Signposts

Untitled(2)

Winston Churchill has been a hero of mine for quite a while. To me, he embodies the word “resilience,” and that’s something that has meant a lot to me over the years. My goal throughout all of my life, through some pretty rough stuff, has simply been to keep going. No matter what.

I didn’t want to. There have been plenty of times, deep in the cold morass of the blackest depression, especially, that I’ve thought of giving up. In the middle of bitter disappointment, abject failure, burning rejection, aching loss, I asked myself, “Why?”

Why keep going? What is this all for? What will change?

I didn’t give up, though, and it turns out the answer to all those questions is: ME.

Life hasn’t changed – it’s still hard, and will always be so, but I’ve changed. Turns out I’ve always been resilient, though I didn’t think of myself that way. When I look back at my life, though, I see it. I kept getting up. I took some pretty hard blows, but I got up every time and went on. Bruised and bleeding, for sure, but I got back on my feet and I went on. Every. Time. Sometimes I had help, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I was the one who had to find the strength to go forward and I did.

As I’ve gotten older I find that I get up faster and that I see those difficult times differently. That’s what’s changed. I see the benefit, the opportunity for growth, quicker than I used to, and while I probably still don’t welcome hardship, I am able to embrace it more fully and faster than I used to. For that I’m deeply grateful.

Last weekend brought me to my knees, literally and figuratively. It pressed all the buttons, hard. In thinking about it now, though, I realize a couple of important shifts.

First, I didn’t get angry. Amazing, cuz that’s my first reaction to most everything unpleasant, typically. I didn’t this time, though cuz I didn’t take it personally. I joked about being punished for taking time off, but it really was a joke, not something I truly believed. It was all just stuff that happened, and I got that right away.

Second, I didn’t make more of it than it was. I did what needed to be done, for myself and then later, for my mom, which is normal. I’ve always been good in a crisis. Afterward, though, I didn’t obsess about it for days and days, and that’s new. It was nasty, and not something I hope to go through again anytime soon, but it’s over. Life goes on.

Resilience.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never. We all have the capacity – that resilience. All creatures are resilient, but for humans it’s different, in that we have a choice. You have to make it over and over.

Everyone I know goes through really rough stuff, again andagain; really gnarly rotten stuff. We all have our own curriculum here in Earth school, so the obstacles are different for all of us, but there are always obstacles, no matter who you are, or how in control you think you are. There is no way to do it “right” so that everything goes well for you. There just isn’t. There’s no point to that. We don’t learn from easy.

We don’t get stronger. We don’t get better, unless we’re challenged. That’s another thing unique to humans. That’s just the way it is. Getting angry, or bitter, or blaming someone else, or numbing out in some way is not helpful. Those are not ways of going on; they are ways of getting stuck.

Stand up. Dig deep and find your own resilience. It’s in there. Shake off the past. It’s over. Look ahead. Check in with yourself right now. Figure out what you need to do to keep going and do that thing, whatever it is. Take care of yourself and soothe your wounds. Reach out if you need help.

Then go on. Take a step, and then another,  and before you know you’re on to the next thing. The other thing – the past – that’s a part of you now, part of your life resume. It’s not all of you, though. You got through that. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!

There will be more, and you’ll do that, too. Cuz you just keep going. That’s all there is. There is no other way. No matter what. Through all of it – the highest highs and the lowest lows – all that this amazing human life has to offer.

Never give in – never, never, never, never. Thank you Mr. Churchill, for showing me the way.

All by myself

Capture

A week ago I was just beginning a 4-day weekend and I was really looking forward to it!  I had taken Friday off, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that I hate Valentine’s Day, and Acme Health Services was closed on Monday, President’s Day in the US, so at this time last week I was reveling in the thought of 4 whole days unencumbered by plans of any kind. Yippee!

Thursday night I started to feel ucky, but I chalked it up to fatigue following 3 grueling weeks at work trying to finish a project, and went to bed early.

The first thing I did upon waking Friday morning was expel the entire contents of my digestive system in grand fashion in a matter of moments. It was intense. I was one sick puppy. I hardly ever get sick, but there was no denying that this was not a passing thing, no matter how much I wished for that to be true. I spent all of that day and most of Saturday in bed, not even considering getting up or ever putting anything solid in my mouth again.

By Sunday I was pretty good, though, so I kind of hung out around the house, reading mostly, and being careful about what I ate. I still had Monday, so though I was bummed about the weekend so far, I wasn’t devastated. I figured it wasn’t a total loss…yet.

The first thing mom said to me early Monday morning was, “I’m going to throw up.” So much for “the last day.” It was a long day, but she seemed pretty stabilized by the time I was ready to go to bed that night, so I went upstairs and slept until I heard a loud crash downstairs. I rushed down to find mom laying on the floor in the den, passed out cold. She had gotten up to go to the bathroom, got dizzy, and down she went.

