Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the Road to Find Out (Cat Stevens)

Today's DailyOM
June 23, 2009
Different Ways of Navigating
We’re All in the Same Boat

We’re all in the same boat. We just have different paddles, and perhaps we find ourselves on different rivers. We all live in human bodies. These are the vehicles in which we move through our world. We are all made of flesh, blood, and bone, with brains, hearts, and lungs to power us. Our paddles—the tools we use to move through the world—vary, as do the bodies of water—the environments—in which we find ourselves.

Some of us use our high IQs to get where we want to go. Some of us use our smiles, others use kindness, a gift with language, or athletic ability. Some of these qualities we were born with and others are skills we have learned. Considering this metaphor in light of your own life can be very enlightening. What tools are you using to get from point A to point B in your life? Chances are, you and the people you know have used many different tools in various combinations throughout your lives to get where you needed to go. Just as with oars or paddles, a balanced approach is best. If you rely too much on one thing, like beauty, to open doors, you fail to be well-rounded and you may eventually lose your equilibrium. And if you lose that one quality, you have no paddle at all. This is inspiration to develop multiple tools to navigate your world.

Some of us may be moving along paths that are like rushing rivers; others may be on a large, still lake. We have all felt, at one time or another, tossed about on a stormy ocean. Through all this, we are never really alone, even though it might seem that way. There is inspiration all around us in the form of other people making their way through the world, in the very same boat. Remember to look around you for role models, companionship, and encouragement.

A dear friend forwarded me yesterday's Writer's Almanac (to which I already subscribe) and asked, about the poem (below): "Wouldn't you love to meet the person she wrote about? Does she know you?"... and at that moment, I realized my smile is one of my best attributes... and I seem to have lost it over the last month...

Not sure exactly when and how it happened, but this caregiving is serious business... and maybe I'm taking it too seriously... except, is there any such thing as too serious when it's literally life and death - I seem to become much more annoyed lately... with mom, with others around me and with myself. I find myself thinking words like "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" with others' methods of dealing in ways different from my own (an unfair judgement I'm sure, as different does not necessarily mean worse) - I feel like "the bad guy", *making* mom do things (like go to the bathroom when she says she doesn't have the energy, because the last thing we need are open bedsores, a situation we *can* control when so much of this we can't)...

Crazy thing is... I'm getting more, and longer, breaks than I did the first few weeks - maybe the transition to "the real world" is jarring - when I didn't know differently, I could immerse myself in the mindless routines. Now I know that everything doesn't have to smell like urine, there is such a thing as a good night's sleep and a day can just flow without having to write down every detail of medication, visits and questions for the hospice nurse - sometimes it seems pointless to "escape" when I know I'll be going right back to it within 24 hours (what's the point, you know?)...

When I arrived here a month ago, mom was handling so much on her own (with the help of my siblings and her neighbors) and my plan was to visit for a few weeks and head back home - instead, the timing was fortuitous and I felt I was the catalyst for drastic changes in her health care plan. Mom seemed relieved not to have to rise to the daily challenges anymore, and her friends were grateful someone had finally stepped in to take control - it's now become a double-edged sword as mom, who has always been the one in charge, seems to be resenting me because I took away her perceived independence... and I can't be "fun" because I am enforcing schedules and order (in her own best interests)...

I miss my husband, children and friends - I have been horribly remiss about returning phone calls and e-mails... and I almost can't think about my old life back home because it takes me out of my head and where I feel I need to be. Mom and I really are trying to make the most of this time together (watching movies, looking up things on the computer and just chatting) - yet sometimes... I can't help but realize how lonely I am... not to mention exhausted...

As I recently wrote on mom's CaringBridge website page, "things are changing so fast now and the key is our ability to adapt" - this means me too (snap out of it, Susan!... or, in the immortal words of Billy Crystal's character's wife to him in City Slickers: "Go and find your smile"... :-)

On the Road to Find Out by Cat Stevens

Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers by Rosalynn Carter, Susan Golant

POEM: The Sun Grows In Your Smile by Linda Rodriguez

When you smile, the air grows warm and soft,
the earth is watered with gentle mists,
seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil,
earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface
to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins,
lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises,
fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies,
damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind,
the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird
echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes,
gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt,
children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions
to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water
in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds
glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun
that grows and warms and heals in your smile.

QUOTE: "A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home." ~ Author Unknown


  1. Your smile is fabulous. (=

    I can't imagine how exhausting care taking is. I can see it in my grandpa's face as my grandma has relied on him more and more over the past few years for the everyday tasks we take for granted. I know he loves her, but it doesn't make the situation easy just because.

    This is totally unsolicited advice, but, as hard as this is, you'll feel better about it in the long run, I'd wager. The extra time with your mom, and a someday feeling in your heart that you did everything you could to be there for her.


  2. Hey, Amy ~

    You are dear - I've always known my smile is an asset, which makes it even more frightening when it goes MIA...

    It's all just so complicated and, for the most part, I am doing this with joy and love - however, I can't deny there's much baggage and history to wade through to get to the grace and dignity of this life transition...

    You are right - I *already* know I'm doing the right thing and in the right place... and that counts for a lot...

  3. Dear Susan....caregiving is exhausting, smile-sucking and soul-depleting but the previous poster is right - later (much later) you'll cherish the memories of the good moments with your mom...and the smile-less days will fade from memory. I wish there was a nugget of wisdom I could offer you (having spent much time where you are now)but I truly have forgotten how I got through. I suspect that going forward each day - going through it each day without future thinking - worked better for me than days I tried to 'go around' it - searching madly for quicker, easier, better.

    Your Smile will always Be There. Much Love.

  4. Hey, Catherine ~

    I appreciate your been-there, done-that, lived-to-tell-about-it wisdom - smile-sucking indeed...

    I also am fond of advocating "the only way through is through" philosophy... and I need to find my way back to it - in the meantime, I'll cherish your love... and remember my reasons for doing this... <3