Living with a cancer afflicted parent — A Series — Part 27

Handling emotional pressure

Image credit — Google Images

“Since you and your mother both are here, I think it’s better to discuss your marriage plans,” said Dad last evening, just as I was seating myself comfortably in their blanket. I froze, sealed my lips, and wanted to flee the room as fast as I could. Instead, I chose to sit and hear him out. “You know my health is not the best, and you’ve completed your Master’s, are of right age to marry, and we might have a good proposal for you.” Mum avoided looking at me, and simply said that the prospective guy is from a well-educated family. Dad continued, “We need an answer from you. What is it that you want? Getting a good home, would be ideal now. We’ll be happy too.”

“I want to join work in the new year. I have an offer, and the organisation’s been kind to extend my joining date. I like the work, and marriage is something that does not work well with my career plan right now,” I said.

What followed was something that I had been dreading for too long now. A helpless sigh, a worried argument, an emotional plea, an angry remark, a guilt ridden reasoning, a glaring biological clock ticking reminder, an invisible societal pressure, an open-ended psychological analysis, all of these together took the shape of a miserable difficult night.

A fuzzy evening with warm tea and buttered rusk on the side, turned into an isolated quiet one. My choice of living life my way, turned an opportunity to end another day on a happy note, into a disaster.

In times like these, your mental capacity to think of positive mood swingers goes for a toss. You do not feel cheerful, in fact, you feel empty. The emotional element in such conversations, saps you of all vitality. A certain degree of emotions is what humans are prone to adjust to, but emotional outbursts shake your inner self, questioning the very characteristics of your being.

And suddenly, when you think nothing can get worse for the night, you see your Dad sighing, taking his cough syrup, walking weakly back to his bedroom, and bundle up like a baby in his blanket. That sight of looking at your father in his weakest state, breaks you. It breaks you down so much, that you simply cannot think coherently anymore. All you want to do, is sit next to him and help him sleep.

There is guilt because you can see anguish in the parents’ eyes. But then there is you, your life, whom you’ll have to be answerable at every step. And it is impossible to come to a solution to such situations in one night.

So, what is it that I could’ve done to salvage the evening? To make it less morose? To flip it positive? The answer is, nothing. Nothing that I could’ve said in that moment would’ve helped the situation. So the best way, was to stay quiet, refrain from making any argument, patiently listen to them, and do nothing to arouse their current feelings.

It is not a long term solution, but it helps calm the situation down. When there is no argument but silence as rebuttal, it stagnates the discussion. And in high seas’ situation where emotions are at their peak, silence works.

After a few hours, you check on the situation again by striking a completely different conversation, and if you receive answers, you know the silence worked. Often, a long winter night does that work, bringing in a fresh morning. The moods are better and breakfast is warm. So you compensate the evening tea with morning’s coffee.

Emotional conversations have a nature of going down a very slippery slope. One negative answer can wreck the potential of any resolution. Especially when stated in the same tone and time. But avoiding them, only worsens them.

As much as Dad needs positivity in his life, he also needs a timeout. And if by maintaining my calm, it helps in de-escalating the evening, that’s the least I can do. Of course, his worries still stay, but he doesn’t feel pressured by them in that given moment.

I think that’s the positive thought I clung on last night.


Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on http://mariyamrazahaider.com.

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

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