She wasn’t able to walk very well when she came to, but working together we managed to get her back in bed, and settled in again, but leaving her to manage the bathroom on her own again was not an option, so I settled in on a chair nearby and dozed. I got a couple of hours sleep, but I was exhausted and I didn’t know how mom would be that next day, so I emailed my supervisor to let her know I wouldn’t be in to work on Tuesday.

Mom is nothing if not resilient, though, and throughout the next day she did very well, even ate a couple of tiny meals, and slept through the night (making it to the bathroom without incident every time) and I was able to return to work yesterday. Today she’s close to 100%. Very impressive for almost 88.

At any rate, I had a lot of downtime on Sunday and Monday and I was participating in an online summit for people who are (Myers-Briggs Type) INFJ and INFP, so I was able to catch up on a lot of the speakers I had missed over the week long event, and more importantly, I had time to process all of the information. As a result, I realized some important things about why I struggle so much in this situation with mom.

I tested as an INFJ about a year ago, and reading about the personality type helped me understand a lot of things about myself in a new light. That’s fodder for another post some time. What was important about this weekend was that in listening to some of the conversations with the speakers (who were all INF – introvert – types) I was given a nudge about something I hadn’t considered before, and that was my mother’s personality type and why our differences made it difficult for me on a day-to-day basis to live with her again.

I have said before that if you spent years going around the globe interviewing every single person on the planet, you would not be able to find two people more opposite in every way than me and my mother. People laugh when I say that, and that’s what I intend, but it’s really true. I’ve always understood that, but I didn’t really fully understand why, or in what specific ways we were so different.

Having said that, we have always connected very well in some ways, also, and that’s made it possible to continue our karmic dance together throughout my life, and especially now. What’s been difficult these past few years, I realized this weekend, is that I haven’t been able to do for myself the things I need to do to be sane and happy, because I’ve been trying to keep her happy, and in doing that, I lose out.

What makes her happy is interacting with people. She HATES to be alone. So, for the past couple of years, since she’s not able to leave the house, I’m her only source of interaction. I’m gone at work all day, so I try to limit the amount of time I’m away from home in the evenings or on weekends, and when I’m home, we’re together. ALWAYS.

On the weekends, I have a few hours in the morning alone before she gets up, but that’s it. Herein lies the crux of my problem, and this is what I realized this weekend in a way I hadn’t fully grasped before; at least what the consequences of that situation are:

I am hardly ever ALONE.

I only really value two things in life: solitude and freedom. True since I was a little tiny person. I was an only child, and I reveled in it. I was hardly ever lonely. I played up in my room, I read, I wrote stories, I sang. 50 years later it’s still true. I love to be alone. The things I like to do are solitary pursuits. I lived alone for 37+ years. I like to be with people, and sometimes I was lonely, but I had friends I did things with often enough. Even if I had to be alone and didn’t want to be, though, it was worth it. I always chose solitude over society, freedom over stasis.

ALWAYS. And I always will.

Now I have almost no solitude. I have swapped what I need to be whole and healthy for what my mother needs to be whole and healthy. I did it most of my young life and I’m doing it again now.  No wonder I’m utterly exhausted and feeling hopeless most of the time. The first 5 years I lived with mom she was more independent and so was I. It’s really only the last couple of years that this is an issue.

I don’t mind the care-giving role. That’s not it. I thought it was, but in really feeling about it, it’s not. I am a natural caregiver. I have filled that role in my family all my life and in reality I’m fine with it. I like to be of use. But the “no solitude” thing is another sack of cats, and I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. I don’t know if there is anything to be done. I think that train has left the station. Monday night made that pretty clear to me. It’s only going to get worse until she dies, and honestly, that could be years from now.

The most important thing I realized this weekend, though, was that this is my problem, not hers. It’s a choice I made at some point, and it’s not her fault that she’s wired differently than I am. It’s not her fault. She’s just living her life, taking care of herself in the best way she can. Asking for what she needs. It’s my choice to give that to her, and it’s not her fault, any more than it’s my fault that it’s hard for me. We just are who we are and who we are is not alike.

Okay, so now what?

Now I need to find a better way to make it alright for me. I have been trying to take care of myself – eating properly, exercise, meditation – but nothing seems like it’s enough. I keep stumbling, feeling like a failure, but now I know why, so I hope I’ll be able to walk a little straighter going forward. Now that I know exactly what the problem is, I can zero in on a solution, or at the very least accept that there is no solution, so I can stop feeling like I’m lacking all the time.

So the weekend was worthwhile, after all, though I would not have said that at any point before Wednesday. And honestly, I hope this weekend is better. Another “growth” weekend like the last one just might do me in!

 

Eat the Christmas Cookies

I’m tired.

