Caregivers experience a tsunami of emotions. Positive, negative, neutral, unspeakable.
J Smiles tackles resentment. She uses very specific examples of pain and purpose to expose her journey of uncovering this tricky emotion. A conversation with a member of Kevin Hart's team really drives home the point of how quickly J must pivot in day to day decisions.
She speaks truth to the loneliness of caregiving and offers respite in the concept of self-forgiveness. J Smiles uses her unique storytelling ability to give a few examples of fork-in-the-road moments where resentment loomed... concerned, uncertain, choices had to be made.
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Zetty and I were on vacation, her Alzheimer's was moderate, her incontinence was minimal. She could still tell me that she had to go to the bathroom. She often got the urge and would walk herself to the bathroom, could clean herself. It was sunny, actually, we were at the beach. My mom cannot swim, but she loves looking at the ocean and hearing the waves crash. I get a call from an unknown number. It's a new york new jersey type cell phone. I send it to voicemail. He calls back. I sent it to voicemail, because I'm thinking just like those New Yorkers. Man, this is crazy. I don't have a bill in New York. I don't have a credit card out in New York. What is this? They don't leave a voicemail. They don't send a text. They keep calling. I answer, there's a guy on the other end and he says is this J Smiles? I say Yeah, it is. He says I'm with Kevin Hart. First of all, I'm about to hang up the phone. At this time. I've probably been in comedy about 18 months. Dude says he's with Kevin Hart and there's a partnership coming between Kevin Hart Comedy Central and they're looking for new talent. They were searching around in the south east and my name came up and they got my number. They need to know if I'm available to do a tryout the very next day for Kevin Hart Comedy Central and a possible tour. What? I with my mom, we're on vacation. How do I make this work? Parenting Up-caregiving adventures with comedian J Smiles is the intense journey of unexpectedly being fully responsible for the well being of my mom. for almost a decade. I've been chipping away at the unknown, advocating for her, and pushing Alzheimer's awareness on anyone and anything with the heartbeat. Spoiler alert- I started comedy because this stuff is so heavy, be ready for the jokes.Caregiver newbies, OGs, village members trying to just prop up a caregiver you are in the right place.Zetty:
This is Zetty. I hope you enjoy my daughter's podcast. Is that okay?J Smiles:
Today's episode, resentment happens. First of all, let me be honest, I had to put the man on mute and scream out loud and jump up and down. When I realized this wasn't a prank call. Me, J Smiles ain't been in the game two years and somebody somewhere in stand up comedy land has given my name and my cell phone number to a person attached to Kevin Hart and Comedy Central when they're looking for up and coments. Without me submitting any video any clips., the Kevin Hart team has decided that I'm worthy of a tryout the very next day for Comedy Central and Kevin Hart. y'all gotta understand, like for a second, I'm like, I'm over the moon just flattered with the ask. Then reality sets in, I tell him, Sir, I am currently not at home. May I take a moment call you back in about 30 minutes, he says yes. I tried to get myself together to call him back. What are the options? He says one option, one shot. He said we want you in Atlanta and it's one tryout time. I was like, Wow, man, I was like, well, I'm out of town. He said, When do you think you can get here? Y'all, so this becomes the tricky part. I could just jump on a plane and grab my things, Zetty can't move that quickly, disrupting my mother shuffling her around that quickly can cause an unraveling of her system. She needs a day of preparation to say we're leaving tomorrow. So we have to pack, get her things settled, she needs to go to bed much earlier. We have to schedule when the taxi or the car is going to pick us up. We have to have a flight, that's non stop. I don't even know what type of flight I could get to get to Atlanta. I don't know what class of service it will be. I will admit when I'm flying my mom, she only flew first class. I would fly on the wings to get back to be with Kevin Hart. That was a huge decision I had to make, so I'm talking to the guy and I'm saying could I tryout for another city? He said no, we're really trying to have this localize regionally and we want to have individuals try out in the areas where they live. I'm from the southeast they wanted me to try out in the southeast Atlanta is by far the largest city in the southeast, I said, I get it. So I had to make a decision. I was either going to give my mom the shake and bake, or potentially disrupt her for this opportunity or I could give it a shot, right? This is what I was thinking, I was like, well, I could figure out how to get my mom settled