It wasn’t necessarily true, but the sheer amount of time it takes to care for an elder or someone with a chronic illness or disability is pure mathematics–and then there are the emotional hurdles–the zombie-like state that comes with lack of sleep, the grief of losing someone you love right before your eyes, the longing for the life you had–your career, your connections–some of it is pretty darn real and not in your head. And yet boundaries create energy.
Boundaries create energy?
View your life as the Colorado River–tumbling on its merry way–and then someone gets a grand idea. Build the Hoover Dam (aka caregiving). Major roadblock.
You can consider your free and frolicking river/life has come to a screeching halt–or you can see all that pent-up energy as power. Electric. Energy.
Yes, a major part of you is held back. Yes, there’s lots you can’t do.
If you think your life is over, well, it is. Thoughts create our reality.
But…if you find a channel, some way however imperceptibly small to tap into the essence of you–what you love–to learn, to write, to garden, to connect, to read, to create art and craft–then you have a way to live inspite of all that’s going on around you.
This is how I survived and thrived in my caregiving years.
I was fiercely determined to seek out what I love–to invest in me in some small way every day.
For me, that means art, nature, and faith. Those are my tenants.
Art, for me, was/is everything from:
- painting (sporadically)
- reading the Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
- reading poetry, snippets of the Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Job (love when God talks back to Job!)
- the books and art materials I’ve collected over the years–and never fully explored
- heading down to the river to cry, curse, scream, and pray (my prayers were mostly tears and moans)
- walking around my own yard/weeding/exploring
- journaling–every day in small chunks
- watching the Food Channel, HGTV, History Channel and Discover–things that fed my need to learn
- friends to call/vent/invest in their lives
- surrounding myself with what I love–fresh flowers, good coffee, candles, magazines
I was so hungry for life, color, meaning, connection.
Even when I could barely dress I searched out the things that made my soul, my Geiger counter, go off the charts. Thank God (and I do mean that) for books, for paint, for the Internet, for television, for the nature that surrounded me. You don’t have to go far to find beauty and passion. Nothing is more breathtaking and comforting than a red cardinal, the morning rays as it streams through your kitchen window, or the purr of a contented kitty.
Her are a couple of photos of some paintings and sculpture I did during my caregiving years. I’m still so amazed I could even keep my eyelids open–shows you that your heart’s desire is (at times) stronger than exhaustion and grief.
Six months after my mother died I started editing my journal entries–it became Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir.
At the same time I began a short story about a woman who quits her life (call it my personal fantasy!) and finds herself in the South of France painting with the apparition of Vincent Van Gogh.
Seven years later, it’s novel=length and ready for publication–White Iris. The seed of this story began in my dammed-up life–caring for my mom, reading Vincent’s letters, painting sunflowers and irises on my kitchen cabinets.
My hope is that you will find your way, dear caregiver. Tap into what you love. Surround yourself with it.
Don’t give up. Give in–to what you love.
~Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle