I am again long over due in writing a blog post. It seems a lot of things in my life are long overdue. My last post was on surviving in the “Long Haul” that period in a caretaker’s life when there are no real crisis but you have no idea when your job as a caregiver will end and you must be in marathon mode instead of sprint mode. How do you pace yourself so you don’t burn out before the end of the journey. How do you take care of yourself so you stay healthy enough to do all that you still have to do each and every day for who knows how long?
I am in this “Long Haul” but I am more stalled than running a marathon. The things I want to do or should do seem overwhelming and I often sit in my hammock chair for an hour or more and just rock back and forth, back and forth, thinking and fussing and praying. I feel my journey has taken me to the brink of a cliff and I can’t reach the other side with out falling into a black hole. I hover at the edge and on the other side I see all the things I want to do – my painting, reading lots, my crafts and my greeting cards to make, organizing around the house, painting the laundry room, reviving my garden which has been neglected, writing this blog more often, and so the list goes. They all sit and stare at me from the other side and mock me. And I stand immobile, too exhausted to even try to reach the other side. Is this burnout?? I put a picture of a large truck carrying a part of a wind turbine on this blog. I imagine a large truck with an even larger load on it’s rig carrying it on the long haul to a destination far away. This is something how I feel. I’m in the long haul with a heavy, over sized load. And not only that but that wind turbine piece is part of a much bigger contraption that will whip up the wind. I seem to do a good job of whipping up the wind so to speak. I seem to take small insignificant things and whip them up into something much much bigger and create many problems for myself. I am having problems at work, at my home, with the nursing home, with friends, with strangers. There is a frenzy feel to my life despite the immobility I also feel. They are strange bedfellows. I can’t sleep at night for ruminating about every thing under the sun. I can’t function in the day for ruminating about everything under the sun. This “Long Haul” is wearing out my tires, my engine and I am constantly running out of gas. So what do I do??
Well, as I said in my previous post on the “Long Haul” I have to look after myself – somehow. If I am not managing to read or do my crafts or other things I would like to do maybe I need to take a step backwards and slow down, even grind to a halt for a while. Maybe it is OK to spend long periods in my hammock chair. But instead of ruminating I can listen to calming music, or pray or sleep. Maybe it is OK not to go crazy on the crafts but instead start with one little project and focus only on it. So I have chosen a cardinal pattern for a christmas card I am doing. That is all I am doing. One card at a time. Maybe it is OK if I do not get the book read for my book club. Mom was always a reader who read the first couple of chapters, then read the back of the book to see how it turned out and then read some of the middle. I used to laugh at her but maybe right now it is just the thing to get me through a book.
One positive thing I have started up, is going to the YMCA and swimming in the heated pool for 40 min. 4-5 times a week. Being stuck in the driver’s seat of a “Long Haul” gets you cramped and sore. And my fibromyalgia is really acting up as well as my arthritic knee. The relaxing warm water and gentle exercises I am doing is really helping by actually giving me more energy and less pain. I am also trying to eat a little better. Still a long ways to go but putting less salt, carbohydrates and sugar into me. AND I am taking my vitamins almost daily. My Mom would be so proud.
I find a “Long Haul” almost worse than a crisis. A crisis has a beginning and an end. You know when you can move onto other things. You know when it is resolved. A “Long Haul” just stretches out for miles with no end in sight. No resolution, no letting your guard down, constant state on eyes on the road for safety and for surprises like that deer that suddenly appears in your headlights and you have to slam on the brakes. Caregiving in the “Long Haul” is dare I say tedious?? It is relentless, and never lets up. It’s always on your mind and a load on your back.
One very useful tool to combat the relentlessness of the “Long Haul” is GRATITUDE. I have found this to be a life -saver. Gratitude can stop the rumminating, it can stop the depression from settling in, it can keep you grounded in the present rather than worrying about the future or lamenting about the past, it can bring meaning to the lonely hours as you truck along on this journey, and it can clear the clouds away under which you normally trek along. GRATITUDE is like balm in a wound. It’s like a hug from a close friend, it’s like a kind word spoken into your life , it’s like a ray of sunshine splashing all around you and it’s an attitude that is worth every second you spend on it. I will speak more on gratitude in another post later but it’s my secret weapon to get through the “Long Haul”.
And finally, the “Long Haul” becomes much more manageable when I relish every moment I spend with my Mom. She is having many more bad days. I struggle as I watch her suffer. In desperation I ask God for the journey to end as I know she will be in a beautiful place. But that is not for me to decide. My job is to be faithful to the job God has set before me. That “Long Haul”. I strive to make my Mom’s life as enjoyable and as comfortable as I possibly can. Right now that means keeping her supply of cookies always topped up! And watching Lawrence Welk with her every Saturday night at 7pm. That means advocating for her and tweaking her medications so she will be comfortable when the bad days come. That means phoning her twice a day and spending time with her almost every day. These and so many more things I do to make Mom’s last days however many she has as lovely as possible.
And I can only do the “Long Haul” day in and day out because I have Jesus who often sits in the driver’s seat and lets me just come along beside him for the ride. It’s when I take over the driving that things get very difficult but if I just let Jesus drive I can do this “Long Haul” in his strength and power.