Vision, Bored

“Write an intention for yourself on the postcard at your place setting,” says Meagan, the effervescent executive director at a recent fundraiser for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit I volunteer with. “Address it to yourself and we’ll mail them to you.”

At first, I cringe. Life has been so heavy lately—an injured husband, moving another parent to assisted living—the only intention I can manage is to wake up and make it through another demanding day of caregiving.

I tuck the card in my purse, then take it out moments later as I watch everyone around me—four hundred-plus women full of brunch and inspiration from the empowering keynote speaker, a filmmaker telling the stories of successful women you’ve never heard of making it in a man’s world—every woman was scribbling on her card.

My husband will see this and laugh, I think. He’s not one for self-analysis or emotions and often pokes fun at my endless soul-searching quest.

I decide to write an intention anyway. A mailbox overflowing with inspiration might spill into my life, right?

“Share it on your Insta feed!” Meagan says. “Tack it on your vision board!”

Vision boards have never been my thing, but in a sense, my notebook, a scribbled mind meld of morning pages serves as one: hastily jotted ideas for my blog; a flash story written from a one-word prompt; a poem clipped from a literary journal; an outline for a novel written on a scrap of paper and taped to the notebook’s back cover; my mother’s college graduation photo.

A week later, the card arrives. “WRITE FEARLESSLY,” it says. I paste it in my journal.

And I am. 

10 Commandments of Caregiving

  1. Find Compassion: Walk a mile in your caree’s shoes
  2. Be Patient: It’s is a positive side-effect of compassion
  3. Stay Positive: The 80/20 rule works here, and sometimes in reverse
  4. Pray. A Lot: To whatever power greater than you propelling you through this wild ride
  5. Ditch the Drama: No one wants to hear about a self-sacrificing martyr, let alone be one
  6. Give & Ye Shall Receive: Being of service isn’t selfish
  7. Treat yourself: Even a half-hour away with a latte is a well-deserved reward
  8. Rest Up: Manadatory for both caregiver and caree
  9. Love Thyself: Daily affirmations remind us of our purpose, value and why we do this
  10. Learn & Share: As you’ve been helped by other caregivers, so shall your wisdom help them

Be gentle. Give freely. Stay real. Because we’re all doing the best we can with situations we’ve never been through before.

Drama-rama

Life Lessons from a Former Drama Queen

It began five years ago as I helped my father through his third wife’s death. Almost simultaneously, I plunged headfirst into to the muddled Alzheimer’s world my mother had newly inhabited. Both parents lived on the east Coast and for the next few years I cared for each of them in their separate island homes, leaving my immediate family to fend for themselves three thousand miles away.

When it became clear my parents could no longer live on their own, so began the process of packing up each parent, selling houses, and moving them into their respective senior living communities.

In the midst of that chaos, the Universe decided I could handle more, hurling the sudden suicide of my husband’s daughter into our lives late last year.

Together, we ride the waves of grief—random and epic, with no expiration date—and again unwittingly find ourselves in a trajectory of trauma: a hip injury complete with an aggressively virulent blood infection.

My husband, a fitness trainer, is the healthiest, most active person I know. Suddenly reduced from teaching three cycling classes a week to being housebound on a walker and relying on me to give multiple injections of antibiotics for two months is the uninvited guest at our party, much like my recently-acquired career in caregiving.

It would be easy to resume the role of drama queen, one I relinquished long ago. After years of swimming through the murky haze of an alcoholic life and navigating the even rougher waters of early sobriety, I finally learned that when I stop running the show, I’m free to accept life on life’s terms.

Today, I remain open-minded and willing to do whatever comes next. My caregiving resume has expanded over the years and I continue to engage the essentials of drama-free life: Self-care. Rest. Support Groups. Meditation and exercise. Compassion. Find humor wherever you can. Because, in the immortal words of the Jimmy Buffet song:

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”