Mentally, physically and emotionally. Exhausted. Spent. Bushed.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

2019 has been a crap year. For me, and for a lot of people I care about. I’m hoping 2020 is better, but I have to admit that I have no real hope that it will be. I have no reason to believe anything will change – including my ability to see things differently, which is really the problem ultimately – any time soon. You never know, though, so I’m setting my sights on January and cruising easy the rest of this year. Miracles happen. After all, the Red Wings won last night.

Anything is possible.

That’s what I’m counting on. No matter what, though, the reality is that I just keep going. That’s all there is: one foot in front of the other, moving forward, one minute at a time. As long as I draw breath, I’m not giving up.

For the rest of the year, though, I’m giving in.

My plan for the next 3 weeks (actually I started this week) is simple:
1. Eat what makes me happy.
2. Drink what makes me happy.
3. Do what makes me happy (as much as I can, within the confines of my responsibilities).

Simple. Life is short. For me right now there is no value in denying myself things I enjoy. Most of the time I have to, and I’m okay with that. There are constraints on my time and on my freedom, and I acknowledge that there is value in being vigilant about my health. I accept all that. I’m depleted now, though, so I have to do something to refill the tanks for the next part of the journey.

For the rest of 2019, I’m giving myself a break and indulging in whatever makes me feel good, as long as it’s legal, affordable, and not immediately dangerous. I’m not wild by nature, so what this really boils down to is that I’m probably going to gain a little weight and my blood pressure will go up a little again cuz I like to eat and drink things that are not exactly healthy, and I’m taking some major time off work so that I can indulge my desire to do as little as possible for the rest of the year. My goal is to be dressed in anything other than pajamas and slippers only if absolutely necessary until January.

Eat the Christmas cookies.. That’s my motto. It sums it all up. It’s a reasonable short-term approach to life; very in the moment, enjoying limited opportunities and not looking too far ahead. I’m an adult, and I can decide what I do with my body and with my free time. Being gluttonous and slothful are only two of the Deadly Sins, and probably won’t kill me, but if they do, I will have died happy.

Starting next Friday, I’m taking vacation time from work, so in addition to eating and drinking and being merry, I’m going to sleep in, read for hours on end, go for walks. Whatever I want. I’m stepping out of my normal life as much as possible and giving myself permission to have what I want (within reason) and do what I want (within reason and time constraints) for the rest of this year, which I’m sooooo happy to say farewell to in three weeks.

See ya! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Ba bye!

I’ll still be doing all my normal stuff at home – meals, shopping, shoveling, dishes, laundry, and I promised mom for Christmas I would actually really clean the house – but beyond that, I’m free to do what I want during the hours I would normally be at work, and that to me right now seems like the BEST THING EVER!

On January 6, 2020, I’ll return to work and to the gym and to eating normally. I hope I’ll be renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated. If not, it’ll still be okay.

Keep moving forward, one minute at a time.

In the meantime, eat the Christmas cookies!

hue12-photography-2qzZubxw7WE-unsplash

Rolling ramble

14917108_10207515197344727_6537824703183460060_o

This time of year, I tend to measure the quality of the day by the weather. Spring has been slow to come here, and I have had to adjust my expectations. I’m pretty far north, so a cool Spring is not wholly unheard of, but this year is unique in memory for its refusal to warm up to even “normal” temperatures. It’s almost June and we’re still in the 50s F for the most part. And the rain!

Oh, the rain. So. much. rain.

My window for riding without freezing body parts is pretty narrow as it is, and this year it’s getting even slimmer. My last ride in the fall was in mid-September, due to abnormally cold and rainy weather heading into early snow, so if this year follows suit, I’ll be lucky to get 100 days of decent riding weather. Considering it’ll probably rain for at least 1/3 of those days, the view is grim from my saddle.

So, I have to lean back and  remind myself of two important realities:

  1. I have no control over the weather. Which is really a shame, cuz given the chance I feel like I could do a lot better. (tee hee)
  2. I can’t foretell the future. It could be a lot better than I’m imagining and I’m going to hang on to that possibility with every ounce of strength I have.

Having said all that, I have managed a couple of really nice rides in the last week: a quick one last Wednesday after work when the temps were still in the high 50s after work and there was very little wind and LOTS of beautiful sunshine, and an absolutely perfect ride on the Pretty Purple Bike on Saturday when the temps soared into the 70s.

Last week was a perfect example of the silliness of Michigan weather: Wednesday full cold weather gear on my ride, 3 days later shorts and shorts sleeves, and the next day too cold to ride. I wore a jacket and gloves to mow the lawn yesterday.

…sigh…

Whatever. This is where I live. Complaining doesn’t change the weather, but it does make me feel slightly better to rail at the universe over the unfairness of it all. Believe me, I get how lucky I am to have nothing more than cool temps to complain about while others are dealing with tornadoes and flooding.

Really. I get that.

