she suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Society is bent on valuing youth; because… “The children are our future”. (Also the right end to a pageant question as proven by iCarly.)

However, these bright eyed gifts are molded by their elders. And they deserve some respect and care as they make their journey into the sunset.  This is merely to forewarn you of what lies ahead as you age.

It’s not just the physical or mental deterioration which you must endure on this journey. And might I just say, some of it was a complete surprise.

For example:

As you age, your digestion changes once again. To the point where you are slower to digest and certain complex foodstuffs you are not able to break down as you could in your youth. (becoming lactose intolerant was a shocker to me)

Your ability to see at night deteriorates as well. I recall my grandmother on my father’s side having me take the wheel after sunset in Laredo ( a town with which I was wholly unfamiliar)  because she could no longer see to drive. She drove a huge boat of a vehicle too.

Your kidneys are not as efficient as they once were. So they slow in the processing of wastes and you swell a lot if you tax them. (Think cankles and puffy feet) It’s actually painful.

Skin issues become a thing. Fungal infections, boils, yeast, suspicious growths, moles, skin tags, wrinkles, wens. Jesus I thought the dermatology visits were over when acne was resolved.

And this doesn’t affect you since you’re a guy… but the many plagues of menopause are shocking. Burning mouth syndrome, hot and cold flashes, mood swings far worse than PMS mood swings, the hemorrhagic instability of the in utero sloughing process. The sudden transformation into a carnival sideshow freak crossed with Frieda Kahlo. My beard if left to grow would be better than yours. I would stake a bet on it.

Your mind is not as sharp to grasp and hold onto items in short term memory. As you age it progresses while mid sentence. You cannot finish a fucking sentence while talking! Imagine the shame and embarrassment of that.  Some of it is funny like the “Where’s my [thing I cannot find but is on me the whole time]?” or the “What did I come in this room for anyway?” scenarios. Others are scary like losing a chunk of time and space while driving a route you’ve driven over and over. Or scary like attempting to place [some object] into [place where it does not belong].  And yet other are scary like not remembering if you had shampooed or rinsed your hair while you are in the shower. Or super scary like standing in that shower and not knowing what to do at all. You are simply frozen in indecision.

Aside from the obvious aging issues of diseases tied with old age, lifestyle based illness, poor reactions to viruses you once could recover with ease in your youth there is more.

There is harassment, discrimination and abuse.

Refer to this handy chart: 2018-08-17_14-56-49

I got to see some of this first hand while staying with my mother.

For the Financial Abuse:

  • The phone calls trying to scam her of money or scam her medicare coverage for services she did not need.
  • Care workers stealing from her instead of doing the work they were hired to do.
  • Neighbors charging her exorbitant amounts for services they had no need to do.
  • Pharmacy delivery people taking blank checks or forcing my mother to sign checks she clearly could not sign for the deliveries. (who knows how much they were taking out of her account)

For the Psychological:

  • Careworkers guilting my mother into allowing for them to not doing their job because she was not as bad off as they were.
  • My own response to frustrations of the symptoms of her disease as if I felt she was purposefully being uncooperative when clearly I did not understand how her functioning degrades as she grows more tired during the day.
  • Neighbors verbally harassing my mother over things she cannot control.

For the neglect:

  • Careworkers not showing up, showing up late, sleeping on shift, not doing the tasks for which they were assigned.
  • My mother not getting the right meds at the right time of day due to the mismanagement of her prescriptions in the pillbox
  • The horrible food choices delivered to her door once per day only 4 days a week. Never in a timely manner.
  • Not discarding spoiled or discarded food which might lead her to consume such by accident.

Luckily for my mother, I never once saw her physically abused. But that is not to say it didn’t happen in the nursing home. I have no proof of it.

There aren’t many protections or safeguards from elder abuse other than vigilant family members and case workers. As you grow older it becomes increasingly important to have a network of younger family and professionals who have your back. Don’t think you can go this alone.

And if you are obliged to become a caregiver to either me or your father, know these things:

  • It is exhausting.
  • It requires selfless giving, unlimited patience, compassion and non-judgement.
  • You become the parent of your parents.
  • There is support for caregivers when it gets to be too much.
  • It is a-okay to say you cannot do it and arrange for in home care or nursing home care.
  • If you choose to get outside help, you must never trust they have your parents’ best interests in their purview. Assume they are all out to take advantage of you or their situation to their benefit. Stay vigilant and always check up on their service.

