Ever since “sheltering in place” and “social distancing” became the norm, writing has become difficult, more like work I can’t concentrate on. I’ve been worried that this year’s A to Z challenge would be hard, maybe unsuccessful, and probably not fun. Rather than give up, I will possibly write things that are a bit strange, just to make the 26 days easier, and maybe more fun. Fun is good and worth pursuing.
Way back in the dark ages I got married and left behind a good life and a good friend, my mom. We’ve remained close, but I’ve always told myself that I wanted more time, daily time, to renew that relationship and do life together again. When my dad died a few years ago and mom was alone, I started to think that it might be time. She was starting to want help in small ways, and I knew I wanted to be there, to give whatever care was needed in the future.
Meanwhile my husband, who thought he would work at his desk until the day he died, started not enjoying work as much as before. He struggled with some physical problems. He lacked energy and motivation. Retirement started looking good to him.
It took a long year of planning and hard work but in July of 2018, the retirement happened, our house in Florida was emptied and ready to sell, and we moved to Wisconsin to be near mom. A couple months later my husband was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which changed our lives significantly. I was suddenly thankful to be in a simpler living situation, near a supportive family group. Caregiving life had started.
Accepting caregiving as part of my life, something I chose to do, not a lifestyle forced on me, was key in helping me to be a satisfied, basically happy caregiver. Maybe it wasn’t as hard for me as for some because I had already been a parent (the ultimate caregiving opportunity) and chosen nursing for a good part of my working life.
Nevertheless, one of the most confusing things about caregiving has been the temptation to feel like my life has been “taken over” by the needs of someone else. I’m working at a job that, at times, feels like I have no choice. I’m trapped and have to do it. If I rebel, guilt can start to dictate to me. Nagging voices try to tell me what I “should be doing” if I’m a good mother/wife/daughter/family member. My thinking gets filled with those limiting words; trapped, forced, should do, have to, guilt.
But the truth is that I have a choice of how to respond to people in need. I could choose not to be a caregiver. There are options these days and not everyone is able to offer the same kind of caring. What I do know is that if I feel like a martyr, I won’t be as effective in the care I give and I also won’t be fun to be around. It can get toxic.
I believe there is a realistic way to look at the limitations of caregiving. Being married has limitations when compared to being single. Having children has limitations when compared to not having children. Some jobs are limiting when compared to other jobs. So it is with caregiving. There are days when I am tempted to think of fun things I could be doing, other than taking care of someone else. But, thinking about all those other options will probably rob me of opportunity to find value and fun in what I’ve chosen to do.
Caregiving, as a choice, has it’s hard times just like any other path, but IT IS MY LIFE. I’m accepting my choice. Instead of holding others responsible for my happiness, I’m going to use that energy to make this life as good as it can be. Acceptance makes that so much easier.
Am I alone here? When have you found yourself in a time consuming caregiving role? What limits were especially hard for you to accept? Can you tell me about it? Would you have moved NORTH for retirement?!