A lot of times I’m in a war between what I think I should do and what I actually can do. Here’s an example. This week I signed up to bring popcorn to my son’s school. And despite this task getting complicated and me being very honestly, completely unable to complete it- I’m racked with guilt about what I CAN’T do. So I start to almost immediately worry about this task. When on earth am I going to get in my car, travel to suburbs, pick up popcorn and then somehow bag it into bags and then drop it off to school at 9:30? That’s 90 minutes after my work day starts. And even if I could take the time off from work, how would I carry the popcorn while also carrying a two year old that refuses to be put down? So I back out and pretend to laugh it off like it’s nothing. But it’s not nothing. I’m angry that I don’t have the emotional capacity/time to dig in more to this task, and so many others. It feels like I SHOULD be able to get it done.
Here’s another example of me missing the mark. A few nights ago I had dinner with my mom, sister and brother. But instead of it being fun, all I could see was the distant, panicked look that my mom had on her face. We were too loud and rowdy for her. She didn’t know who these kids were and showed no sign of recognition of anyone in the room. All she heard was the noise, all she saw was chaos and she didn’t like it. I had a “should” for her too. She “SHOULD” be happy that her family was all together. I’m so angry at this disease for taking her away. I’m so frustrated that what should be a nice dinner with all of us together instead is a terrible reminder that her brain is broken. I then made the triple mistake of asking her if she knew who I was. You know that thing you do when you pick at something, knowing it might hurt? Yeah, that was me tonight. And she doesn’t know. And it does hurt.
I think my life saver has been the spaces in my life where it is okay to not fake that I’m okay/unfazed/strong all the time. It’s in the moments of honesty and real connection. Today I ran into to a new neighbor that saw me on the way back from Mom’s house and remarked how nice it is that my mom is so close by geographically. And instead of just smiling and faking that this is true, I told her a bit about Mom’s illness. And it turns out her father also has dementia. And when she says “I’m so sorry” it feels deeper, kinder and with a true understanding of what this is.
When Dad saw us struggling with something and getting frustrated he used to remind us of the joy of walking away and taking breaks. He would say “that’s enough for today”. I like the simplicity of that right now. I always feel like there is more I could or should be doing- for mom, for my kids, for my job, for my health or home. I found one of Dad’s letters the other day and it said “Life is fun if you work at it. Work at it.” So here I am, waking up at 5 to find some moments of peace and joy, working at it.
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