The Sadness of a Life Wasted

In our youth, we have no perspective of the value of our lives and the time we are given. We often think there is always time for this or that or the other thing we’ve been putting off –whether it is a project, a travel opportunity, or a big decision.

After my trip to sort out my mother’s house for palliative care due to her condition (Dementia with Lewy Bodies – LBD), I found myself thinking back on her life and her choices – feeling wholly saddened by it all.

Back in the day, I used to be angry about it. A witness to her living in a protective cocoon completely dependent on her parents after the divorce. It was simply irritating to me, wondering how a person can give up on life so completely.

She married at a very young age (17). I was under the belief throughout my childhood that she was younger (16) and did not graduate High School. Though, recently I found that she had graduated High School. I had found her diploma and commencement program.

When she married in 1960, I believe she and Dad moved around a lot due to his military service. Ultimately ending up in Munich where my sister and I were born.

Some stories from Aunts and Uncles confirmed there was love between them early in their marriage. My mother indicated their marriage was abusive and she was the victim of the abuse. Although there were rumors that my Dad suspected she was seeing someone else and they fought a lot over fidelity issues. I’ll never know for certain now as Dad is long since passed and Mom’s memories are fading or nearly broken.

Her life post-divorce was under the roof of her parents where she swore off men altogether and berated the very idea of the pursuit of a relationship or self sufficiency. She was entirely jealous of my father and often made us feel very guilty for speaking with him; let alone seeing him.

She held only four jobs in her life and did not learn to drive a car until her mid-thirties. Strangely, Dad did not drive much at all either. However, he lived in the city where driving wasn’t a necessity.

She had a fear of stepping out of her comfort zone, so learning to drive and getting her license was a huge deal.

Her parents were the ones who stepped in to parent when she retreated. Her mother was the one pushing ever so gently to keep her employed– going so far as to enroll into cosmetology school with her to ensure she finished and ultimately gained employment.

How did I get from anger to sadness after all this time? The symptoms of this disease and imagining all that she had the potential to do at age 74 had she not had the disease. That’s what did it.

We were looking through photographs of her time in Munich one evening and she commented how she would like to travel there again but then her voice trailed off to a whisper of  defeat, “I guess I can’t now, because…”

She never finished that sentence. I knew what she meant. Because of this disease, she lost any opportunity to be travel worthy and nothing would be the same in terms of her ability to enjoy the trip –  savoring the scenes, the food, the music. She could barely walk without falling. Eating was more of a challenge now and as a result, she would never finish a meal. She would just give up.

My heart breaks for her now in this stage of the disease; for all her ancestors who escaped this could travel at her age and enjoy the sunset of their lives with new memories and adventures. For my mother, every minute is like a grain of sand slipping to the bottom of an hourglass of loss.

I remember in my youth admiring the mothers of my friends. They worked, they went out and socialized, they were not paralyzed by their past failures. By comparison, my mother’s stubbornness to “get out there” and “live life to her fullest potential” was embarrassing and frustrating. When she did get out there, somehow it would end in a drama that resulted in a burnt bridge and her resolution to never try again.

Does that last bit sound familiar?

It should.

Did you know she painted? She drew? She was quite good at it and yet never pursued it seriously. Now, she cannot hold a pen to write her own name. 

I know introversion runs deep, but even the most introverted pursue their passions and don’t give up on living life on their terms.

And yes, she processed a deeply damaging blow to her self esteem due to the divorce something which could have been worked out through therapy.

To further address future arguments that everyone dies of something somehow. It is where I offer the following:

Everyone does dies of something, somehow and at some time. It could be any time (today, tomorrow, 60 years from now) Should one assume they have time for all the things and experiences when they truly don’t? 

What holds you back from

  • trying new foods?
  • saying “Yes” to new experiences?
  • going someplace you’ve never been?
  • making new friends?
  • learning new skills?
  • providing for yourself?

If the answer is based out of fear, past failures, or stubbornness; ask yourself why you are wasting the precious time you have in this life, holding yourself back from having the best life experience filled with joy, grand memories and lovely people who will enrich you.

I cannot promise you that you will not get LBD, or Alzheimers, or Coronary Heart Disease, or Clinical Depression, Diabetes. Nor can I predict you will get any of these. You may escape them all and live to be 100+ years of age like your two times great cousin Grace.

I simply want you to take calculated risks, get out there and never waste a minute of your life. Do not cheat yourself of opportunities when they present themselves.

On Losing One’s Mind

The three weeks spent away to assist my sister in preparation for the eventuality of placing our mother in palliative care was an eye and heart opener. Before travelling the 16 hours I had always thought I was a compassionate and kind person with extraordinary capacity for patience and understanding.

I was wholly wrong.

I did the research on several sites such as AARP, NIH, Alzheimers Association to get a grasp on this disease. None of which prepared me for what I was about to experience first hand.

For a bit of background please read about Lewy Body Dementia at – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-lewy-body-dementia

This site has a wealth of information on what it is, how it is diagnosed, the symptoms and treatments.

My mother was diagnosed in April after my sister called in almost full breakdown due to the stress of caring for her as she lived alone and trying to care for her own family at the same time. I called a college friend, who is a neurologist to discuss the symptoms with him – the shaking, hallucinations, inability to maintain balance. He suggested strongly she see a neurologist in her area as soon as possible. He thought it might be Parkinson’s and not the good kind.

My sister arranged the appointment, and after the consult and imaging it was clear to that doctor that, mom had Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). Her frontal lobe was separated from her skull at a much more advanced rate than anyone her age.

This disease as you have read has no cure, and will require nursing home care at some point and ultimately hospice care for her final days.

My trip was to go out there to her home and begin organizing the house to make it more simple to get around, and remove the unnecessary clutter, go through papers and collections and sort out all her clothes, shoes and such in preparation for palliative care.

When I got there, I started in on a room by room assessment with the knowledge that I would be focused on just the sorting and clearing. In her state of residence, they have a program which focuses on keeping the elderly in their homes for as long as possible.  It is called the LIFE program whereby care workers come to the home frequently to assure she is eating, bathed and has taken her medication and do light housework. These care workers came to mom’s home twice a day for such duties.

In my first few days I found out that the care workers were not as reliable as I was led to believe. Nor were they trustworthy, as my sister told me she caught one worker attempting to steal from her purse red-handed. She told me how that worker had stolen change and items prior to the purse incident and that that worker was fired. My focus now was to keep an eye on the remaining workers as I worked to assure they were on task and not rifling through my mother’s belongings to pilfer what they could.

As they arrived at 9 a.m. I thought I could sleep in and then take on each day while my mother was attended to. That also was not the case, as my mother would get up anywhere between 6:30 and 7 a.m. struggling to make her breakfast and get around the house. I had to get up to assure she did not fall as she had fallen five times within the prior week that I arrived.

Now I was having to assume care taking as well as the sorting. I had to parcel the time now to assuring she had her breakfast and was settled by the time the care workers arrived. When the care workers arrived they would take over and get my mom showered and dressed, do any laundry and picking up. That was about it. The rest of the time they just sat with her and watched television or dicked on their phones.

I do need to make a point to say that not all the care workers were this inactive. Two were outstanding. The others seemed to be deer in headlights and had no idea what to do when they got there. I had to instruct them.

Eventually, I was doing the meal preps for all three meals, cleanup and laundry. At night I had to assure she was readied for bed as well. This program was not all that it was cracked up to be. I was not making too much progress until my sister got off work to come by and assist.

To give you some idea of the task of clearing, this was not simply packing up a few things. This was evaluating everything my mother had amassed over her lifetime as well as items of her mother and father (as she kept all of their items as well). Photos were everywhere in the house, loose, album bound, in envelopes, bins, random stacks of frames, laced in bibles with other certificates of death, obituaries and other very important paperwork.

My approach was to retain all important paperwork, pictures and collectibles and give away any non essentials, such as small appliances in storage, books, clothes, tchotchke of no essential value. Believe me, the trips made to Goodwill were 2-5 times per day.

I learned that antique shops were no longer taking anything I had to offer as they said young people these days have no interest in these antiques. The local antique mall owner said I’d be better off just sending it all over to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

We cleared out so many things that first week and part of next I thought I was going to be able to leave earlier than expected. However, my sister soon put that to rest when she opened the outdoor shed which was filled with refuse and storage cabinets filled with more “things”. I never swore so much in a single moment than I did when she opened those doors.

That is why I had the big purge of 2015 in our own home. We had an overrun of “things” that I did not want to burden you with. And although that was done, your dad amassed more “things” to fill the cleared spaces when his mother died.  We will need to do another purge again because you should not have to deal with this in the event we require 24 hour care and must be placed in palliative care.

