The Unexpected Way I Celebrated Caregiver Support Day

To honor caregiver support month, numerous wonderful-sounding organizations in my county had put together a diverse, informative-sounding day of networking and fellowship for caregivers yesterday, which included a full breakfast and lunch.  I registered early, paid the small, subsidized fee, and looked forward to getting an introduction to so many organizations’ representatives conveniently packed into one room.  (Respite, elder law center, hospice, pallative care- you name it, they were on the list.)  Beyond that, I was eager to see the faces of other caregivers, usually hidden within their homes, and to hopefully strike up some conversations and maybe even make a few lasting connections.

As it turned out, I was up half the night before, fielding phone calls from my mother, (from her assisted living), who was completely convinced that the world was ending.  

The following morning quickly turned to mush.  Everything went perfectly not as planned.  I got a disorienting call at 5:40 in the morning, (wrong number), and grumpy and exhausted, could not get back to sleep. 

So I got up and tried to make the best of it, using the unanticipated extra morning time to try to make headway into some of this month’s accumulated piles of disorder, while simultaneously doing two loads of laundry.  I’ve never been the best at relaxation; getting things done when I find the time is satisfying enough these days, something I only seem to be really good at when under time pressure. 

It felt so satisfying to be getting more done in one morning than I’d been able to accomplish all week; I no longer wanted to run off.  After some agonizing about the registration commitment I’d made, I settled on deciding it would be a heck of a lot more nurturing to get to the caregiver event on my own timetable than to rush there and feel stressed about aborting all my satisfying projects.  So I decided to go an hour late, just in time for the first panel discussion I wanted to hear at ten.

Not too long after that, I discovered that my small backpack I use as a portable office and the back-up system to by brain, was missing.  My money/credit card, all my mother’s ID, the cell phone, my address book, and my notebook where I keep everything I need to do and to reference, had vanished.  Inside it was the address to the caregiver event, so my priorities switched to needing to find my bag ASAP.

After plenty of panic, the nudging of an unopened email I remembered I’d seen in my inbox from someone I’d just seen the day before turned on the lightbulb and I called her up.  That solved the mystery.  I headed out for the 30-mile trip to get back to her house where I’d left the bag at a workshop the evening before, feeling silly and down on myself for being distracted and forgetful and causing this needless long trip. 

I popped in a new audio book I’d just gotten from the library to help the trip feel less wasted, still cursing at my stupid mistake.  When I was able to step back a moment from the dark cloud forming in my head, the incredible morning outside literally dawned on me, a bright crimson sunrise.  It was a gorgeous, unreasonably warm November morning- something I never would have discovered in the shut-up house absorbed in my sorting and cleaning.  And the book on CD turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear at that moment- an antidote to my self-flagellation.  A Tibetan monk of the highest regard was trying to talk some sense into me, which worked quite well in the background of an unforgettable sunrise, not to mention having been hit over the head by the tumultuous start to the day.

When I got to the instructor’s house, I felt sheepish and wary of disrupting her morning.  She’s an intriguing, brilliant person I’d like to know better, but not by crashing into her private life the way I was.  She was out in the yard with some friends, smiling, as I walked up, and graciously ran to get my bag.  I tried to rush off, not wanting to take up her time, but she stopped to chat, and we ended up having a delicious fifteen minute conversation in her backyard, making a few deep connections that never would have happened at any of the regular places in life where we intersect.

The rest of the morning proceeded along those lines.  I kept trying to get myself over to the caregiver forum where I thought I should be, but one after another, various obstacles kept changing my course.  The directions to the caregiver forum clasped in my hand literally flew out the car window just as a new woodworking store caught my eye and lured me in.  Some beautiful Danish oil floor finish I’ve been reading and fantasizing about (but not finding anywhere) finally materialized there.  I’ve been feeling desperate to get the living room floor we sanded a week ago back into function, but my mom’s needs have been preventing a chunk of time to dedicate to that.  Our couches are wedged in the kitchen right now, making life a carnival for our cats, and discombobulated for the rest of us. 

chaos carnival

My mother called with another mental (anxiety) crisis, and being exhausted and pulled over on the side of the road, I sat there and listened and attempted to do no more.  Her world was upside down and I somehow knew in that moment that it wasn’t my job to try to fix it this time. 

At some point I just gave up and let the day carry me, and as you’ve probably figured out, I never made it to the caregiver support forum, but ended up having a fantastic, fun day nonetheless, got to play in the summery day, and somehow even got the floor stained.  (It’s gorgeous, by the way, in my biased opinion.) 

Whether it was fate, dinine intervention, or maybe just the wisdom of my stubborn unconscious, the chaotic path of yesterday lifted me out of my caregiving identity for a day and allowed me to get lost in other things I wouldn’t have normally had the luxury of stumbling upon.

Sometimes the best caregiver support can be completely forgetting you’re a caregiver and staying away from everything that reminds you of it- for a moment, for an hour, or for how ever long it can grace your life.

This entry was posted in caregiver stress, support, and respite, dementia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Unexpected Way I Celebrated Caregiver Support Day

  1. Lesley says:

    Hello Margaret,
    I am so glad for your surprising day and the unforeseen pleasures and connections you made. What a gift.

    Your last sentence was so powerful….and so hard to achieve. But I did experience it, too, this week. I am taking a new yoga class and realized when we were an hour into the class (and starting the relaxation) that I hadn’t thought of my mom or my life challenges for that entire hour. I will be seeking more such hours….and hope you find them, too.

    • Hi Lesley!

      After I wrote that post, I realized I maybe didn’t word that so well, but glad it worked for you. In retrospect, it’s not so much that I need to forget about my mom, but to be really absorbed in something totally different once in a while.

      Thanks for writing!

  2. stasha says:

    Actually, what I gleam from your story is that we need to take care of ourselves too. If we neglect ourselves we can’t possibly be there for others. I’m so glad you found the time, even though it was unintended, to nurture yourself. Great lessons here, margaret, thank you for them.

    P.S. love the floor : )

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