ra-tion-al-ize

May 02, 2006

verb 1 attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if they are not true or appropriate.

In the movie The Big Chill Jeff Goldblum's character, Michael, gives the great line, "Rationalization is more important than sex. [...] Ever gone a week without a rationalization?" In the past few weeks I have been struggling with rationalizations I'm making now, particularly since they are juxtaposed against ones that Michele and I made just a year ago.

You see, while Michele's mom was declining in the winter and spring of 2005 we talked repeatedly about either her going to North Carolina, or the two of us going. Michele's mom had a difficult mental illness that made seeing her tough at best. She had grown increasingly paranoid and scattered in the final months of her life. Michele struggled mightily with the decision to go or not go. Our financial situation played into her thoughts as well, even though I assured her that money was not an issue when it came to seeing family.

For many reasons we decided not to go visit her mom. The morning that we got a call at 2 am telling us that she was in the hospital and wasn't expected to live, Michele was faced with the awful reality of her choice. After getting the money we needed from my parents, we made a mad 1500 mile dash through airports, and on planes in order to arrive at her bedside just an hour or two before she died. Michele never talked about any regrets resulting from not seeing her mom sooner, but I strongly suspect she felt them.

In the weeks since learning my mother's cancer was terminal I have made several trips to see her. Many of the geographic barriers that played into the decision not to visit my mother-in-law don't exist between where I live and my mom lives, and while I have some issues with my mom, they aren't as severe as the ones existing between Michele and her mom. Still I am feeling guilty about being able to see my mom more or less when I want, while (I think) Michele felt like she couldn't see her mom. Knowing that the relationship the two of them had was entirely theirs, and that it had existed long before I came on the scene, doesn't really let me off the hook. If Michele were here now, she'd encourage me to see my mom as much or as little as I wanted. She would go with me or not as I wanted. I know that I offered her the same conditions and support last year, and yet I can't help but feel badly.

I'm sorry Michele, that we lived so far from your mom, and that you weren't able to have more contact with her. Or perhaps contact with her without all the stress of travel and staying in strange places. If I in anyway prevented you from having access to your family I am very sorry. My hope is that I didn't interfere, that you were able to make the choices you did without interference from me.

One thing I did learn from her is how critically important it is to take care of one's self in all interactions, big and small. While no one is pressuring me, I have felt like I should return to Illinois every weekend to be with my parents. I have had to overcome this desire in order to take care of myself. Rationalizations about everything I do these days, seems to be the defining factor of my life. I know rationalizations are always there, I'm just not used to them being so figure in my life.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.