Lessons From The Road

I feel like there’s a lot you learn about yourself while driving in the middle of the night. As the lines in the road speed by and your headlights wash across exit signs, the road strips away the ignorance and pride from your plane of knowledge and reveals to you the truth.

The things you’ve just assumed and hoped were always true start to unravel and in those moments of dead air between the songs and the station identification breaks,  you can see where the cracks have always been. The reflection you catch in the windows is your own, but it shows you as you truly are.

You’re a mess. You’re scared. You’re out of your element and you really wish you had someone there with you. You can still see your crown, so you know you’re still capable, but you’ve noticed it’s slipped. You’re unsure. Most of all, you’re feeling less than you.

The road tells you these things. The destination not so much.

 

The Crown Slips

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Such was the case for me one night at the of the beginning of this month. After a day of being sick, my husband was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Let me just state, one more time for the Universe to hear, diabetes fucking sucks. He has Type 1 and for some reason, his body decided to flip out and slip into diabetic ketoacidosis. As we have three children at home and are in the middle of flu season, I was stuck. I couldn’t go with him in the ambulance. I couldn’t follow behind with the kids in tow. On our previous trip to the local ER a year previously, I had learned that when the security guard says no one with children is allowed back to where the patients are, he really means it. And no amount of yelling and crying will convince him otherwise.

So I had to sit at home and wait for childcare to come before I could go and catch up. When I finally was able to join him, I was a wreck. I do not handle not knowing things well. Knowing that he was ill, possibly even gravely ill, and there was nothing I could do, drove me crazy. It was in that interim that I felt the crown start slipping.

 

I was at the mercy of those who I had asked for help. From the EMTs that transported him to the hospital to the ER workers who were working on him to the family members I called in tears, I was indebted to all of them. I had bent my knees before them and asked of them their service. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. I felt needy. I felt like a bother. And to their credit, the hospital workers and nurses, the EMTs and staff never once made me feel this way on purpose. They were just doing their job. They were pleasant and kind and gave me so many words of encouragement.

When I finally arrived at our local ER, I found out the process to transfer him from our local emergency room to the closest regional Veteran’s hospital had not only already begun but had been approved. After an hour or so, he was placed back in the ambulance and taken off to a waiting bed in the MICU at the VA hospital that was an hour south of us.

I said my goodbyes while he was being loaded into back of the ambulance and walked myself to my vehicle. If I had ridden with him, I would have been stuck away from not just my kids and my dog, but my home and all my other responsibilities. Just because my world hiccupped doesn’t mean that it stopped spinning around me. So driving myself down would allow me to drive myself home when I needed to.

So I did what I had to do. I got in the truck and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. And then I stopped, pulled up Google directions, and drove off into the night.

 

The Road To ReCoronation

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There’s a pair of owls that live on my street. I’ve seen them cuddling each other while sitting on the tree behind my house. Sometimes, I hear them calling to each other during the evening from different trees in different yards. Sometimes, the crazy birds hoot during the day, when I just assume they should be sleeping. No matter where they are, no matter what they are hooting about, they make me smile. They make me feel like I’m at home. They make me happy.

But honestly, I as much as I love them, I am not one of them. I am so not a night owl. So my drive to the hospital was extra complicated. It was well after midnight when I left the ER in my city and the place I was going was, according to Google, an hour and six minutes away. Maybe it was my worry. Maybe it was my fear. But at some point, being awake well past my normal prime didn’t seem to matter. I’m usually going to sleep with the chickens. On that night, while taking the back roads that lead me to the Interstate, I was one with the owls.

It was this time alone that allowed me to think about everything that was going on. It gave me room to evaluate what was going on in my life and how I should handle it. The wheels and the road were just rhythmic enough to zone me out to a state of thinking where I was able to assess what was and what was yet to be. I was also able to face the reality of the shallowness of the pool of physical, local support my family and I had our feet in. These revelations were neither positive or negative at that time. Like the shadows my headlights created on the trees that lined the roads, they just were. The emotions from them would come later, when more time could be assigned to them.

I’m not going to incriminate myself and talk about my speeding on the way down there. But for the most part, the stretch of Interstate I was on was pretty empty. And I was lucky enough that none of South Carolina’s finest were working that area that night. I made it all the way into the single digit exits for the city and found where I needed to go. With it being the early morning hours, I was able to find parking and somehow found my way into the back emergency entrance of the VA hospital.