in, maybe I just fly to Atlanta and try to fly back to where we were on vacation. But here's the problem with that, I asked the gentleman what happens if I'm selected? He said, Well, if you're selected, if Kevin really likes you, and or if Comedy Central really likes you, I can't really tell you J Smiles where other opportunities might open up, what other performances they may request of you live or recorded, but it would likely be outside of Atlanta. I said would it likely require travel and would it be more than two or three days at a time? He said almost certainly, it would likely be a week or two at a time. Y'all. I knew right then it was better if I not even try out because if I try out and actually get the gig, then I'm forced with the decision do I go on the road and leave Zetty? At a time when my caregiving squad, my caregiving team was not that robust, I was a very intricate member of the team. I had night shifts every week, I did not have a system that would allow me to travel for weeks at a time. I didn't see that coming. I had just been doing open mics and being a feature for a few comics around the southeast. I didn't know my name had gotten out like that. I didn't have a plan in place on how to care for my mom. It was a hard call to make. Resentment can creep in with caregivers from a lot of different angles. Most of the time, experts say that it comes when you're a caregiver out of obligation. I'm very fortunate and I'm quite grateful that I don't have that sentiment. I'm not a caregiver out of obligation, but many people are. Some of my closest friends, some of my family members have chosen to be caregivers in scenarios where it really was out of obligation. They felt a loyalty or responsibility even though they didn't really want to do it. Maybe the loved one that they were caring for really didn't treat them well growing up, you know, maybe it was a relationship had a lot of bad blood in it or a lot of unresolved issues. Either way, they decided to be a caregiver and it was tough. And so in moments of heated sacrifice, resentment can build up and you need to be honest with yourself as a caregiver when that's happening.Unknown:
It's okay when it's happening. There are lots of resources, familydoctor.org, crossroadshospice.com are two of the things on the internet that I've come across quite a few times that discuss the emotions that a caregiver can have. Resentment comes up in caregiving as a feeling of unfairness or irritation, you're reluctant caregiver, maybe you're wondering why it all fell on you, perhaps your caregiving for a parent, but you have siblings and are like where the hell are they, they're not chipping in to help with pop pop. And this real if over your lifetime, there has been resentment for the person you're now caring for that can turn into elder abuse. We have seen movies about it episodes in television series, even sitcoms, it kind of comes from payback. All of that is unhealthy. If you see yourself in that position or if you feel that coming out, I encourage you to get counseling or some form of psychological therapy to help you and the person you're caring for not have to bear such a negative burden. Resentment feels hot and heavy, when you're thrust into a situation not of your choosing. You didn't ask for it. You didn't do nothing to get it, it gets dumped into your lap. Caregiver.org says it is very common for resentment and a bit of frustration to emerge because you're like what the hell, you are physically tired, you're emotionally depleted, and you feel like you got hit by a Mack truck, blindsided. Often with notions of being unappreciated and unacknowledged for how fast you jumped in the gap, to take care of this loved one, this family member when nobody else would, or nobody else could you're carrying the burden, you're shouldering more of the responsibilities. And those individuals aren't even calling you regularly to see if you're okay. They're not sending you a fruit basket, or a card, a box of chocolates, it can get tight and heavy very fast. Not to mention, if you have the sensation, or the scenario where you are doing it all by yourself, that is a guaranteed recipe for a high level of resentmen, quick, fast and in a hurry. You can resent everybody, resent the whole world, you resent their son for coming up, you resent the postman for bringing the mail, you resent the boss, you resent your spouse, the siblings that don't come around the loved one who has dementia, you resent yourself for choosing to become the caregiver, it's a mess. A way to combat resentment is to get help. Sometimes the help is psychological. It might be your pastor, it might be meditation, it might be working out, for some people exercising reduces distress, and it can change the psychological way you view things. For other people, it might be that you hire caregivers, it might be that you hold a family meeting and you give them 18 12,000 pieces of your mind on how you feel about their lack of participation. Now, when you give them these pieces of your mind, be prepared that they might not change their behavior, but potentially you just feel better that you have let them know how badly they've dropped the ball on what you expected and then let it go like that. I had to have a conversation like that, it was tough, it was hard, it lasted for a bunch of hours. There were tears, there was screaming, some people left the room, some folks walked out the house, got in a car and left. Either way, it was better that I had the conversation, or shall I say it was better that I called a family meeting, then for me to have acted as if I didn't have that burning hot poker in my belly. Because to be around those individuals for birthdays or funerals or holidays was becoming too much to bear. It's better out than in, like a bad burp.J Smiles:
Episode 13 was about getting your caregiving crew. It might not be your family members, it might not be your best friends, but who is it that supports you as a caregiver? Lean on those people, especially during those high moments of resentment, where you know you are on the edge and you are about to quit everything and everybody. And quit looks different for all of us. If quitting ever looks like physical harm to you, or to your loved one that you're caring for, please immediately dial 911 or your doctor or remove yourself from the home and have someone else come in and care for them. You don't want it to get so ugly that you can't reverse an action. Those feelings are real easy to slip into. A person with dementia might not even know what planet they are on, what year it is, what day it is. They don't even know the caregivers name, so it's understandable if the caregiver is like, what the hell am I? Why am I sacrificing this much of my life? What about me? What about my career? What about my love life? I ain't hada date in six months or six years, I ain't had nobody to hold my hand and squeeze my hips tight and my loved one don't even know my name. They don't even know if they just ate chicken or a popsicle. Is it worth it? Is what I'm doing really worth? Does it matter? That's an answer each individual caregiver has to make in the moment. Usually, we come back to it does matter, but we all have those moments. I know I have those moments where I wonder, does it matter, does it matter that JG is the person that's here? Yes, it matters that somebody is taken care of Zetty, of course it does. It matters that she is fed and cleaned and cared for, and that she has shelter and water. But a, on a rough day why I haven't had anything to eat, or haven't had any sleepa nd I'm scratching my head wondering how my life ended up here, yeah, yeah, yeah, I look around and say now, how much does it matter, that I'm her caregiver, versus another warm and friendly human being? Ultimately, I don't stay there long, but it comes across my mind. Let me be very clear, I'm grateful because I'm choosing to be my mom's caregiver out of love. Our relationship has never been strained, that's just not my story. My mother never abused me. She never subjected me to abuse by another. She never attempted to live vicariously through me. So when Zetty got Alzheimer's, the resentment that came, was towards the disease. I actually never even resented God. To be quite honest, I was too wrapped up in the commotion of my life. In episodes, one, two, and three, I describe that my father dropped dead of a massive heart attack and then, in less than a calendar year, my mother was diagnosed with two forms of dementia. Quite honestly, I ain't time to question God, if I start to question God, and why, and how come me and why my daddy and why my mama, it, nothing would have happened. And by that time, I was closer, Iwas in my 40s and I'd recognize that in life, why does anything happen? Why does anybody get cancer? Why does anybody have a heart attack? Why does anybody get Alzheimer's? Why do we ever have war? Why is anybody born blind? Why does any child get run over by a car, and if I go down that rabbit hole, I would be useless to mankind in about six days. It's called ruminating. a therapist taught me that about six years ago, I was very good for ruminating before. I don't do it anymore because it can take you to places that end up making your mind unhealthy. The same way you can drink too much vodka and end up making your liver fail. You can ruminate and end up making your mind unhealthy and slip into schizophrenia or something like that. A few years after the Kevin Hart, opportunity, another awesome one came along the Rickey smiley show on dish nation. This time, they thought I would be a perfect fit because I'm Southern,I'm a comedian, I'm a delta. Ricky is Southern, a comedian. He's an omega. We both from Alabama. We both went to HBCUs. A personality was leaving, and they wanted to plug in a fresh new face and voice. It was thought that I would be a perfect fit. Guess what y'all it's in Atlanta, which was great, but it was every day, Monday through Friday, every single day. The commitment was for every day, every