I digitized all the photos and paperwork I found at mom’s and uploaded them to the cloud. My sister has all the originals should you ever want to see them.

Statistically we sent over 150 bags of trash to the landfill and gave away about the same to Goodwill of all the things which were not destroyed by time. We wrapped up 4 sets of china and a fifth remains to be stored as my sister sees fit. I found so many things of my childhood that I took back a parcel of some but not all.

Now that the stuff portion is out of the way, let’s talk about this disease. It is not known to be genetic BUT…

Rarely, the condition can affect more than one family member. Some of these cases appear to be due to single gene changes (mutations) that follow an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Other familial cases do not follow a specific pattern of inheritance and likely have a multifactorial cause (associated with the effects of multiple genes in combination with lifestyle and environmental factors).[6][5]

My great grandmother suffered from something which is exactly like DLB. I was in high school when she came to live with us. She ended up losing her continence as well as her ability to feed herself and my grandparents went nearly destitute to pay for palliative care for her. She lived for 15 years.

There are genetic tests for the likelihood if you carry the markers for this disease. But you have to go to a health care professional to get these tests done.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/conditions/C0752347/

I have contacted GARD regarding testing and hopefully you and I can be tested to see if there is a predisposition to this in our own genetics.

https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/about-gard/contact-gard

Another resource for factors that increase the predisposition for this disease

https://www.verywellhealth.com/lewy-body-dementia-risks-98761

I want you to know that if I fall prey to this I do not want to carry on with it. There are states with a death with dignity law in place and I will want to be moved there to have the choice of how I handle this. Oregon is nice.

Now, be warned I will be writing more on this subject as well as on my mother as there are some extra life wisdoms which came out of this visit that you may find useful on your life’s journey.

Little Wisdoms

I was reading Jim Gaffigan’s “Food: A Love Story” and he mentioned that if you knew you were going to die tomorrow would you be eating a bag of crappy food or would you eat the best meal possible?  He says it best as:

“We want to leave the people here with the knowledge that we have loved them dearly but also that we have no regrets and lived our lives to their fullest. Therefore, I conclude that we should be full. Full of something delicious.”

With that, I recommend that every meal should be treated as if it were your last. Don’t waste it on regrettable choices. Choose options that exemplify that you care about yourself and a happy eating experience.

Never choose form over function in terms of clothing. Buy clothes that are well made with quality materials and are durable.  You will be paying more for the items but over time as you still have them, it pays off in the end.  You won’t be buying as often.

In terms of shoes, it is the same; but also comfort should always trump quality and style. Never buy a pair of shoes which will cause you to put them in the back of your closet because they pinch or are ill fitting.

When buying a winter coat always think worst case scenario in terms of weather and make sure the coat can handle the lowest extreme temperature. If possible, go for one which has a removable inner lining so that you can get more wear for the seasons.

Never have less than a pack and a half of toilet paper in your house. Period.

Always have at least 10 bars of soap on hand and always buy the jumbo bars. Should you ever be out of work you have a supply you are not having to restock.

When you run out of things you use daily – like shampoo, conditioner, laundry supplies, deodorant, dish soaps, razors, or shaving creme – the next grocery visit you should be buying two of the item you just finished. That way you have a spare always.

Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You end up overbuying and picking foods you wouldn’t otherwise purchase.

The best time to shop in a city like ours is early Saturday or Sunday mornings because people are more likely sleeping in or off at church. Aisles are less crowded and you can shop in peace. The only exceptions will be holiday weekends. In which case, go the Thursday evening before.  In larger cities all bets are off as to the perfect time.

When you purchase sheet sets always to for the highest quality thread count you can and a set which boasts “no pilling”. If you go cheap they will not last long and they will “pill” (meaning there will be little balls stuck to the fabric you will be constantly picking off with each launder).

Baking is so much easier for cleanup if you use non stick aluminum foil. AND… you do not have to oil or butter your baking vessel which is healthier than having all that excess fat in your diet.

Conserve water and try to do your laundry the same time once per week. Like every Saturday. Do not do what your father does and have a load to do every other day. It is wasteful.

