Finding Myself Again
Every new year brings with it the opportunity to look back on the past; a chance to reflect on what we did and didn’t do, as individuals, as groups and as a country. Over the last five years, I’ve solely concentrated on the care of my father and mother with little regard to much else.
There was very little free time and when there was, it was spent mostly in a state of exhaustion. In that time, with the exception of my dogs and cats, I let other things that were important and unimportant to me go. Caring for sick, elderly parents is physically and emotionally exhausting but you see, for me, there was no other option.
These two people, built a life for my brother and I, that a lot of others have no experience with and can’t understand. Their dedication and love for each other was matched only by that for their children. I was raised feeling that love. I always felt protected, safe and encouraged and as I grew into an adult, though they may have disagreed with some of the things I chose to do, I felt they respected who I had become and that I had made them proud. I had only to walk into their home and see my dad’s open arms and big smile to have my worries fall one by one, like autumn leaves from a tree. Every Sunday, I returned for our traditional family dinner and we’d catch up on life while playing a couple of games of 500 Rummy with a dollar bet and playfully chiding each other about cheating. My heart holds more memories involving these two amazing souls, than I could possibly write about and each makes me laugh, smile or cry.
When tragedy struck and they got sick, Daddy shortly after Mom, my brother and I simply did what they did for us all our lives; love and look out for them. It was hard, it got messy, I got angry with them and then myself for getting angry with them. Sometimes I saw them as strangers and there were times when I felt like throwing up my hands and walking away from it all. But then I’d stop. I’d take a breath. I’d look into their eyes and feel their own sadness. Watching someone you love so much, try to cope with the fact that they are becoming less capable of doing things they used to be able to do easily, without thought and then watching them resign themselves to it, is one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever have to do (aside from experiencing it happening to you). Almost as difficult as watching someone try to handle being trapped in a body that no longer does what they ask of it, on top of the fact they’re not able to give voice to their anger, frustration, joy or sadness.
I desperately wanted to make it better for them. I wanted to protect them and keep them safe. I wanted to change their predicament and turn the clock back for them, make them better, but I couldn’t. It was then that I came to the realization that the roles had been reversed and I was now the parent. And like they did for me, I tried to be the best parent I could be, knowing some day, I was going to have to do something I didn’t want to do; set them free.
Saying good-bye, under any circumstance, is painful. Loss is drop to your knees, world stops revolving painful. Loss is inevitable so you have to embrace it, lose yourself in it and then find a way to unravel yourself from it and keep going even when all you want to do is pull the covers over your head.
These experiences, emotional as they may have been and still are, taught me a lot about what I’m made of and the strength I am capable of. Knowing they would want me to be happy and to pursue the things that make me happy, 2017 is going to be the year I refrain from putting demands and time constraints on myself. I’m going to remove myself from people and situations that bring negativity, stress and drama and instead, I’m going to pursue calm, find peace and practice mindfulness. I’m going to get reacquainted with who I am, what I enjoy and concentrate on being in the moment. And I’m going to say “eh, whatta ya gonna do” to things that I can’t change.
Yesterday, I celebrated my 51st birthday and on the 16th, I celebrated this little nugget’s first gotcha day. I feel as though life is playfully beckoning with open arms and I have no intention of denying her. Cheers to a new year.