evening. I'll be honest, I was afraid to commit, so I didn't do it. It's tough, very tough. Comedy matters to me. Speaking humor into hard everyday issues, lights a fire in my belly, a very positive one, and I enjoy it a great deal, but my mom comes first, her caregiving needs come first. What I do not want to do is create a conflict in scheduling for a show or a set of performances that I'm not in control of, that I need to ultimately cancel or postpone for my mom's health needs and then my reputation ends up being Lauryn Hill. They what I'm saying? I'm not trying. Just threw Lauryn under the bus. Well, first of all, Lauryn put herself under the bus. Y'all know what I mean? It's tricky. It's hard because Kevin Hart and Ricky, do you know? Anyway, entrepreneurship and product design invention mean a ton to me as well. The number of fruitful, promising ventures that have come my way, food trucks, products for teenagers, technology stem things for young African American women, that touches me a great deal. I've passed on them because of the timing, potential sinkhole, like and get out is to be the sunken place. I like well, my fear would be over committing and then there's a project or a partner, an entity, an institution, a group of kids, a corporation, an icon, a celebrity, or someone just a person that I've given my word to when I signed the contract, or we just winked over a zoom conference. I said, I'm gonna be there, or I'm going to do it and then I can't because if my mama's caregivers don't show up or cannot come, or if my mom gets sick, and she needs me, oh, baby, it's a rap. Hide your husband, hide your kids, unplug all the lights, J Smiles Corporation, just got shut down and I know that. So that's where my resentment bubbles up. It's not towards my mom. It's towards our situation. It's having to repeatedly swallow, cover up, hide, put on the back burner dreams or opportunities, things that mean a lot to me. I'm not even talking about love. Y'all hadn't heard me mentioned nothing about no date, that's another whole episode. I'm speaking very specifically on a handful of robust, shiny, crystal clear nuggets that were put in my hand. Creative opportunities, entrepreneurial ventures, that were right up my alley that also had immediate conflicts with my mom's care needs, so I said, No, I didn't even want to get to the calamity of events where J Smiles is supposed to perform somewhere or there's a production deadline for this new widget I'm creating and my mom's in the hospital or caregiver doesn't show and some people on my team say well, well, J Smiles what if that doesn't happen. When it comes to my mom, that's a risk. I'm unwilling to take with my own life, ahh I'm a much more of a risky optimist when it comes to Zetty, not so much. I'm trying to get there a little bit. I'm playing with her life, her well being and then my professional reputation because I can't get that back. If I tell Kevin Hart in comedy central that I'm going to be there, how do I explain to them, okay, my mom has caregivers and none of them showed up or my mom's in the hospital now. I don't have enough cache and star power to pull that off. They may say Yeah, yes, J Smiles we understand you gotta do what you got to do, but then they ain't gonna call me no more. Now the flip side to that is well J Smles they hadnt called you no more anyway, but at least right now, they don't have a bad taste in their mouth, about me letting them down or breaking a promise. That's the story, I'm telling myself. That is the way I balanced this stuff out. I'm not even saying I'm right. I'm just sharing with you, the way I've managed it. That's the promise I made at the top of this podcast, to be honest and be transparent. Those are the things that I've struggled with, struggled mightily is like how much am I supposed to give up? I'm not doing the engineering. I'm not doing the law. I'm not doing the design. I slide into comedy as a way to let a little heat out of my brain while I'm a caregiver. It ends up going very well, I love it. I'm getting positive feedback. Real players in the game want to put me on and then I can't. I was like universe that's a sick trick is I was like why did you let me be good. Why did you let J Smiles kind of have a little shine like just let that hefer bomb. You know what I mean, just let her bomb, don't let her be on the Tom Joyner cruise and like, kill it. You know what I mean? Don't let Kevin Hart call if she can't really, anyway, whatever. I'm sharing those things that make me scratch my head and my butt and my kneecaps at the same time wondering what the end game in this, I already got to tell you I don't know. What I do know is that I love Zetty, she did not knowingly do anything to give herself the disease. She didn't live a lifestyle where they said hey, you know, if you keep doing that to go get Alzheimer's, so it's not I told you so you got to take care yourself or live in a closet because you did it to yourself. I mean, I don't even I'm not saying that would have