Sacred Sundays

“Never on a Monday,” says the text from a childhood buddy, in response to my question about her work schedule. “Mondays are sacred.”

And for a while, they were. Even 3,000 miles apart, we experienced Sacred Mondays together, texting each other photos of coffee mugs and couches. Having a day of rest was as mandatory as the weekends we filled with family obligations.

Yet, as it has since I quit my career five years ago, life changed radically this summer. Having proved my ability to somewhat successfully meet the endless demands of elderly parents, the Universe has now designated me caregiver to an injured husband, the most difficult job I’ve had so far.

Every day is Groundhog Day, my husband reminds me from his perch on the recliner; it’s true for both of us. And somewhere in the daily drudgery of living through the chronic stabbing pain of an injured hip, tending to medical needs and a household filled with pets and chores, my Sacred Mondays vanished.

I found myself missing that soothing relief of a day in which I allowed myself to do nothing. Never fully able to embrace self-care—even the term is as cringe-worthy for me as self-love—Sacred Mondays were at least a stab at putting myself first. Yet spousal caregiving is a far more emotionally draining experience than I ever imagined. Something had to change.

One Sunday not too long ago, I had coffee with a friend whose mother is now in hospice care, after an agonizingly slow trudge through the twisted maze of Alzheimer’s. “I disconnect on Sundays,” said my friend. “No workouts, no errands, no housework, no parents. A whole day off from my shitshow of a life.”

In my not-sober past, Sundays were spent nursing profound hangovers with brunch-filled mimosas and afternoons of beachfront reggae music. In sobriety, I find peace at Sunday morning 12-step meetings. But for the past three years, I’ve dreaded Sundays: taking my mother to church in an effort to maintain the routine so necessary for a person living in Alzheimer’s World. And when my new caregiving responsibilities took priority, she never noticed we’d stopped going to church, just one more of the merciful yet bittersweet paradoxes of dementia.

Sketch by my mother, c. 1988

Now, Sunday is the day I look forward to all week; the portrait my friend/dementia mentor painted has come to life. Sacred Sundays give me freedom from my shitshow of a life. Write. Read. Nap. Watch football. Or none of the above.

And serenity returns to our household, if only for a day. 

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. 

Dive In!

On a trail run this week, I encountered two women blocking the narrow single-track path. “There’s a rattlesnake up ahead,” one whispered. “Coiled and ready to strike.”

Snakes on an Arizona trail aren’t unusual. But normally there’s no advance warning. I leap over them, the surge of adrenaline fueling me forward.

It’s not always like this.

My caregiving life involves planning: appointments, activities, lunch dates. But as a writer, in the increasing moments when I release outcomes to the Universe with all the magic of a child blowing bubbles in the wind, I can write fearlessly, submitting stories formerly challenged by self-doubt; joining a writing class that before had seemed an unattainable goal; summoning the courage to participate in a reading of my work.

A few years ago, my teenage nieces dared me to jump off the ferry pier on the island where my father lives. It was a long drop from wharf to water, the cold Atlantic churning below. Unthinking, I dove in.

Sometimes, life is like this.