Greetings from Home, finally. It was a long vacation. 17 days to be exact. Probably about a week too long for me, considering the circumstances.
I’m glad to be home and yet I wake up feeling sad and melancholy which is absolutely what a person is not supposed to feel after a rejuvenating vacation. I need to make some changes. I need to be more realistic about my life and expectations.
I’ve been a very high functioning person my whole life, able to manage most any circumstance and retain a positive attitude (most of the time) or at least return to it once the dust settles from any conflict/crisis/time of transition. I think I underestimated myself when I took on the task of being the primary caregiver for my brother. Right around the time our father is entering advanced age. With no backup, just myself. I sit here with tears streaming down my face at how exhausted I get. How exhausted I am right now.
I wouldn’t have chosen it any differently I guess. I threw my brother a life raft and I do believe he would not have survived otherwise. But I need to make adaptations now. I’m not as young or resilient as I once was. I hit menopause as all this was coming at me and it’s basically kicked my ass. I was already vulnerable healthwise in the endocrine department and it feels like I just can’t quite stabilize. This has been going on for over two years now.
I have too many demands on me and too little support and I really don’t know how to fix it but surrender and find a way to ask for help. This vacation, at the end, ground me to nothing. Traveling with an obese (meaning hard to get around easily, fit in spaces and other complications) schizophrenic man and my 83 year old father who’s mobility has really taken a nose dive is, I’ll just say it, work. And I love my family to pieces but I end up so exhausted and just wanting to run away. Actually I did run away there toward the end for two nights. I felt like I couldn’t breathe one more minute with all the demands I deal with that go basically unnoticed by anyone, including me, until it’s too late. This is a pattern I’ve noticed.
I manage most if not all of all the travel arrangements, much of the activities we do, problem solving, all the navigation, some of the driving (while single handedly navigating because they don’t know how to use electronics for the most part), lodging arrangements, fun activities, food prep, cleaning, shopping, etc…I pay for everything then get a check at the end reimbursing me for my expenses–groceries, tickets, travel expenses etc. I could go on and on and I’m sure it feels more exaggerated than it is right now because I’m so depleted.
I get very little alone time and when I do, it’s often interrupted with things like a plumbing emergency or need to come and greet the next arrival of guests. I overdo and take over managing things because, often if I don’t, I think they won’t get done. I know this is part of my problem too–overdoing things when I should let the chips fall. But time and again, when they fall, I end up repairing things anyway so figure I may as well do it on the front end. And I do it well for the most part but I won’t lie, I had a 36 hour meltdown there toward the end of this trip. I’m surprised it took me that long honestly.
I arranged and paid for my own hotel room and just left my family on their own so I could recover. I laid in that bed, got room service and took baths for 24 hours and got back to some semblance of myself that could function. I was in an environment that is very hard for me to function in — I don’t want to go on and on about it but I will just say hoarding is a very real thing and in my family, it’s going downhill fast. Hygiene and grooming are major issues now and it’s hard for me to exist in those kinds of environments without constantly cleaning, telling someone to change their stained shirt to go out to dinner, wash their hands, and on and on. I cleaned the shared bathroom at least three times a day.
I got myself in a clean, controlled environment in the beautiful Boston Parker House Hotel so I could find some semblance of the familiar and get stabilized. Once I came up for air, I had a great time roaming around the city by myself.
I miss my sister. She would have been much better at all of this. We would be doing it together, somehow.
I was born a middle child and didn’t naturally develop internal resources to be on the front lines. I have heard dozens of times recently “I don’t know how you’re doing it”, including from total bystanders just watching me. I do believe there is some kind of master plan and everything is unfolding as it should yet I also feel like I’m failing, mostly to myself.
I realized after this trip I need help. I even have to figure that part out by myself because there is this kind of unspoken and sometimes spoken expectation in my family that I will figure it all out. On my own. And I will, and I do. I have an idea, from a seed that was planted at Rancho La Puerta last year–a life coach I really connected with. I looked up her info again this morning. I’m in a hamster wheel of caretaking and I need a fresh perspective.
But for now I need some recovery time. I fear the future as it won’t get better and I don’t feel like I’m managing things well now.
I will say this. I went to bed nearly every night and woke up every morning fantasizing about the puppy I’ll be getting. Somehow I know this addition to my life will soften my heart and bring in a new joy and focal point. In our family we’ve had no new life; just death. Endings and very few new beginnings. No new babies. I’ve known for years now that it will be me bringing in the torch of our lineage, on my own. I need to find a way to live in grace with these demands so I can feel good about how I’m representing. And right now I don’t feel that way.
On an up note, Alfonse did very little hallucinating on our trip. His depression was there but not debilitating. His daily functioning and social skills need serious work so I’m going to hopefully find someone to take that role over for me. It shows up in a million ways (grooming, basic awareness of other people around him, etc) that concerns me as he’s ready to embark on a whole new life of social possibilities. But he needs some basic training and I’m not the person for that job.
I want to be the woman. I often say “I”m the man of the house” in my family and I’m the only girl. I handle most every single thing that I would imagine a man, a good man, would.
I will say that, miraculously, I had two men express interest in me during my trip…in that way. You know. I feel so disconnected from myself in that way, I’ve risen to a level of patriarchy in my family role, that the female in me is ground down to sand.
Then I think about my little puppy and I feel my heart and mind and soul soften and come alive in a way that feels so correct and so healing for me. I don’t know exactly how this new life force will impact me but I can feel it coming.
And it’s my light at the end of the tunnel right now. At least a spark and the one I’m hanging on to right now.
I did have great times on my vacation but before sharing I just had to keep it real and get these thoughts off my chest. I think the start of any big change is with awareness and this is the semi ugly truth of where things are at right now.
And now I need to take my brother back to his house so I can go to work.* And be there for other people.
* In the land of irony, just as I finished typing those words, John came downstairs looking sheepish telling me he’d tried to use my car last night to go get food after I went to bed and he couldn’t get in it because it was parked too close to the wall. His face showed me something else so I pressed it and in reality, he tried to use my car and it wouldn’t start. He said he lied to me out of fear I’d blame him for the car not starting. This is the kind of thing I deal with over and over again…things that could be made simple, made hard. And zero assistance to help me but roadblocks put up. This is the life of caretaking and I need to stop whatever I’m doing that makes things worse for myself. Starting today.