Still gonna complain, though. 😜

19642551_10209527566812706_6722060519940696347_n

Good news, too: Hanging out at the gym all winter has resulted in more than a good relationship with the gym dog. (She’s a sucker for treats.) I have increased muscle in my arms and legs, which is noticeable on the bike and in doing yard work this Spring. Hard work pays off. We know this, don’t we? Still hard, when in the winter all I really wanted to do after work was go home and crash. I did it, though. I didn’t let myself down, and now I’m reaping the rewards. I love it when that happens!

It’s bound to warm up sooner or later (I so hope it’s sooner), and I’ll get out on the trail as often as I can. That’s all I can do. As in so many things, my displeasure with the weather has everything to do with my expectations and almost nothing to do with the way things really are. Two choices:

  1. Expect things to be different than they are.
  2. Be happy.

Uh, number 2, please!

See you on the trail. 🚲 

Rock hard

Capture

I saw this tweet last night and it made me laugh. It summed up so wonderfully this past week, and really, the more I thought about it, the last 7 years. A kidney stone! Yes.

Hard. Painful. Perfect.

It’s the again-ness of life that is so hard. It’s the same stuff over and over and over and over again, until you think you can’t stand to go through it one more minute. You do, of course, because this is life and for better or worse, this is all there is. And the kidney stones?

That’s what it’s all about.

When all is said and done, moving forward gracefully, freely, and authentically in life requires the pain of letting go that which no longer serves us, even though it’s excruciatingly painful and it seems to take forever sometimes.

The past week has very nearly done me in. Personal health issues, my mother’s bottomless pit of health problems, work challenges, and the weather all gave me a run for my money this week, and I’m a little worse for wear.

The proverbial stone hasn’t passed yet, though. It’s still in there grinding away at my insides. Nothing has passed except time, nothing has changed. All the same old stuff just goes on and on… Five years until retirement. Who knows how long my mother will hang on, or how long the cold and wind will persist in the glacial Spring awakening this year.

I keep reminding myself that nothing lasts forever, that all is well in this moment, even when it isn’t, and that there is more to life than the crap. It’s hard to see, especially when the again-ness is what is most evident lately. The hits just keep on coming, and I take them all and keep going.

So far.

I worry that there will be a point at which I can’t keep going. I worry about what would happen to my mom if I became unable to care for her, and the cats. I feel sad about the idea that I might never live in my little house again, or that I might never know what it’s like not to have to work so hard all the time.

I have been grasping the ledge all week, barely hanging on, hoping to pull myself up and find my footing again. I’ve been looking for and clutching the handholds – friends, books, sunshine, hockey (Steve Yzerman is coming back to Detroit!), online connections, music – and still this morning, I’m grasping for hope.

This difficult week – this kidney stone – is passing. There will be more stones, though – difficult days, difficult weeks, difficult years. That’s life. It’s hard. Everything seems to happen over and over, again and again.

Each passing takes something from me and leaves a void. I have to really talk fast to the idealist in me, who is very, very discouraged – to keep her going, to convince her not to give into cynicism or  hopelessness. To convince her to let go of her idea about the way things should be, and to find the joy and reason for hope in what is.

It ain’t easy, let me tell you. Honestly, I’m tired of the pain and the again-ness. I’m ready for freedom and fun and all the good things that I sort of envision as just outside the field of possibility right now. I feel certain that I’ve mastered pain and that I’m due something else.

Ha Ha!

I know that’s not how it works. When I’m in my right mind I know that life is less about being happy and more about being of use. If I’m thinking clearly, I know that I am just fine, and it is just the story my ego has made up about my poor beleaguered self and how bad she has it that is making me believe anything other than the truth of my fundamental well-being.

So I guess that stone is on its way out. There will be another and another after that. Sooner rather than later, I’m sure. Each one provides me with an opportunity to let go of something else I no longer need, and in that light, I should be looking forward to the pain.

Ha!

Not quite there, yet. But further along than I was, so that’s good enough.

If you celebrate – Happy Easter! Here’s to the resurrection of us all.

Three little words

I’m clear about who I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going, and what I’m doing. What I realized this week, though, is that isn’t the whole story, especially at work. What matters in that arena is how others perceive me – correctly or incorrectly – and to a large degree, that isn’t up to me. I suppose that’s true in all areas of life, but to me it matters less in those other areas. I can do without friends; I can’t do without a job. Not now, anyway.

Acme Health Services hired a new Public Relations person, or in our industry-speak, a Public Information Officer, a couple of months ago. She’s really fabulous and enthusiastic and young. She’s brimming with great ideas and on fire with the desire to succeed in this job and spread the great news about AHS. I’m excited to work with her. She is not my boss, but I take direction from her regarding many of my job responsibilities, as I do the website and social media and all the promotional publications.

We went to a class together on Thursday to learn about using Instagram for business. I’ve wanted to add an Instagram account for a long time, but couldn’t really wrap my head around how our business would translate to that platform, but our new PIO has a great idea about how to go about it and she got admin staff approval and so we’re full speed ahead! The class was in a town nearby, and lunch was provided. I was looking forward to learning something new, and also the chance to get to know my new co-worker a little better outside the office.

