Sunday, May 3, 2009

How Can You Possibly Go?

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Whether you’re going on a business trip or a get-away with friends, unraveling yourself is hard if you are a caregiver.

You must make arrangements for everything from who’s picking up Johnny or who’s dropping off Suzie, to planning what Johnny and Suzie are going to eat.

When I was trying to pull the pieces together for a March trip, I almost threw in the towel. I almost cancelled.

I went, but separation drama continued even after I reached my destination. Adding to my stress, my dogs had become escape artists soon after I left. My husband was out of town and I had to resolve the “dog break” incident from afar, all the time wondering, “What was I thinking?”

I am lucky. I have lots of support. My long-time friend with three kids under 13, a pressure-filled job and not-so-supportive husband emailed me a week before our scheduled departure, saying, “It’s not going to work. Too much to sort out. Better go without me.”

I understood. I questioned my own ability to go.

At just the right time, I read something written by a young mother. “Picture a white horse, mane in the breeze, splashing through rivers. Now imagine that same horse curled up in a ball in the corner of a shadowy stall. That horse is me,” she said.

She wrote she loved her current life and understood the role she was playing, but still she pined for the woman she had been: “I used to be the girl who spent midnights dancing around my car at red lights. I can’t remember the last time I was in a car without kids. I used to be outgoing and fun. Now I'm just settled and quiet. I used to help autistic kids. Now I barely see my own sister.” Her essay reminded me of myself only a decade ago. There were moments when it felt like I would be a mother of an infant forever.

Horse Lady said more: “I've been tamed, like a wild horse stuck in a muddy stall. Tamed by life. Routine. I'm not a routine person. I like change and messy spontaneity. I like the freedom to run when I want to, and not be held back by so many to-do's. I miss writing poetry and stories every day with enough passion to cover the globe. Too much to do. Work. Cleaning. Cooking. Babies. Maintaining our business.”

I had been there, slap dab in the middle of life as a caregiver. Though I still am, I’m no longer so deeply entrenched. I wanted to tell her that she could find herself again.

I wanted to tell her with each passing birthday it does get easier and less labor intensive. I also wanted to encourage her to put “life” and “dreams” back into the formula—even if on a very small scale.

The mistake caregivers make is giving up all desires and dreams while giving everything to duty, routine. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, though it might be less of “own life” and “dreams” than at other times.

Reading this article helped me stick to my guns. I went on the trip despite the headaches and mixed feelings. Though it took some effort, it was time for me to step out on my own.

And it was well worth the effort.

We must remember our children aren’t just looking to us for transportation and meals. They are learning life is more than a to-do list, that there are times even for grown-ups to leave the stable and run on their own.

Allyn Evans
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