Everything changes from moment to moment. Tomorrow will not be the same as today, you’ll be a little bit farther down the road of your personal journey. We can’t speed up time. We can only change the illusion of time by using our fabulous creative talents to alter our experience.
For those that are feeling less than free and possibly a bit depressed, I’m going to share my craziness with you. It’s worked for me and maybe it can help you live happier days, even better than I because I had no example to follow, only an intolerance for suffering and depression (my own). I was working by-the-seat-of-my-pants to keep my head above water. Today I would have a roadmap, I know it works. These are examples, you will create your own.
DREAD-to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face (Merriam-Webster definition). That word is not allowed in my world. You can choose to NEVER GO THERE. You wake up in the morning in a neutral position, maybe you’ve had sleep and maybe you haven’t. If you can’t be optimistic, which is the best attitude, be neutral. Your thoughts and assumptions dictate your experience, REMEMBER THAT! Expect to have a good day (all things being relative).
It’s hard to say when something flipped, I never thought of myself as funny or that I could be entertaining. I’m a pretty sober person and can be a bit too serious, I have to admit. My husband was the charming, funny one. But, when he was too sick to create fun anymore, I had to lighten things up a bit. It was survival for both of us. He was too weak to walk on his own and couldn’t see where he was going so we had a way of walking together. He faced me with his hands on my shoulders. I would walk backwards to our destination. This was an opportunity to dance. We could walk and sway a little as I would sing whatever song came to mind: “I’m walking to New Orleans, She used to be my honey, Till she spent all my money.” Or, “Tea for Two, Two for Tea.” He loved it when I sang, “Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone, Only darkness everyday.” It didn’t matter that I can’t sing a note, it made it funnier and he loved it. I could be funny!
I would deliberately involve him in a decision that I knew I could make on my own. Even a little thing like which paper towels to buy. We created a way of shopping in a grocery store with him in the wheelchair. We had a cardboard box that was just the right size to fit on his lap and had openings on the side that he could hold onto while I pushed the chair and filled the box. Of course, I had to do the big shopping without him, but, this was a way of his feeling like he was contributing, also, a reason to get out of the house. Just because a person is sick, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved in daily activities. It helped me to have his input and feel like I was taking good care of him while he functioned at a higher level than he would have if just sitting in a chair, mindlessly waiting for the inevitable.
It’s a bit of work, but we used to go to restaurants often. We frequented the same places so the managers and servers knew us and helped with our needs. This was a great diversion for both of us. It took up time in the day, allowed me to be waited on and have a nice salad and a glass of wine, while he could have what he wanted, depending on the state of his health. If I had to bring something special with us, so be it. I began to feel like I could do anything that worked for us, even if we were out in public. People are really nice and try to be helpful. With both my husband and my father, when a restroom was necessary, I took them to the ladies room. Not one woman or child ever objected. We went right into the handicap stall and that was that. Managers at restaurants prefer this, I learned, when we had to sign a paper saying my father would not go into the mens room anymore, alone, after he fell and was slightly bruised. I never asked, I just did what we needed to do and no one ever questioned us.
I, also, took advantage of time my husband had on the telephone with family or friends (which you might need to encourage because they are afraid to call and disturb you) to get on the computer and play on Google Earth. This was a great time for me. I traveled to places I’d never been. For example, I walked the streets of Reggio, Calabria, imagining myself on a trip to meet my relatives in Italy that didn’t even know I existed. This was a vision that later became a reality, after my husband passed. Your thoughts are your future world and that was when I first started to dream big. At the time, it was a way to detach myself from my current world just to relax. I didn’t know it would actually come true and I could play with a purpose.
Today, I would elaborate generously on all the things I did, and more, to keep our spirits up. Instead of fearing change, embrace it. Prepare yourself physically and mentally for the inevitable changes that you face. Give yourself the opportunity to design the days ahead, they’ll be much better days. And, you’ll handle the current days with more grace. You will come away from your time of Caregiving with pride and peace of mind.