Posts Tagged ‘always looking up’

Sometimes I feel I’ve got to…runaway, I’ve to…runaway..from the pain that’s hurting me.

That’s a line to an old 80s song that rolled around in my head many of my caregiving days. I literally felt a panic inside: what was I thinking, moving my mom into my home. How long is she going to live? Do I have months, years…decades? She won’t leave me alone–I can’t take a bath or have a decent conversation with my husband (much less anything else). What choice do I have? She needs me, but how am I ever going to do this day after day. What about my life, my dreams?

On and on my internal monologue hounded me. Not only did I want to run away from my mother–I wanted to run away from me~!

I started collecting fantasies. How would I run away. Where would I go?

I imagined slipping out in the middle of the night. Me and the open road, guided by the moon. I’d roll the window down and howl. Free at last!

I imagined changing my name to Flo. Living in a run down house in Key West and waitressing. I’d fish for fun, check out books from the library and become a walking mystery.

I imagined inventing an adult play-pen and decorating it with things my mother loved. That way, I could exercise, cook, or take a bath without worrying–and maybe that Ronco guy would sell it on his high energy info-mercials.

I imagined strapping my mother to a wheelchair and taking her everywhere I long to go. Mom and me at the Grand Canyon. Mom and me at the Louvre. Mom and me taking art classes in Rome. Mom and me traipsing around New York City…hey, if you can’t get rid of them, bring ’em along became my motto. We’ll become like a Where’s Waldo drawing–where will the dynamic duo go next? We’d write travel books for caregivers and their buddies.

If only my life was that exciting…and if you think I’m a bit odd, then you try living 24/7 with your mother who has Alzheimer’s–and was a hand full before that ever started!

Kidding aside, when my mom first moved in with us, I did feel like I wanted to bolt out the front door. It took a while for my brain and my body to get the hang of her being in such a close proximity. I had to learn how to not let her overshadow me at every turn. I also had to learn how to let her feel needed and appreciated. Our mother-daughter dance had to learn a few new steps.

I also had to give into my run away tendencies. If I didn’t, I knew I’d really hit the road. So I started running away–to my journal. I had to snatch and grab a few minutes here and there–but having a place to put my questions and my angst kept them from boiling over.

I had to learn to run away–to the back yard. Nature calms and heals me. Especially water. Just to slip out that back door and stand at the edge of the river, watch the Spanish moss sway in the trees, and pick up a stone to hold as I said a prayer changed everything. Yeah, I’d look back at the house and my feet felt encased in lead. How could I ever make myself go back in there? But I did.

I used to hide–in the pantry, in the linen closet, on the side of the glass front door where no one could see me. I’d slump down and just give myself a few minutes–but then, they’d find me. They’d always find me. I was a sandwich generation mom–I had my mom–and my kids and husband to deal with. Somebody always wanted to know where mom was.

I’d run away by using my biting sarcasm (mostly internally), but my quippy comebacks kept us on our toes and we’d usually wind up laughing about it.

Running away is about letting off a little steam. It’s a mini-stay-cay. You can’t actually book that plane ticket to visit Bhutan, the place that Michael J. Fox’s book, Always Looking Up says is the happiest place on earth. You can buy a Chinese gong. You can visit a Bhutan website. You can buy a table runner in that gorgeous orange the monks wear.

If you feel like running away, then do it. Figure out a way to let off a little steam. Go for a bike ride, get off your bike and pick a few wildflowers. Do a virtual vacation by visiting a few websites and take notes for a future trip. Slip out the back door, find a pebble and say a prayer. Also, consider checking out respite care. Who says you can’t have a weekend off now and then? Check your community resources, ask a family member, and give yourself a break. (I know how hard this is and I can hear your but, but’s…but if you don’t you’ll burn out!)

Feeling that urge to run away is normal. Fantasizing about it lets off a little steam. Laughing about it soothes the soul. You are already a good caregiver–and admitting that once in a while you’d sure like to step out of that role if only for a few minutes, means you’re human.

Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle


Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle


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If you missed Michael J. Fox’s ABC special based on his book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, you might want to check it out on ABC.com because it might change the way you think–about caregiving, disease, and life.

Michael J. Fox has a way of making life look easy. The hour special showed him talking with his wife (great eye contact and flirty body language), playing golf, flying to Bhutan (known as one of the happiest countries on earth), and hanging out at a dairy farm and the streets of New York. No matter where he was, he was there. The ability to be present is a gift and perhaps a talent that takes a bit of cultivating for most of us. He even “thanks” Parkinson’s for what it’s taught him. Now that’s class.

So I started thinking about the two words Michael explores: optimism and happiness.

Optimisim starts with “opt” which is latin for “to see.” It’s a perspective thing. It’s not what you see (your disease, your circumstances), it’s how you see it, how you perceive it. Princeton Wordnet says that an optimist is “a person disposed to take a favorable view of things.”

Happiness starts with “hap,” which is an old Anglo-Saxon word which means “luck or chance.” For me, that means that you can’t make happiness happen. You can’t force it–it’s like optimism in that it’s perception, and it’s a little like chasing a butterfly–you can exhaust yourself trying to chase the thing down, or you can just sit in your lawn chair and watch it flit all around you and appreciate when it’s even near you–and if it happens to land on you, well then you’re just darn lucky, blessed, whatever word that suits your beliefs.

I like that neither optimism nor happiness are concrete objects. You can’t go buy a pound of optimism and you can’t nail happiness to a wall. It’s a way of looking at things. It’s a way of holding life loose.

Like Michael, my mother’s Parkinson’s (she also had Alzheimer’s) held some ironic gifts. If anyone would have told me that I would be “on the other side” of caregiving, and I would be profoundly grateful for what I learned, for the time I had with my mother, for how the experienced changed me and taught me about life–I think I would have laughed really hard and then I would have given you a sarcastic, “Yeah….right.”  

All you can do is face each day–with its limitations and challenges–and skew your head a bit, squint your eyes, give the day a cocky smile and say, “Hey, I’ll give it a go!” With an attitude of optimism and happiness, you just might be able to squeeze a drop or two of  goodness out of even your most challenging times.

~Carol D. O’Dell, Author of Mothering Mother

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