So, the first thing I noticed when I got there was that I was by far the oldest person in the room – by at least 20 years. Whatever, right? Being older doesn’t make a difference in my mind, except I’m more experienced in business than any of these other people. A positive, as I see it. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, I’m thinking, cuz were all just trying to navigate this new way of marketing, so what does age or experience have to do with any of it? We’re all beginners.

And the fact that my new co-worker is at least 20 years younger than me? Why should that matter? We’re just people working for the same company, wanting to do the best job we can. We want the same thing, so we’ll work together! It’ll be great! I’m great! She’s great! We’re going to be GREAT!

Yeah, so I can be pretty naive.

First, before the class started and we’re eating our lunches, the two young women at my table, my co-worker and someone who had taken the third chair, knew each other, and are talking, talking, talking, about their kids and all the people they know in common and blah blah blah blah blah. I smile and eat my lunch, pretending that I’m listening and that I care and that it doesn’t bother me at all that they are completely ignoring me.

Then class started and it’s okay, though I actually knew most of the information the “social media expert” was giving us. Still nice to be out of the office for a while and to have lunch out, not something I get to do very often anymore. And then two things happened simultaneously:

  1. I felt sick. Really sick. Did I mention the name of the restaurant is the Cheese House? Cool! Did I mention I’m lactose-intolerant? Yeah, you can guess where this is going, right? It wasn’t pretty.
  2. When I excused myself, with a smile on my face, and absolutely no indication of why I had to leave, my co-worker looked at me in a way that let me see exactly how she sees me: old and irrelevant. See ya.

And so began one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in my life, and I had to get out of there FAST. Fortunately, the class had run over the scheduled time at this point, so other people were leaving, too, and I scurried out of the room and straight to the bathroom. I was in there for about 20 minutes, trying to get my breath and waiting for the dizziness to pass, and when it did finally, I slunk out of the restaurant and out to my car, which was not very far away, fortunately, and collapsed in the driver’s seat. I sat there for another 20 minutes or so, and when I felt like I could drive, I headed out toward my town. As I passed a hospital on the way, though, I started to feel dizzy again, so I pulled into the ER parking lot and contemplated going in.

Not my first panic attack though, fortunately, so I knew I probably wasn’t dying, and I sat in the car for another 10 minutes or so. Finally the pain in my chest, the tingling in my limbs, the sweating and the dizziness passed and I put the car in gear and headed back out again.

One of my favorite old songs came on the radio and I was singing along, trying to feel better, until all of a sudden I was overcome with memories of when that song was popular, when I was young, and pretty quickly I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe and I had to pull over again, and wait until the worst of it passed. I started out again finally, cried all the way to my office parking lot, pulled myself together, walked in and continued my day.

Exhausted. Bone weary. But I was there. Damn it. Because that’s who I am. That’s age and experience. I’m committed and loyal and I see things through. I had work to do and even though I felt like crap, I went back and did what needed to be done.

As the afternoon went on, I kept thinking of all I wanted to say to that super fantastic clever and bright young woman:

I WAS YOU.

25 years ago, I was you. I was the super fantastic clever and bright young woman ready to set the world on fire and LIVE A FABULOUS LIFE! Despite years of depression, despite utter fall-on-my-face disasters in other areas of my life, I was always good at my work and for the 5 years I had my business, I was golden. I was smart and innovative and creative and soaked up information like a sponge and turned it into Wonderful! Brilliant! Amazing! projects for my clients. And when I came to Acme Health Services 20 years ago they were thrilled to have me, and I was amazing, and wonderful, and brilliant then, too, until…well, I don’t know.

When did I get old? When did I become irrelevant?

I didn’t imagine it. It was there. It was in her eyes and in the eyes of all the other 15 year-olds in the class. I said something I felt was relevant to what was being discussed, and they all turned around and looked at me like they were amazed I could speak, including the teeny-bopper conducting the class.

So, I’m comfortable in my skin, and I’m confident in my abilities and ready to go everyday. What worries me, is that it may not be enough. As someone pointed out to me the other day, I’m almost 60 (sounds so much older than 57, doesn’t it – gave me chills) and I guess there is probably a lot I don’t know about the generations behind me and how they think.

They’re running the show now, and that is as it should be, I guess, but they don’t appear to be interested AT ALL in what went on before they came along, or how much experience someone older has; in fact, I think most of them think there must be something wrong with someone who stayed in a job for 20 years. An eternity! My god, how could you stand it?

So there were other factors in the panic attack (one being the never-ending plumbing issue we’ve been dealing with at home that FINALLY was resolved yesterday after much stress and aggravation all week), and I’m going to address the 24/7 care-giving stress issue with my doctor in May. I’m thinking some good drugs, but I’m open to whatever she suggests. I’ve had my fill of ill-timed panic attacks and almost constant anxiety.