If you do buy anything on credit make sure you are able to pay over the minimum suggested payment so you can pay it off faster and you aren’t being socked for unnecessary interest payments. When you get to the last payment, pay a couple pennies over the last payment amount.  They cannot hold a positive balance for over 30 days so in a month they will have to cut you a check for the overage amount which will cost them more than the reimbursement. That is your little kick in the shin to them for charging you interest payments.

Keep a spreadsheet of who you send Christmas cards to each year with their current addresses and phone numbers. This is handy to have for birthdays as well as other gift giving occasions. Keep a card library and sort by occasion (Birthday, Anniversary, New Baby, Just Because, Blank, Thank You, etc) Always have a surplus on hand in case you forget. Then you don’t have to run to the store in a last minute panic.

Do the same with gift-wrap. Have plenty of options on standby with coordinating ribbon and bows. When you use up the coordinating ribbon/bows but still have wrap leftover, go out when convenient, and restock what you are missing.

Invest in a sturdy desktop tape dispenser which can be refillable. Saves on what you send to the landfill in the end.

If you ever get a dog or a cat, remember that consistency and routine are the best to solidify training. And with cats, if you disrupt their routine they will become threatened in their sense of security and they will act out to protect their space by “marking”.

 

More Than Words Can Say

I am reading a book entitled “Breakfast with Buddha” and there’s a point where the protagonist writes a letter to his daughter, simply providing a lighthearted status of his current road trip; but mostly to tell her he misses and loves her. The author states in a roundabout way that parents do not have the best method to express the love for their children.

In a way, I agree. It is clumsy sometimes. We feel like our children simply do not get the depth of this love;  which feels to us parents like a failure to communicate. While reading this portion of the book, I felt compelled to try to capture my feelings in order to communicate them to my son. I’d like to take the time to do it before it is too late to do it. In doing so, I know for sure he understands exactly how I feel.

Dear Ev,

I want you to know, that when I say “I love you” it’s just not a simple platitude. Those words contain a myriad of dimensions behind it. You are a gift to your father and me. An embodiment of the best and worst of both of us. And I love every aspect of you. From your smile to your moodiness. Your laughter tickles the heck out of me to my core. When you were conceived, I could feel an inner joy within me that did feel like a playful tickle. I could only smile and giggle with the spark of life I was promoting in those 9 months.

As young parents your father and I never wanted to share you with anyone. Reluctant to share you with Grandma and Grandpa because we loved spending time with you. You never had babysitters because we took you everywhere with us. The one and only time we ever had been separated from you was on our wedding anniversary after you were born and we chose to take a night out as a couple for dinner. We hated leaving you, and cut the dinner short to just be with you.

You taught us a depth of loving and caring I don’t think either one of us really understood until you were born. When you hurt, we hurt. When you found joy we were over the moon. When you were angry, it took all of ourselves not to burst in laughter over the triviality over which set you ablaze.

The man you are becoming makes me beam with pride. You are organized and so very considerate. It has always been a source of joy knowing how you care for others (your network of friends and family). When I hear you ask “How was your day?” to either me or your dad with a genuine interest and concern, I feel so very happy to know you are exactly the person we hoped to have in our lives and in others’ lives.

Even in your youth you have been a caregiver. Your heart is the best part of you. I hope you know how much of an impact you have on everyone you mentor and befriend. I respect the heck out of you and your values. I had always hoped you would have the integrity I lacked and avoid the weaknesses I had.

As you grow older, I pray and encourage you to become more independent and self sufficient. The pride in knowing you did it all yourself is the best feeling ever. Use your resources – your network of friends, coworkers, and family as well as technology to help you find your solutions and answers to the problems at hand.

Know that there are little pockets of notes to you in places in the house. Your baby book for example has letters to you from both me and your father. I kept a journal while I was pregnant with you to let you know how I cared for myself in preparation for you. And every book I have kept in the house, I kept because the stories were so profound that I hope that you pick one up and read it too.

It is a constant fear of mine that you may not find true happiness and life will deal you some hard lessons. But in the end, it is a part of the growth process. Whenever you are faced with an obstacle I hope you have the presence of mind to step back after the brief freak out and know that there is an opportunity to learn from the experience in order to grow and be a better version of you in the end.

Life is a constant path towards learning. The more you experience the more you grow. When I encourage you to travel and meet people it is to expand your experience. I know at this point you are not a fan of just getting out there but I hope that changes over time and you do get to go to fun places and meet outstanding people and become lifelong friends. Expand your circle of friends as they become your extended family when both your dad and I pass on. Know that I hated that you had no other siblings because I wanted you to always have someone you can count on to share your feelings and frustrations like both your dad and I had with our siblings.

And in every journey out you have, no matter how mundane, always be open to those moments that makes you smile. Take nothing for granted. Be present in the moment. It could be a pleasant exchange with a complete stranger or it could be a funny bumper sticker on the car in front of you. Find reasons to go through life observantly and not like a mindless automaton. That last way is easiest but it’s the least fun. So empty.

Also know that I am so excited to see ultimately the man you become. I bargain with the reaper every day to let me have this one indulgence. I want to see the fully grown you. It is what I live for. It’s not just the cats.

All my love,
Mom

The Trap

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. There is comfort in predictability for some things. I must warn however, as my mum did, sometimes people prey on your predictability. It is better to be unpredictable in certain situations.

For example:  Never take the same route home every day. If a predator is out there, they can lie in wait based on your predictable route.  (Mum was a very paranoid person)

Office workers prey on your predictable reactions. Spouses too. Best to always leave them guessing. (Mum said the secret to a long marriage was to keep your spouse on their toes – though, she divorced after 8 years so I don’t quite know how sound that advice is…)

What I do know for sure is, that getting stuck in a pattern of behavior or point of view is pretty easy. Sometimes one can unwittingly get trapped into a pattern without really understanding they’ve been caught. One that particularly ensnares me off and on in life is negativity. For me, it starts with a whinge here or a whine there; but then after a while, it’s like all I can see. All the negative things people say or do. My sense of humor goes out of whack and gets sardonic and black. Snarkily so.

If it goes on long enough, it affects my happiness. Then I become bitter and bitchy. At that point, all I can see are what’s falling apart or going wrong and missing all the bits which are going right.

It hit me the other day that when I get home and I’ve been asked about my day; that’s really all I do is bitch and moan. God! How much of a drain am I to the family in doing so? Or anyone around me for that matter?

There was a meme out there that helped me identify being caught in the trap of negativity.  Disclaimer: I do not know if this is copyrighted…. so please do not sue me. I looked around to find the source and could not seem to locate the exact author/artist of this image.

Cartoon captioned Happiness I created it myself

It became all too clear that when I get caught in negativity, I have control to create my own happiness. I cannot rely on things changing for me, I have to make the changes to be happy. Rather than allowing all the negative events or interactions to cloud my world view; I can choose to select and search for those positives which occurred as well.

For a long time, I looked to my spouse for happiness and realized that would never happen. So I broke free of that expectation and found activities and projects which would generate happiness within me. Whether it was volunteer work, random acts of kindness, crafting for causes, taking on commissions for art, hash-tagging, or reading for pleasure.

The lesson I learned here was that happiness starts with a choice from within. So rather than focusing on what went wrong today, I deliberately also took note of what went right or what caused happiness today.

It’s a work in progress and I need to keep working at it; but that’s with anything in your life. Constant growth and maintenance.

 

On Good Deeds

Clare Boothe Luce once said "No good deed goes unpunished." From a cynic's perspective, the response is "Amen, sister!"

I'd like to think that the sentiment behind that witty statement was not fueled by selfishness and cynicism, but it is.  Usually there is an expectation by the deed do-gooder that some sort of recognition for the act is necessary or a positive response from the recipient is required. They come away shocked when no one notices or when met with hostility or sadness.

The television show "Friends" did an episode in 1998 which exercised and illustrated that very concept. Doing good is inherently a selfish act. To set the scene: Joey, the actor has volunteered to work the phone banks on the PBS annual fund drive. Early he admits his intent is to help raise funds for the station but also to get exposure on television for more work opportunities.  The exchange between Phoebe and himself explains how this deed is selfish and how other acts of kindness are as well:

Joey: I'm sorry Pheebs, I just, y'know, I just wanted to do a good deed. Like-like you did with the babies.
Phoebe: This isn't a good deed, you just wanted to get on TV! This is totally selfish.
Joey: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What about you, having those babies for your brother? Talk about selfish!
Phoebe: What-what are you talking about?!
Joey: Well, yeah, it was a really nice thing and all, but it made you feel really good right?
Phoebe: Yeah. So?
Joey: It made you feel good, so that makes it selfish. Look, there's no unselfish good deeds, sorry.
Phoebe: Yes there are! There are totally good deeds that are selfless.
Joey: Well, may I ask for one example?
Phoebe: Yeah, it's… Y'know there's—no you may not!
Joey: That's because all people are selfish.
Phoebe: Are you calling me selfish?!
Joey: …. Yeah, well sorry to burst that bubble, Pheebs, but selfless good deeds don't exist. Okay? …
Phoebe: I'm gonna find a selfless good dead. I'm gonna beat you, you evil genius.

