I experience a high level of anxiety much of the time. This just started again about 10 years ago. I say again, cuz I had it in spades when I was a kid. All anxiety, all the time. I’ve been thinking lately about the common denominator between then and now. Let’s see, what do those two times have in common? Ah, living with my mother, feeling trapped much of the time, and being anxious to get to something/somewhere else.
Hmmm…then and now.
If you had asked me when I was starting college and tasting freedom for the first time if I would ever make a choice to be in this situation now and I would have laughed in your face. Are you kidding?! NO WAY!
Yeah, so here I am, 42 years later and it turns out there was a way. So now go back 10 years when my dad got really bad and everyday was a struggle, and then 9 years ago, after he had died, and it became apparent to me that my mother could not live alone. I thought I was agreeing to live with her a couple of years. She had been ill all of her life, I figured she would follow my dad fairly soon.
Now, 9 years and counting, and I’m still here cuz she’s still here. Thriving, in fact. In much better shape mentally, emotionally and physically than she was when I moved in 2012. Her doctor compliments me for taking such good care of her. How’s that for irony?
The difference between then and now, is the ways in which life has shaped me, and the way I think about myself and my place in the world in those 42 years. Most importantly, I believe in karma, and I firmly believe that she and I are in a karmic dance of epic proportions. It was no mistake that she raised me, and it’s not a mistake that I can’t get away from her. 😄
Family caregiving is quite common in the world. This is, in fact, Family Caregiver Appreciation Month in the US. It’s so important they gave us our own month. Though, that’s about all they give us. 😉 It’s certainly not celebrated in our culture or valued. Whatever. I don’t worry much about what other people. I’m doing what I’m doing, and that’s what I focus on.
This Sunday will be the 9th anniversary of my father’s death, and Monday will be the anniversary of the day I moved in with my mom. What’s a journey it’s been. It has changed me, and it has changed her. Both for the better, I’m sure.
And yet, I wake up most days with a feeling of dread, and my dreams are anxiety-driven and wake me up in the night. If I’m so sure that I’m doing the right thing, and doing it well, what’s the anxiety about? I wish I knew. I think it might partly be that there’s no end in sight and I know I’m not done until the end. Freedom is really the only thing that’s been my driving force in this life, and that is not something I have – at all – now. That is hard, for sure.
So I can’t treat the cause, and I don’t want to take medication, so I have had to find other solutions. Exercise makes a HUGE difference. Not only does it feel like a good investment in my future – a time when I will be free again – and my health, but I sleep better and feel better when I get a bike ride in, or a walk, or when I get a strength training session in before work. I have limited sugar and alcohol in the last year, and I find that makes a big difference, too.
Also, I just realized recently that routine – previously my arch enemy – helps. I loved working from home during the pandemic and I was pretty bummed to have to go back to the office a few months ago. At some point, though, I realized that I like the routine of 3 days in the office and 2 at home now. The days I go to the office feel more normal than being at home, as that’s what my life was mostly prior to 2020, and the days I’m home are a little break, which is nice. Who knew? I was surprised, I’ll tell you.
I find though, that the more time I spend away from home, away from my mother, the calmer I am. I’m lucky I can be away from her now, as that probably won’t be forever in our dance together as she declines, but I’m grateful for that bit of normalcy again now. I used to journal and I used to meditate, but I’ve found that those things make me anxious now. I can’t explain why, but there it is. Whatever. I try not to beat myself over the head about what I should do. I gave that up a while ago. I’m doing what works. I’m getting through the days, and that’s what matters. I’m taking care of myself and my mom. It’s what I do.
Then and now.
PS – thanks for Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit (https://upwoods.wordpress.com/) for the insightful post that got me thinking about this yesterday. 😊