I have no idea what to do about work, though, and I’m really afraid at some point the bean counters are going to look at me and look at her and think, why do we need both of them? This is not the first time I’ve experienced the age handicap at work, and I know a lot of people have gone through the same thing. I get that my experience is not unique.

Somehow, I just never thought it would happen to me. Naive, I know. But that’s who I am – ever the optimist, ever the idealist, wanting always to believe the best about people and hoping that things will work out if I just work hard enough and try as hard as I can.

So, back to be here now, and one day at a time, and just doing the best I can. Whatever is going to happen will happen and I’ll deal with whatever it is.

Ultimately that’s all there is, isn’t it? Dealing with whatever is. Doing the best we can. Hoping for the best.

Life goes on.

 

Elemental force

1429872083_d4ede7abaa_o

This weekend we had another house-falling-down-around-us event. I kept my cool and did what needed to be done and mom and I got through the day just fine. The plumber is coming on Wednesday and I’ll hemorrhage some more money and then we’ll keep going on as before until the next house event or health event or whatever.

I feel like something deep within me changed, though. Something shifted, and the death grip I’ve had on the future and my belief that I will survive this experience with my mother and go on has loosened. I think in order to keep going now I have to let go of any idea of a positive outcome, including emerging at the end with my health intact – mental, physical, emotional and financial – or even of surviving at all.

Hope has gotten me this far – the hope that this too shall pass and I’ll go on – but I have to let go of that hope and just do what needs to be done, with no thought beyond today and today’s needs. This has been a long journey, but the end is no where in sight, and I have to marshal my remaining resources, few though I feel they are, and just keep going, one foot in front of the other. It’s a waste of energy to keep looking ahead, to hope that things will change, that I’ll be free to go on with my life.

I may never get there and thinking about it, hoping for it, and planning for it is simply counter-productive now. It saps vital resources from the limited supply available, and compromises my ability to take care of my mother’s needs. Also, my near constant pre-occupation and exhaustion puts us both in danger.

Before the water event Sunday I had a go at trying to burn the house down completely. I boiled water in the tea kettle for breakfast and after I poured the water, I put the kettle back on the (electric) burner and forgot to turn it off. I went upstairs to eat my breakfast and answer an email and it wasn’t long before the smell of something burning wafted up the stairs and into my awareness. I ran downstairs, plucked the kettle off the burner and turned it off.

The kettle was ruined and the kitchen smelled horrible, but beyond that, everything was okay. A bullet dodged. When my mother got up I debated whether to even tell her about it, but I did finally, and she razzed me a bit, and we went on with the day, both feeling grateful that it hadn’t been worse. Then the water thing happened and that was not so easily remedied and that’s when I could feel something in me shift.

Fire and water.

Elemental forces are working against me now, and this whole thing is starting to take on a fateful tone. I was already stressed to the max from a really crappy week, and had hoped the weekend would provide a chance to recover a bit, but nothing less than FIRE and WATER said no. No rest for you. 

Okay, so I’m not really so paranoid as to think that anything is out to get me. But I do believe in karma and I do believe in fate – in the role it plays in karma. For the last seven years I’ve seen myself as the hero on this journey and assumed that I would complete the quest and go on. Karma would be exhausted and I would live out my (many) remaining days enjoying life. Tra la la.

In seven years, I have never even entertained the idea of any other outcome.

Sunday night I realized that other outcomes are not only possible, but as time goes on, they become more likely. There is no guarantee that I will complete the quest or go on, and so my only recourse is to just let go and let whatever is going to happen, happen. It is the need to believe in a certain outcome that is sapping my strength, making me constantly stressed and on alert for trouble, and so completely pre-occupied all the time.

This change doesn’t make me sad or happy, or anything. I feel nothing about it in particular, I’ve just noted that it happened, and I’m not really sure what it’s going to mean going forward. I hope it makes me feel less desperate and stressed and I hope it makes me feel clearer and present in each moment. My mother deserves that and so do I.

Whatever happens it’ll just be what it is. I’m done papering over things to make them prettier or more comfortable. Whatever happens happens. I don’t know if what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, but I suppose that’s as likely to happen as anything else. We’ll see, won’t we?

All of us, trying to navigate our difficult lives and just trying to figure out a way to be okay; to not feel so bad and unwelcome and unworthy when we’re not at our best.

Somehow, we go on.

 

 

 

Of snakes and worms and an ill wind

280936892_ee3a83eb3f_o

I used to work with a woman whose favorite expression of stress and anger was, “I could bite the heads off snakes.”

Yep. That’s just how I feel. Bring it. Cuz I’M READY TO GO. This has been an off-the-charts CRAPPY week.

Work is hectic cuz everyone’s on Spring Break, and we are getting ready for a company-wide event of some consequence in a couple of weeks here at Acme Health Services. Those of us who DID NOT go on vacation to some warm sunny locale are stuck here doing extra work for those who did, and there’s a certain level of feeling and attitude in the building which has been rising all week, and is now at a rather uncomfortable pitch.

Good times.

Evenings are not much better cuz of having WAY too much to do and not enough time to do it, and I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope of improvement for the weekend in that regard, either. Trying to fit in ALL the needs – my mother, the cats, the incredibly-old-and-falling-down-around-us house, the daily/weekly chores, bills, etc. – and tacking on the end getting to the gym and trying to spend time with friends and have some semblance of a life that I might actually enjoy is just fecking impossible.

And sleep? Yeah…not so much.

It’s wearing on me. It’ll be seven years in November since I moved in with mom. Seven years. 12% of my life. It’s not that I regret the time I’ve spent as caregiver to her – I don’t. It’s the right thing to do, and I’ve learned a lot in that time. It’s been a good thing in many ways. This is what I signed up for. I didn’t read the fine print, though, about duration and wear and tear, and that’s where the trouble is.

What I’ve been wrestling with this week is all that this endeavor has cost me – what I’ve lost in those seven years, including my health to some degree – and wondering how much more I can take. I’m ready to move on, but I’m not finished here yet, and that’s disheartening. I alternate between feeling sorry for myself (unhelpful), and feeling like the lowest wretch on earth for essentially wanting my mother to die, which is the only way to gain my freedom and regain my life as I would like to live it for whatever time I have left on this planet (even more unhelpful).

Really good times.

Then there’s the advice from well-meaning folks, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything even remotely resembling the reality of my life. Trust me, the last thing I need to hear right now is “You’re doing it wrong.” That’s where the snakes come in, and I’m ready to just take a chunk right out of anybody who wants to get in my face right now, cuz I’m SICK TO DEATH of people thinking they know me or what’s going on in my life BETTER THAN I DO.

But then I have to step back and take a deep breath and think about all the people I’ve alienated over the years with unsolicited advice, and remember that these well-meaning co-workers and friends are trying to help, and that I left myself open to it by telling anyone anything about any of it in the first place.

Alex Dumas said: Sell your confidence at a high price, if at all; to be strong, keep your own counsel.

Smart guy, our Al. Too late for me and my big mouth, though, so I just smile and say “yes, for sure, oh really? okay” and then I go somewhere and eat worms. Now, if worms were good for high blood pressure, I’d be all set! Alas, not so, though, and neither is alcohol or ANY of the things I really like to eat and in the past soothed my ruffled feathers, so I’m left gnawing on carrot sticks feeling ornery and put out and just generally like I wish I had some snakes, cuz I would tear those babies RIGHT. UP.

Did I mention the weather and the wind and the lingering cold and general cloudiness and ickiness of early Spring in Michigan? No?

Well, such good times! And don’t even get me started about Mercury Retrograde…

So, anyhoo, that’s my week. How was yours?

The real deal

I’m tired. My heart hurts all the time lately, and I don’t know whether that’s anxiety or something more deadly, and it scares me, but I don’t know what to do about it. Most days my stress level is through the roof, and I’m sure my blood pressure is higher than my doctor would like it to be, but I don’t know what to do about that, either. I go to the gym, I get plenty of exercise, I watch what I eat, I do all I can to take care of myself. There just isn’t much time and there’s so much to do and to worry about. There is so much that is just not the way I would like it to be.

Stress at work, stress at home. Even the weather is stressful. Winter just won’t quit, and I’m worried about the snow on the roof, keeping the driveways at both houses open, and about possibly losing power this weekend in the predicted ice storm and what I’m going to do with my mom if that happens.

There is no time at which I feel on top of things; no time that I can take a deep breath and just be. I try so hard to embrace it all, to let it all be what it is and be okay with what it is; to keep my mind and my heart open and present in each moment. Sometimes, though, even that is stressful. I find myself thinking ahead or worrying about something in the future and I think Damn! I blew it!

Lately, it’s when I start feeling sorry for myself, and/or beating myself up for not being who I want to be in every moment, that the alarms start to go off. Thank goodness. I didn’t have those limits when I was younger; those red flags that tell me now that I’m headed for trouble, that I’m overwhelmed and sliding down the slope straight into the abysss.

Yesterday I heard the alarms, saw the red flags, and instead of ignoring it all and trying to soldier on, I said wait a minute. What do I need? I sat still and listened, and the answer was: TIME. So I took the afternoon off from work, and got a couple of big things done at home, and I felt better about the weekend and the resulting shorter list of things to do, and less overwhelmed in general, thanks to my decision to take a few hours’ vacation time.

I was not a wife or a mother when I was younger, so I get that I’ve been lucky that my time was mine mostly for the largest part of my adult life. I really try to avoid feeling sorry for myself or heeding the siren call of resentment telling me that it’s not fair that this is the way my life is now.