It was then, when I crossed that threshold, that I felt the crown straighten. The kind lady at the desk helped me direct me to the elevators and soon I found my way to the floor and then the room where my husband was.

I’d like to say it was a joyous reunion and that the night was one of those magical nights where the love of the couple overwhelmed whatever sickness was happening.  It was not a Disney movie type night. It was a night in an intensive care unit with someone who very ill and his significate other who was very worried. Nurses were in and out taking blood and doing glucose checks. There was vomiting and pain. There were machines beeping and malfunctions. And needles. So many needles.  And when there was sleep, it was fitful and separated by tubes and bed rails. For me, it was in a hardbacked chair with a pillow and a blanket kindly brought by a nurse who might have actually been more than just a human.

But we were together. I was there when he needed me. And even when he didn’t know I was there, I was there. And slowly, the crown righted it’s self on my head. I was fragile and unsure, but I knew what to do. I wasn’t helpless. I was able to step outside my fear and do my best for the ones I love. Even if that act was nothing more than holding a hand, rubbing a leg, or getting more ice chips.

 

Ever After

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Now because all of that happened, the rest of the first weekend of February was pretty much a shitshow. There were trips back home, trips to get the kids, frustrations about feeling like I was not getting what I help thought I should be getting. It was hard you guys. Being separated from where I felt I needed to be and expected to keep just pounding along like life was normal was excruciating.

But what could I do? There’s no option for curling up and crying until the hard parts are over. Slowly, the minutes turned to hours, the hours to days and after more worrying that I’ve done about anything worth worrying about, we got the notification. After recovering enough to be moved to a normal room and having his levels be normal for 12 or so hours, it was time for him to come home. So that evening, it was just a process of loading up the kids and making the drive down.

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It was a lot different this time. I was a lot different this time too.

The road didn’t hold the same amount of self-reflection in the daylight. Even though the sun had managed to slip out of the sky while we were driving, the car was filled with too much excitement, relief, and still nervousness for there to be any meditative feeling. It is a known fact that when you are traveling with children in the vehicle, any drive becomes less ‘Oprah Super Soul Sunday’ and more ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.

After getting turned around in traffic and entering through a non-entering way, we finally were reunited. And with him entering the car, it was over. The lessons we learned were not.

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While his health is paramount here, there is a whole stream of things from this I learned about myself. I learned about the holes in my circle and the need to fill them. I learned that I need to believe in myself and my abilities more. I am responsible for so many people, wallowing in my doubt is just not an option.

Sometimes shit is going to go down and I’m going to be the one who is going to be one to hold it together. Whether I want to be the one or not. It’s just what it is.

I can’t rely on the road to remind me of that.

I have to wear the crown and all its weight in it’s full glory.
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Bumping Your Nose Against the Glass: Thoughts on Caregiving, Being Strong, and Self Care

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Don’t those words sound pretty?

They sound pretty in that behind the glass at a jewelry store type of way.

You see them sparkle. They draw you in close. But before you know it, you’re bumping your face on an invisible barrier that keeps you from reaching them. Over and over you try to break through. If only you could touch one, hold one for a moment, you know you’ll feel worlds better. But you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t reach. The only thing you can feel is that enlarging hole in your self worth and a busted, bloody face.

That’s the major struggle of being a caregiver.

For many caregivers, they have one job and one job only. It’s an all consuming position that has little to no time for that pretty concept called self-care. Their one job is being strong.
I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s when Strong Man competitions were popular on TV. Early morning or late at night, on one of the seemingly endless ESPNs, there would be big muscle dudes pulling or picking up big heavy things. And wrestling. Oh my word, there was so much wrestling in the late 80s and 90s that my little eyes couldn’t look away. Those sports helped me to develop an idea of what being strong meant.

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To young sports entertainment fan I was, being strong was being able to do things with your body. Being “strong” was being able to work through the pain to make changes. Even if the changes were moving a giant tire or body slamming a giant man. Being strong was a purely physical thing.

After years as a caregiver,

I’ve learned just how wrong that thought was.

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Being strong is watching your loved one become sick, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Being strong is knowing that no matter how much you accomplish, there will always be something else that needs to be done.

Being strong is waking up at all hours, making serious decisions on an unholy lack of sleep.

Being strong is bathing someone who can not bathe themselves.

Being strong is watching the words and phrasing you use to keep your loved from one feeling like they are worthless. It’s remembering they are more than an illness. It’s dressing their emotional wounds along with their physical ones.

Being strong is offering a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on, physically and emotionally. It’s being a sponge for the emotions someone won’t or can’t handle.

