“There are two days in the year that we can not do anything, yesterday and tomorrow.”
I’m thankful everyday for the positive attitude Mom taught me. As far back as I can remember, she drilled the importance of attitude into my head–seeing the glass half full, believing in myself, believing in others, freely giving the benefit of the doubt. I can still hear her voice,
“I know you can do it but you won’t until you try.”
“You’ll get it next time.”
“Think about what happened and how you can make it better.”
“Attitude is a choice Matthew (only Matthew if she was angry–sound familiar?)”
But Mom didn’t just say these words, she lived them. And I had to live them too. Growing up, I got in the most trouble for attitude related missteps. Sure, I got grounded for stupid stuff like most kids (egging houses anyone?), but Mom’s true wrath emerged when I got into trouble for my attitude. Just ask my ninth grade English teacher about my attitude adjustment after the “essay incident.”
Power of Positivity
It’s easy to say, “Stay positive!” when nothing bad ever happens to you, but Mom absolutely knew how hard life can be. When Dad died suddenly (the day before my 13th birthday), it turned our world upside down. It’s been 30 years and the memories are still vivid. Grief, shock, tears, all of the people who stepped up–I can see it all.
And I can still see, crystal clear, Mom’s determination. She was crushed and scared when dad died. I knew it, even at thirteen, and she didn’t hide it from me. A part of Mom is still crushed by it, I know, but as time went on she began to personify a positive attitude. With the help of tremendous support system, she found a way to fill the void left by Dad the best she could. She chose her attitude. I believe that, and in the process, she showed me the power of positivity and living in the moment. Mom was a living and breathing example that things didn’t have to be perfect to be positive.
I have a million reasons why I’m thankful for Mom, but this one is near the top. As a kid, staying positive helped me with friendships, school, sports–everything. I didn’t know it then, but it would become an invaluable life skill. So now, as an adult, that positive attitude helps with parenting, marriage, work and personal ambition. It impacts every aspect of my life. It’s woven into my DNA and I tap into it every day.
So what’s this have to do with caregiving?
I never expected to be a caregiver. As an only child, with just Mom as immediate family, I suppose I should have. But I didn’t. It just kind of happened–seemingly overnight yet in slow motion. I learned quickly how lucky I was to have positivity etched into my worldview, and how important it would be for me (and for Mom) to do all I could to stay positive. Should be easy enough, it’s just who I am, right? Glass is half-full baby!
But in reality, and especially as a caregiver, it’s not that easy. Sh*& happens. Big sh*&. Little sh*&. And all the in between sh*&. It happens and it sucks when it does. As my caregiving journey has progressed, I’ve found that little things can knock me off track. And I’ve learned about the balance between self-care and positivity. One can’t exist without the other. So if I’m not taking care of myself and remaining positive, I’m not being the best for Mom.
I had a day a while back where I let myself get knocked off track by a stupid little thing. An address change for Mom, of all things. This is something I’ve spent way more time on than any human should, and yesterday I learned that it still wasn’t fixed. Oy, did it throw me. Was it annoying? Sure. Should it have thrown me? Nah. But it did, for an hour or two anyway. I was able to get back on track, but this stupid little thing stuck around in the back of my mind, like that fly you can’t get out of the car, for the rest of the day.
So it got me thinking about the ways I snap myself out of a funk and back into positive attitude land. They’re little things, but they work (for me), and getting me back on a positive track is a big deal.
Talk with a friend.
Nothing magical here, but it works! The conversations don’t need to be long, and they take many forms, (full vent, moderate vent, talk about a TV show, or something else mindless) but across the board, they help get me out of my own head. Even if I don’t say much, I find that getting the friend talking (about anything really) helps me refocus and let go of whatever is bothering me.
Talk with my kids.
If they’re available, hearing about their day lightens up mine. Most times these conversations make me laugh, and they almost always make me smile. This is a quick hitter and a pretty reliable way to get out of my own caregiving head.
Cry (or laugh).
Old faithful. I’m a cryer. Not too proud to admit. And it helps me. Sometimes a good frustration cry is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a quick cleanse of sorts. I can’t do it on demand, sometimes it just comes out. Other times, the same frustration comes out in an oh my gosh throw my hands up type of laugh. The key here is not fighting it. If I feel it coming on, I’ve learned to just let it go. I had to learn this over a period of time, but once I did, the sense of relief was immeasurable. And now I can take comfort in knowing that a quick cry (or laugh) can get me back on the positivity train.
Read a book
This one’s a bit trickier because if I’m having a moment at work, it’s not a good look for me to kick my feet up on the desk and chill out with a book. But evenings, early mornings, weekends, a good book can help. I’m not talking about a long session here, even a couple of pages or a chapter can do the trick. I don’t have a ton of free time on my hands as a card carrying member of the #sandwichgeneration, so I can be reading two or three books at a time and it’ll take me five or six months to finish them.
Get fresh air.
Here is my go-to. I don’t think it’s ever failed me. No, it doesn’t solve all my problems but it always helps me get my groove back. Of course it’s perfect when it’s sunny, but I do this in any weather. Hot, cold, sun, clouds, rain, snow–doesn’t matter. Taking the dog with me is an added bonus when I can do it. Something about the fresh air fixes a lot. The light, the scents, the air on my face–it all awakens me. And gets me back to being in the moment.
Caregivers know the importance of having a positive attitude. But like so many other things, it’s easier said than done. I have my little things which help me regain my positivity, refocus, and remember that I can only change what is happening today. Like Gandhi said, we can’t do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. All we have is now.
These things work for me. What works for you?