Of course it’s fair, and more than that, it simply is what is. Never in my life have I been clearer about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Living with and caring for my mother at the end of her life has been the hardest, but best part of my life in many ways. Despite the fact that much of the time lately it feels like it might be the end of my life, too, I know that it is the right thing to do, and the best use of my time and energy right now.

hope it’s not the end of my life, but if it is, at least I know my life will not have been wasted. Major karma between me and my mom, and I feel confident that we’ve cleared that up, and beyond that, honestly, what else do I have to show for 57 years on this planet? Nada, zip, zilch, zero. I was too caught up in faulty brain chemistry to contribute much for most of my adult life. I was becoming who I needed to be now, I guess, and I take comfort in knowing that I made it. If nothing else I was able to take care of myself and stay alive long enough to be able to take care of someone else and for me, that’s enough.

So my challenge is just to maintain my health; manage the stress as best I can, continue to do the things I know I need to do – the gym, eating properly, getting as much sleep as possible – and just keep going. Keep listening for the alarms, and watch for the red flags. Put my needs first when I need to. Meditate. Practice mindfulness as much as I can remember to. Acknowledge my gratitude as often as I can remember to.

I’ve come across several articles and blogs this week about self-care. It’s on all of our minds, whatever path we’re currently on. But writing about it, reading about it, or talking about it is not the same as doing it. Taking the afternoon off yesterday was the real thing, and it made all the difference.

What do you need right now? Listen to your heart. What is it telling you?

Finding my way through, one step at a time

Today I’ve had my own personal cloud following me around. I haven’t slept well the past couple of nights and I feel out of sorts today. Kind of owly and fragile and not really interested in anything except feeling better. Lack of sleep for sure, weather maybe, February probably.

Not much is the way I want it right now, and it’s been a challenge today to find the good in each moment. I’m not sure if I can’t see it because it’s not there, or because I’m just too caught up in the cloudiness of my thoughts and the lack of energy in my body. Maybe a little of both.

For me, there isn’t much good in February in northern Michigan. Today it’s very cold and gloomy and every walkway and parking lot is covered in ice from the big storm we got over the weekend, so even just walking to my car at lunchtime was an ordeal. I’m at an age now where I worry about falling and breaking a hip or something else, and about what would happen to my mother if I had to be hospitalized (or worse).

Work is challenging this week, and I’m not really in the mood to be challenged. I enjoy working less with each passing day, but I really have no choice but to stick with it until I retire in 5 years, cuz this is a really small town and there just aren’t that many jobs, especially for an “elder” worker like me.

I know, also, that my dissatisfaction/satisfaction meter fluctuates wildly most of the time – most days I love my job and Acme Health Services, so I know that my less than stellar feeling about being at work today is most likely fleeting, and that tomorrow I could feel completely differently, so I’m trying not to get too caught up in what is probably just a blip on the screen. This too shall pass.

I think overall the biggest contributor to my flagging spirits is simply waiting. It seems everything I want is just out of reach and I never seem to get there: retirement, Spring, freedom from my obligation to my mother, even the weekend. It’s all “out there” and today it seems so far away, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to those marks on the path ahead. I feel like I’m just plodding along (picking my way carefully across the ice), headed nowhere.

giphy

Fortunately I’m not so cloudy that I don’t know that the biggest share of my angst can be attributed to not staying in this moment, right now. Thinking about the future and wishing it was 5 years from now is not only a waste of time, it’s downright demoralizing. Wishing my life away, failing to recognize what’s here in this moment, in my present reality, is just not helpful.

I know better, of course. It’s hard, though, not to harken to the siren call of the future’s promise that everything will be great when… I’d have everything I want if only… The future is all potential, not reality, so it can be whatever my little brain thinks up. I can talk myself right into believing that it’s going to be better at some other time and in doing so, completely lose faith in whatever’s happening now. It’s not as exciting. It’s not as promising of good things.

It’s not as hard.

Meanwhile, life is passing me by, and that’s not what I want. Can’t enjoy life if I’m not truly experiencing it, can I? No siree, Bob. So what’s a girl to do?

Focus on being here now.

At work: Take a day off to enjoy all of the above! Or…wear warm clothes. Drink some of Chris’ nerve-jangling coffee to really wake up and get into the day, or make a cup of tea. Listen to favorite music with iPod and earbuds so as not to disturb officemate. Take frequent breaks and stretch or walk upstairs for no reason.

At home: Curl up with a good book in a room with soft light and some music playing and thoroughly enjoy indoor-ness. Revel in the soft warmth of wool, flannel and fleece. Conjure up a hot brew – coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Burn a flowery candle or some jasmine incense.

At the gym tonight: Walk on the treadmill and listen to an audiobook or podcast on the shiny new MP3 player I gave myself for my birthday. Row or ride to someplace warm.

Write down 5 things that aren’t wrong today. They’re there  – think hard. I’m alive. I have a job. I have a home. It’s not November. It’s not Monday.

Locate and reinstall sense of humor.

Remember: This too shall pass.