Lesson #3: Leave Your Ego at the Door

I woke up wanting to protect my parents from me. Bullish, angry bossy me, ready to rant and rave at a moment’s notice, poised to take on the world and be their caregiving hero, no matter what it takes to make it work. Yelling at doctors, slamming the phone down on telemarketers, telling door-to-door salespeople that they shouldn’t be badgering my parents… all with good intentions, of course! Protecting them from the outside world, or so I thought.

But it’s much more selfish than that. My ego precedes me and often usurps me. Yesterday I found myself preaching to my father while making him lunch. Yakking on and on about how women are still fighting for equality, how the feminist movement has been thwarted by his generation’s patriarchal attitudes and how.. ohmigosh…is it even important that my 90-year old Dad agrees with me, and seriously… who cares?

I also realized that I’ve been pushing my mother to discard most of everything she has collected over the years, by pointing to the heedlessness of our materialistic culture. She wants to reorganize the garage and its prerequisite boxes and bags, and I keep shaking my head. We don’t need this stuff anymore! Or any stuff… give it away, give it up! And then seeing that bewildered look on her face, because these are treasures that took her a lifetime to amass, with small frugal purchases made when the family budget permitted. Oh my, how the learning hurts.

As one of five children, and like most children from a large family, I have been vying for my parents’ attention since birth, trying to impress them and make them proud of me. It’s a lifetime habit that I have to shake off, a distant echo that should be ignored. And my loud ego, considerably developed in the corporate world where it helped me get noticed and get ahead, is nothing to be proud of in the caregiving role… in fact, it’s more destructive than I could have imagined.

It’s all so incredibly irrelevant now.

“No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?”
– Lee Iococca


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