Bring on 2019. The girls are back to school (phew), holiday obligations are behind us, the decorations are back on a shelf in the basement, and it’s time to get back to work. On me.
I like the New Year. Something about the clean slate and the renewed sense of opportunity and optimism. It’s a little cliche maybe but I’m into it. I always have been, in spite of my (embarrassingly bad) personal track record with new year resolutions.
Resolutions and I don’t get along
I’m gifted when it comes to scrapping resolutions. The longest I’ve ever stuck with one is twenty-six days and that was for giving up soda. When I attach the word resolution to something, it’s doomed to fail. But this year is different.
Not because I’m more deeply entrenched in my role as a caregiver to Mom or as part of Steve’s care team, but because of what I’ve learned from these experiences. Self reflection and self care used to be words and phrases I’d hear from time to time. Now they’re daily utilities for me. Out of necessity.
It started with Mom. When I was a caregiver rookie, I was running on pure adrenaline. It worked for a while, until it didn’t. Seemingly overnight I found myself physically exhausted and mentally tapped. On the verge of a breakdown. I wasn’t helping Mom the way she needed and I wasn’t helping Lindsay or the kids the way they needed. On top of it all, I wasn’t helping myself.
I learned (the hard way) that to support Mom the best I can— so that she can live her best life– I need to take care of myself. Mentally and physically. In order for me to do that in a meaningful way, I needed to reflect and take personal inventory. Consistently. It wasn’t easy then and isn’t now, but it is worth it.
It’s worth it because I now know in my heart that I’m doing all I can to be the best for Mom so she can ring every ounce of joy and fulfillment out of her life. It’ll never be perfect (or even close) but the effort is all that I can control. So after taking a good look at where I stand over the holidays, I found the thing I’m going to focus on most in 2019 to be a better caregiver.
Asking For Help
Can. You. Help. Me. The words aren’t hard to say.
Can. You. Help. Me. Not hard at all to say on their own.
But when I’m knee deep in a swamp of caregiver tasks, it’s a huge challenge for me. Here’s why (I think).
I can’t let go
Maybe I’m a control freak. Or perhaps it’s just parental-like instinct on overdrive. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. In order to more freely ask for help, I need to let go.
The people I’m asking for help all love Mom. Or me. Or both of us. That is enough. I need to trust and let go.
Most of the time I don’t know what I need
In the caregiver swamp it feels like there are a million things to do but there’s no time. Time speeds up and I can’t focus on simple tasks, never mind figuring out if so and so can do this or that.
Every piece of help no matter the size or significance…well, helps. It all matters and is all significant. And I need to trust that too. So I’m going to start with the little things. No more time spent on figuring out what I need. Because I need it all.
Any little things–phone calls, rides for Mom, shopping–that are adding to my stress, I’m asking for help from now on.
I feel guilty for asking
I just need to deal with it. Someone I love very much used to tell me that. A lot. In a loving but no-nonsense sort of way. She was always right then and she’s definitely right now. My time and energy is precious and it shouldn’t be spent feeling guilty. Especially for asking things from family and friends–who want to help!
I’ll repay them in some way in the future. Until then, I need to deal with it and get over my guilt.
My inability to ask for help has been a problem. It short-changes Mom. I’m not always the best solution. And it short-changes me. I’m not always the best solution.
People want to help and I need to let them. Actually, scratch that.
I need to ask them. And If i do that, I’ll be a better caregiver.
Bring on 2019!