As National Family Caregivers Month comes to a close and we find ourselves at the cusp of Thanksgiving, I am reflecting on so many things that I have to be grateful for. My health, my sanity, my self-discovery that was highly accelerated this year.
Admittedly last year around this time, after assuming a full-time caregiver and supporter role to my very ill mother, I found it difficult to find gratitude. My mother had become legally blind in what seemed like an instant on top of the other mountain of health issues she had endured over the years–kidney transplant, back surgery and numerous hospitalizations for whatever complication decided to show up that day. Forced to retire and her full independence snatched from her, you can imagine what a kick to her soul that was.
On my side, being thwarted into this new place right at the moment when things were starting to come together career-wise, financially and socially, I was utterly lost. I was overwhelmed by so many thoughts and remember countless tearful days…and nights. Two versions of myself were constantly at war–the one who spent long hours at the hospital and secretly resented it and the other who stole away to have coffee with a friend and felt guilty for secretly enjoying it.
Somewhere along this road, I got lucky. Well, more accurately put, it was that lovely intersection of God, effort and luck. First, I decided to invest in myself. I was always fascinated by Life and Career Coaching so I enrolled in a training program that not only endowed me with an amazing set of skills, it also afforded me 5 months of life and career coaching from my peers which was TOP notch and exactly what the doctor ordered. Next, I decided I no longer wanted to be a perfect anything–it’s overrated. Not a perfect employee, not a perfect daughter, not a perfect air guitarist (if there is such a thing). I decided instead to be a better version of myself than I was the day before and to accept that as good enough. Lastly, I concluded that, through pain comes purpose.
Through the experience of advocating for my mother within the healthcare system (which sometimes can be like trying to swim through a sea of nails), brushing her hair or simply holding her hand when she is feeling lonely and scared, it has cultivated the best parts of me. The part that is compassionate, patient and methodical.
So THIS year, I am thankful for SO many things and if you are a caregiver, this may ring true for you too:
My Top 5 for Thanksgiving 2015
That I work for an organization that is 110% supportive and has not implicitly or explicitly punished me for making family a priority.
That I have abandoned the feeling of guilt and replaced it with peace. I can skip off and enjoy an ice cream cone or stay virtually all day at the hospital and simply be where I am.
That I have AMAAAZZZINNNG friends that whisk me off occasionally and allow me to be the silly, insane, quirky ME outside of caregiving.
That I have equally AMAZING family that calls and visits when I can’t be there.
That no matter how difficult this road is, she’s still here and therefore has an opportunity to enjoy every sweet morsel this world has to offer.
With that being said, before I sign off, I write all of this in honor of the many others going through similar yet very different experiences as I. I want you to know that if you are in that space, and though I don’t know your name, I think about you every day. Know that someone a few or many miles away holds you gently in her spirit.
Happy Thanksgiving and Happy National Family Caregivers Month!!!