Last Wednesday as I was soaking in the hot tub on the terrace under a starlit night I heard loud screaming, now we live in the middle of nowhere and there are only a handful of year-long residents in our street. The rest of the owners use their house as a vacation home and they are empty at least nine to ten months of the year. It is one of the reasons I love living here because you have mountainous views and a staircase to the sea at the end of our street. With everyone more or less gone, it meant that the screaming was in my house. At first, I thought it was a victory roar of my son playing video games, but then I heard him yell at me to come quickly because my mother had fallen. She had tried to chase the cat out of her room when she tripped and fell on the marble floor.
We have a monitored alarm system with a nifty SOS button that puts you directly through to an English Speaking security team that has your address and sends an ambulance or police immediately in case of emergencies. Because my mother is elderly and because yo habla solo un poco Espanol and we live in Spain, I had it installed when we moved in here so that we would have speedy assistance for her in the case of an emergency. You do not want to be on a call with 112 (911) and have the operator not understand your gringa accent or have to do the conversation in Spanglish and not be sure if the other person actually got the address right. Even when I speak Spanish I often have to repeat it in English because they expect me to be a foreigner. I don’t know how many times I have asked for miel (honey) and someone thinks I am asking for milk and I swear I pronounce it correctly.
One look at my mother though, was enough for me to know that we needed to go to the hospital and as usual she was screaming at me ‘Noooooo! I am fine. I don’t want to go.’ The last time she had scolded me for calling an ambulance immediately she had broken her pelvic ring and couldn’t walk so I ignored her and pressed the SOS button for the first time in almost two years, not quite sure actually if it would work. Within seconds a female voice asked me from a speaker in our living room to identify myself, we have code words for everything including a codeword that tells them I am in direct danger and cannot say what is wrong.
The security team operator asked me some questions and then called an ambulance which took forever to arrive because we live in the middle of nowhere and the nearest hospital is at least a 40-minute drive away from us. Long story short, my mother broke her right upper arm and was kept in the hospital for a couple of days until she was able to get off of the IV painkillers and use tablets. Because she doesn’t want to be operated and the success rate of the bone healing is about equal at her age doing it the old fashioned way, the traumatologist chose to do it the old fashioned way through a cast and immobilization.
My mom and I have been living together off and on since 2006, we have been full-time living together since we started traveling in 2018, and leading up to that she was with us a lot anyway. I owe a lot of my success to my mom because she has over the years done all the daily housework except for the weekly cleaning that I always outsource no matter where we are because otherwise my mother would do it herself and it’s too much for her. I have not needed to do the laundry since 2016 maybe and I hadn’t cooked until recently since 2018. I earn the money, I pay the bills, I do the groceries and I drive everyone around and do all the financial, legal, health, and other stuff and that’s it. Even though we are mother and daughter, she did the more traditionally considered feminine tasks, and I the considered masculine tasks which has allowed me to build a very successful business that supports us all. A business that allowed us to travel the world for two years as digital nomads and that made it possible to move to this paradise island.
With her dominant arm broken she wasn’t able to do anything anymore and initially, we had to even feed her. Her left arm was massively bruised and hurt even more than the right one with the fracture. From one day to the next, I had my own work, her work, and the work of taking care of her. I immediately decided to increase the hours of the cleaning lady, but still, there was a lot of work left for me and my son to pick up now. By the weekend, my dining room table had a mountain of laundry on it, and no matter how hard I tried every time I wanted to tackle it something else came up and it wasn’t until Sunday evening that I had time to fold it away. Until the weekend I had daily runs to the hospital that chopped off more than three hours a day. I had work appointments that had already been scheduled and then Saturday, an unexpected hospital dismission that cut right through my plans to get things done because now I had to go get my mom and arrange everything for her to be cared for at home – two-thirds of my Saturday gone.
Now like I said this has happened before and seems to have like a seven-year cycle. First in 2007, then around 2014/2015, and now in 2022. The 2014/2015 one wasn’t that taxing for me because she was recovering in an elderly home and my daughter had still been living at home together with my youngest son, together we had a routine that worked. But I had to think back to 2007, I had just lost my baby daughter 13 days after her birth due to a rare birth defect. Four weeks later I caught my then-husband with another woman for the second time. He had cheated on me with her during both my pregnancies and I immediately filed for divorce. Six weeks after my daughter died, my mother gets stuck in the tram rails with the bike driving my children to school. She falls with my three-year-old son off the bike, my son is fine but she broke her collar bone.
We were living in a two-bedroom apartment because I had left my own three-story house in Germany to try and get my oldest son’s life back on track by moving back to the Netherlands. I was still having post-partum bleeding, grieving the loss of my daughter, licking my wounds from the betrayal by her father, fighting to keep standing because I was the only one that my kids could count on to get us through this difficult time and now I had to nurse my mother, do the household chores, cook and get on the bike two times a day to bike my three and eight year old to their private school thirty minutes across town in busy Amsterdam. Somehow I made it and I managed to get past the 10-year waiting list and find a bigger home for my mother and then for myself and my children after cutting through some red tape.
What I realized now looking back to that time and what was going on in my life, is that I had completely shut out any feelings of overwhelm, any feelings of helplessness or hopelesness. I was so focused on surviving my Kafkaesque circumstances at that time, that I did not allow my feelings or emotions to get in the way. I was the steady rock that my family needed to be. After three children, I had been slim weighing 55kg and wearing a European size 34/36. After that, I started gaining the weight that I am still carrying today.
The day my mother fell I had a session with a healer where all of these memories came up and we worked on the subconscious mechanism that felt it needed the excess weight to survive. In that session, this mechanism was transformed into a new program that would support me. That night my mother fell and I was hurled back into similar circumstances as back then, without all the background drama, and this time I could allow myself to feel all the emotions that I had not allowed myself to feel back then.
In a way, my weight became a representative of the emotions I had not allowed to stand in my way. My body started to stand in the way, in the way I had refused to allow my emotions to get in the way of survival in 2007. Because that’s the problem with anything we try to repress, it doesn’t actually disappear it patiently waits until you are in a place to allow it in.