Tuesday, March 19, 2024

A Caregiver's Journal


I have a pretty good life. 

I have a roof over my head and I know where my next meal is coming from. 

My daughter is an awesome little person that I enjoy, and glancing over at my husband of over a decade still gives me butterflies. No matter all the physical changes, age, deployments, and crazy schedules, My Sailor is an awesome partner. 

 I have a small circle of friends that at times I wish was larger - but I have people I can call when the world comes crashing down. 

I have a job I love, and the ability to pursue things deepen my spirit and challenge me to make me better. 

And maybe the sunshine is bringing out some gratitude. 

I do struggle with how much to share, but I've always been honest, so I'm going to continue to shoot from the hip. 

This year, we're able to get The Impossible Girl the supports to help her in school and life in general. I understand the struggle of so many parents - and I can say that when things are the most challenging, I tend to run silent (as I suspect many parents managing the same things do). We don't want to be viewed as 'whinning' or 'permissive'. We want to be seen as doing the best we can to teach our kids to cope in a world that isn't designed for them. 

Last week in a counseling session, my therapists and I discussed my adoption and I mentioned "I won the parent lottery." No parent is perfect, but I feel like mine did a good job of setting a good example and teaching me to see things and think critically. Some things they did with us I repeat, and some things I adapt and change. As the conversation continued during that session, it inevitably turned into parenting. Parenting takes up 95% of my mental space basically - so yeah, I'm gonna talk about it.

As I explained the things I learned from the years of  Magnolia Forest Preschool and such, my therapist almost made me cry. She said, "It sounds like your daughter won the parent lottery."

It shocked me to my core when she said that.

I was not one of those kids who aspired to "having 2.5 kids and a white picket fence". In fact, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I was younger, I knew I'd take the road less traveled. I said things like artist, singer, songwriter, poet, actor, etc. Mom and wife were things on the side of all of that - not really the focus. Not the 'dream' of my childhood.

Now, my days start the night before.

When I write out my daughter's 'plan' for the next day on a white board and go over it with her.

Then we set the alarm (it's earlier during the weekends so she can get some time with me before I head off to work on Saturday mornings).

The next day, it's into the morning and school routine - which doesn't include screens. We fight morning/go to school anxiety with music and connection and movement. 

Once at school, I read with her for a few minutes in the classroom so she will be able to start the day. Big hugs and I'm off to work.

I work with my clients (and insert a workout for myself along the way) and I'm back at pick up time. Depending on the day, evening may include a trip to the library before dinner and unwinding before bath and bed. 

Morning routine takes about an hour and a half. Evening routine takes about 1.5-2 hours. 

I've learned to pick my battles and patience is the heart of empathy. I've learned just how much tone matters when speaking. I've learned to slow down - a hike is only as good as the things you discover along the way. I've learned that flexibility is harder for some than others. I've learned that compassion is never inappropriate. I've learned that feeling understood allows us to be our authentic selves. I've learned to talk less. 

I am slowly learning how to not get lost in the process. 

I think this is something most caregivers can relate to. Where are 'you' in the 'we's? 

Since becoming a military spouse, I gave up acting/singing publicly. I did Into the Woods at a local theater when I moved up to Washington - and it was awesome - but My Sailor I was also asked to stop doing theater as it was taking too much time away from the short hours together.

If anyone else had asked for any other reason, I would have told them where they could shove it. But the request was sincere, and he rarely asks anything of me. So it was a decision I made to put it on hold - for now. For now has been about 10 years. 

 I figured it would be something I pick back up when he deployed again, but then I had a kiddo who relies on me as her anchor more than most. Babysitters that work are few and far between - and expensive. 

Rehearsals are typically in the evenings and on weekends. The Impossible Girl doesn't have the bandwidth for much after coping with school all day, so involving her in another activity or finding a regular playdate is overwhelming. My Sailor is a great partner, but his schedule is deeply unpredictable - most days I don't know what time he's going into work until the day before, and I don't know when he's getting home.  (You know, needs of the Navy and all.)

 The fact is doing a show is out of the question - for the forseeable future. 

So I switched from participant to patron (when I can). I look forward to every show. For my birthday this year, I signed up for a National Theater At Home subscription. I've enjoyed sneaking a play or 2 in a month that way.

Theater and performing was such a huge part of my life. What now? I threw myself into parenting and being a military spouse and support to my clients. But where did I go?

Where was the 'me' in all of this? 

It's taken years but finding my way back to things that light the creative fires is an inspiring process. Getting lost in the day to day constant need can be is overwhelming. 

I'm also finding new things as the circumstances of my life have changed so much. Connecting with nature, creating space, accepting life is messy, and finding some thrill in the mess is making this back end of life its own brand of awesome as well. 

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