I had to smile during that exchange because Freud first indicated the self-centeredness of all people in his theory of Id, Ego and Superego. This episode calls that out to let people examine the ways in which selfishness exists even when the intent is selfless. Phoebe promises to find a way to prove Joey wrong and in her attempt she fails:

Phoebe: I cannot believe I can't find a selfless good deed! Y'know that old guy that lives next to me? Well, I snuck over there and-and raked up all the leaves on his front stoop. But he caught me and force-fed me cider and cookies. Then I felt wonderful. That old jackass!
Rachel: Maybe Joey's right. Maybe all good deeds are selfish.
Phoebe: I will find a selfless good deed! 'Cause I just gave birth to three children and I will not let them be raised in a world where Joey is right!

We tend to do nice things for others not so much for how it makes that person feel; but how it makes us feel. The more positive the impact, the more likely we are to do good deeds for others.  Phoebe later tries again and gives Joey a status update thinking if she did something which made her feel bad for the good of another then it would be selfless:

[Scene: The Telethon, Joey's phone rings and he answers it.]

Joey: (in a bored voice) PBS telethon.
Phoebe: (on phone from Central Perk) Hey Joey, I just wanted to let you know that I found a selfless good deed. I just went down to the park and I let a bee sting me.
Joey: What?! What good is that gonna do anybody?
Phoebe: Well, it helps the bee look tough in front of his bee friends. The bee is happy and I am definitely not.
Joey: Now, y'know the bee probably died after he stung ya.
Phoebe: (Thinks for a moment.) Aw, dammit! (Slams the phone down.)

This attempt shows how little thought into the result of the deed can actually do more harm than good. In this case, no one benefited. Sometimes we need to think through our actions to see if we may be doing a disservice. Know the person for which you are helping and think through if you are really 'helping' them. Giving food to a food bank may seem like helping, but giving money is more helpful. In the short term the food bank throws out most of the donated food items due to expiration and would rather have cash so they can stock shelves intelligently.

Phoebe tries one more time…

[Scene: The Telethon, Joey answers his ringing phone.]

Joey: (in an unenthusiastic voice) PBS Telethon.
Phoebe: (on phone) Hi Joey.
Joey: Hey Pheebs!
Phoebe: I would like to make a pledge. I would like to donate $200.
Joey: $200? Are you sure Pheebs? I mean, after what Sesame Street did to ya?
Phoebe: Oh, I'm still mad at them but I also now that they bring happiness to lots of kids who's moms didn't kill themselves, so by supporting them, I'm doing a good thing, but I'm not happy about it. So there, a selfless good deed.
Joey: And you don't feel a little good about donating the money?
Phoebe: No, it sucks. I was saving up to buy a hamster.
Joey: A hamster? What, those things are like 10 bucks.
Phoebe: Yeah, not the one I had my eye on.
Gary Collins: (on TV.) It looks like we have surpassed last year's pledge total! Thank you viewers! The pledge that did it was taken by one of our volunteers…(He walks over to where Joey is sitting.) Oh boy! And may I say one of our sharpest dressed volunteers, (Joey stands up.) Mr. Joseph Tribbiani!
Phoebe: Oh, look-look, Joey's on TV! Isn't that great? My pledge got Joey on TV! Oh that makes me feel—Oh no! (Realizes that her deed made her happy and therefore it's selfish and covers her mouth in horror.)

So the show stood by the statement that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. I tend to agree. But I also like feeling good. Where I see good deeds go wrong is when the deed do-gooder is showboating their action, whether in a post on their preferred social media account or recording it on YouTube. I admire those who keep their acts private and anonymous. No one needs to know but you. Not even the person/people you are helping.

My husband does not understand my sense of philanthropy and feels like the only charity that should be donated to is the family itself. I cannot live that way because I like to be happy. Which is selfish. I keep donating my time, money and goods to help because I like feeling good. I just don't tell everyone when I do it. I don't want to be punished, or judged and I certainly don't want pats on the back. I already did that when I did the deed.

Make sense?