“Where was I? A caregiver friend of mine asks, standing in the middle of her life as if she has walked back into a room and forgot what she was doing in the first place. Life after (or between) caregiving can make you feel odd in your own skin. You’re not who you were, you don’t know what’s to come, what you’re good at now, or what interests you anymore.
Long term caregiving can feel as if you’ve held your breath so long you don’t know how to inhale and exhale like all the other folks on the planet.
My friend is coming up on the first anniversary of her dad’s passing. Fifteen years spent as a caregiver (primarily) and her hair is now strikingly white, she has a new husband, and for better or worse she’ll tell you she’s just not the same gal she was when she agreed to move in and care for her mom, then dad all those years ago.
Perhaps a better question is, “Where am I?”
Where was I doesn’t particularly matter. You’re however many years older. Your experiences, beliefs, and even issues have changed. And that’s okay. It has to be. It’s the nature of living–things change and so do we.
It’s not that things changed, most of us get that, it’s that aspects of our selves, our lives, were in stasis. We feel like we’ve been in cryogenic sleep and have no idea who won that last 20 World Series. Life has gone on without you. You have no idea what movies are in theatres, and whatever happened to DVD’s?
You may be thinking about going back to work, but what are you qualified to do–other than bring juice, fluff pillows, and argue with insurance companies?
Getting traction, momentum may take some time–and while you’re figuring this all out–grief sweeps in like giant waves crashing on top of you, buckling your knees, you come up sputtering with a mouthful of grit and a belly full of hurt.
Letting go of what was will eventually come. Let it. No, you’re not 35 any more, but 55 isn’t so bad. There are a few perks that come with aging, with living, with loving for so long. Letting go takes time. We don’t open our grip without some resistance.
In Finding Your Own North Star by life coach Martha Beck, she talks about being in quadrant one–when all we know dies, when our lives are reduced to rubble and we stand in the ruins, ashy, beat up, stunned, and the mantra is:
I don’t know what’s happening, and that’s okay.
It’s okay to not know what comes next.
It’s okay to have a decent hour when you’re not consumed with grief or anxiety followed by four crappy, baseball in the back of the knees–ones.
It’s okay not to have a plan.
It’s okay to bump into walls.
It’s okay to cry–not cry, scream–not scream.
That’s where you are.
And that’s okay.
My only suggestion is this:
Do what soothes you, follow any inkling of a curiosity, buy, borrow, visit anything or anyone that stirs something in you. These are the seeds of desire.
And our desires, however small or trivial doesn’t matter, are the thread thin roots of our new selves.
Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle