I’ve recently felt compelled to write a Living Will – a document stating what to do if my body is still going but my mind has left the building. It was a rather morbid process, not only due to the nature of the document, but because of why I felt I needed it. Its main purpose is to prevent my only living relative from being able to make any decisions on my behalf.
There is a reason for this, beyond my customary orneriness. I have known the lady in question all my life. In any situation when what she wants or likes conflicts with other people’s opinion, her default position is that they are obviously wrong, and she is obviously right. The fact that they disagree with her proves that they are stupid, ignorant, or not of a sound mind. If they were thinking clearly, they would agree with her. To ignore their expressed wishes is therefore the only responsible and caring course of action. In time, they will hopefully come to see the light and thank her. If they don’t, well, the only way to help some people is to save them from themselves.
The very nature of this attitude makes it completely self-supporting. It cannot be argued against: any remonstration, however valid in the eye of the affected party, only serves to prove how wrong they are. In fact, the more you remonstrate, the more confused you must be and the less valid your opinion is. It’s like wrestling with treacle.
Having finally come to terms with this, I drafted the Living Will to protect myself. I know that our views on palliative care are wildly different. I know that she considers my views to be dead wrong. I know that I can’t rely on her to respect my wishes – if she consistently ignores them when I am in a position to express them, it seems pretty unreasonable to expect her to respect them if I’m in a ruddy coma. I also know that if the contents of the document ever came to light, I would be considered a complete asshole by most people. The woman cares for me, and I repay her by putting my “lack of trust” in writing for all to see.
It’s funny how our culture has come to treat trust. It’s often sold as something we ought to give to others “just because”. Not trusting somebody is seen as iniquitous. Are you prejudiced? Are you judgemental? Ok, so maybe they’ve fucked up in the past, but it’s unfair to judge them based on that. And if you don’t trust someone and they let you down, well, that’s all on you: your lack of trust made them misbehave.
I disagree with this view of trust. In a way, I absolutely trust my relative: I trust her to behave in a way consistent with the way she has always behaved. To expect her to suddenly change her behaviour would seem less like “trust”, and more like “wishful thinking” or “feeding myself through a meat grinder”. And, sorry, but I don’t want to do that.