been my angle, but I don't even have that, so that's one thing. Zetty and JG always had a great relationship. Thicker than thieves, we ain't never tell on each other. We would absolutely gone to jail for each other and that's also the way I'm wired. Because let me drop this on y'all, Zetty's parents, her mom and her dad, each ultimately had degenerative fatal diseases. Her mom had emphysema and lung cancer and her dad had Alzheimer's and some other ailments. Zetty did not quit her job and become their full time caregiver, so what I'm doing my mama didn't do for her parents now run tell that, I'm just wired like this. I don't know why. My mother loved her parents a ton. She respected them. But my mom was not as good are friends with her parents as I am with her. You know, they weren't as gushy gushy close. They didn't hang out. They didn't travel together. They did keep caulk, that kind of thing. My mom visited her parents all the time. Whenever they were sick, whatever they needed, she made sure they had it. She took her shifts caring for them because she had siblings, my mom pitched in with a whole lot of the money when it came to their care needs, whatever equipment they needed, or whatever caregivers they needed. My mom was Johnny on the spot to cut that check, but my mom did not live her life upside down to become her parents full time caregiver. I would also say this, her parents were much older when they started to decline. They were both retired, they had already slowed down their life. My mom was married and she had me and the way my mom is wired, she needed to keep her family afloat, her husband and JG, so it's a different set of circumstances. I'm single no kids is definitely not apples to apples. But when you boil it down, what I'm saying is Zetty ain't even do what I'm doing. She did not do what I'm doing right now. And that crosses my mind sometimes. Well shit, hell, she ain't even do what I'm doing. The hell am I doing? That didn't last long either cuz what I'm doing right now, nobody asked me to do my mama Zetty never even asked me to shut your whole life down and be my caregiver. What she told me to do was to keep her with me, you know, let's guess where I was living she wanted to be with me. She did not want to be in a facility she was like this is if we live in if you live in, if we gotta live in a closet, just we just go build a closet together. And I admit, that's a far cry from the choices I've made. These are my choices. That's another reason why I'm like, who am I gonna resent me resent me for the choices I made. But this is the way I'm wired, this is how I know how to care. I love long and hard, which is why I do my best not to really love too many people. Because my love is deep like the ocean floor baby. Ain't nobody ever got to the full all the way bottom, but a handful, just a few, just a very few and I even told all of them that they got there because I don't want to take advantage of me. Resentment is tricky, t's a tricky emotion that has a multitude of faces. The sources switch up. Sometimes the resentment is towards myself. Sometimes the resentment is toward the disease. Sometimes the resentment is toward other people who aren't chipping in enough, but ultimately, it that part doesn't last long. And the reason it doesn't is because I say what good is it? What good is the resentment going to do? It ain't gonna change nothing, it's not going to change the facts of my life. These are my circumstances. I love my mama. I am going to be her primary caregiver, that's a choice I've made, it's my preference. Let's do it. Get on in there. Let's figure it out. And I honestly believe the way this podcast has come into being the way J Smiles the comedian has come into being the continuation of my purpose will unfold as it should, in due time. My soul is my leader, because my soul is attached to that higher being that intangible spirit that connects all living things in the universe. And I'm just fine with that. Because whatever that thing is, told me to start this podcast, told me to be a comedian, told me to take care of my mama, told me do this episode on resentment. We gone be aight. The snuggle up- number one moments of resentment are common, to be expected. Be careful of the buildup, that's what can lead to chaos and calamity. Number two, be intentional with your schedule over committing is lethal for caregivers. Number three, identify the most consistent source of your resentment, put effort into unpacking that baggage. Number four, join me every Monday night for a live caregiving conversation on getvokal.com 9pm eastern standard time in the United States. and sign up for parenting up podcast email list. Let's keep this conversation going. All the details for both are in the show notes. That's it for now. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe for continuous caregiving tips tricks, trends, and truth. Pretty Pretty please with sugar on top share and review it too. I'm a comedian. Alzheimer's is heavy, but we ain't got to be