Being strong is balancing appointments and medications, checkbooks and utilities. It’s knowing what food you can make a meal out of and what type of soap to buy.

Being strong is standing during the storms of emotions and the tidal waves of unhealthy words because sometimes your loved one has been reduced so low that they are not who they once were.

HOWEVER

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Being strong is also saying enough is enough.

Being strong is not feeding into someone’s negativity

Being strong is providing recommendations instead of solutions to someone’s problems.

Being strong sometimes is saying “No.”

Being strong is taking action to patch your own sails when the winds of another have left them battered.

Being strong is practicing the dirty parts of self care. Self care is as ugly as it is brutal. But there’s strength in that pain. There’s a beauty in breaking what you think is yourself to clear the path for a better you.

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I have been strong.

But at the same time, I have not been strong.

I have often taken on the weight of the world when I should not have accepted it.

I have willingly placed myself in pain to help others feel less. I have not been able to tell someone when their actions have hurt me. I have not been able to take a step back, even when it was vital.

I tell you all this not as a pat on the back. I am not saying I’ve done these things to make myself a martyr. I do not need recognition for my actions. So many women in my life have worn a crown made of bitterness and passive aggression and asked to be praised for it. I do not want that weight on my head. I do not want heads bowed at my feet.

What I want is to be accountable for my actions. The ones that are good for others and the ones that are good for me. I want to be strong enough to do both. I want to breathe without having to make sure there is room. I want to put roots down and have a bit of the sun too.

I don’t have a plan.

I have a desire. A necessity.

I’ve read about it, I’ve written about it. The stars as my guide, dammit, it’s now time to live it.

All I’ve been doing is window shopping lately.

And I’m tired of bumping my nose against this glass.

 

 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Summer Status Report

In my neck of the woods, it is totally and officially Summer.

It’s hot, it’s humid, and for our family, both school and work are out.

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The 9-year-old is now officially done with 4th grade and will be starting his last year of elementary school when classes resume. He will also be hitting double digits in a handful of days. This is a progression of time that I am thankful for and utterly scared of. The “easy years” (that honestly were never “easy”) are now officially over. If we get through this upcoming year, and he will even if we have to crawl through glass, middle school is on the horizon.

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The 5-year-old is on his last summer before his school adventure begins. Kindergarten awaits him in the Fall. (Sidenote: Why do we say “in the Fall” but these kids start school in August? There ain’t shit about August that can be called Fall.) Every time I think of his little face and bright eyes going off into the wilds of education I get that feeling you get when you’re at the very top of the biggest hill on a roller coaster. It’s exciting but I’m kind of worried I’m going to pee my pants.

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The 3-year-old is dealing with her brothers getting older and the likelihood that very soon, she’s going to be the only one home. And for as fiercely independent she tries to be, the relationships she has with them are her world. In typical Three-anger fashion, she both loves them and often wants nothing to do with them. She wants to be the special much loved little sister but dear gods, don’t you dare call her baby. That’s a fighting word. And trust me, she can scrap.

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The husband has been on an illness related reprieve from work. He’s got tons of doctor’s visits and goings to and fro on over the next few months. He is taking the right steps to deal with his illness and utilizing every avenue to find them. I am auxiliary in his care. While we’re clearly a team in getting through this, I’m more Robin than Batman. Maybe even more Alfred than Robin. I keep the wheels greased and the machine functioning while he fries those bigger fish.

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As for myself, let’s do a little visualization. Since I’m painfully afraid of clowns, think of one of those juggling, painted faced, multicolour pantsuited bastards on a unicycle. But wait that’s not all! This clown happens to be juggling ceramic statues while pedalling his little one-wheeled contraption of death on an uneven stone floor. All the time, every day, that’s how I feel. Sometimes I make it through the performance with my eyeliner in place and all the figurines in their original shape. Most times, however, I’m spending the night glueing them back together while wearing day old racoon eyes.

I have been making some changes for myself between those haphazard feats of balance. Having the husband around to watch the kids allows me the chance to go do things without the little ones in tow. So far, I’ve found a local (country mile type local) metaphysical store and started the process to change my birth control to a more permanent option.

Both are exciting in their own way.  First, not being dependant on hormonal birth control will be AMAZING for me in so many ways. I’m well past my baby making time.  And secondly, having a nearby shop full of like-minded folks and spiritual goodies is so handy. I look forward to attending events and even networking a bit. Socially, I’m a bit of a hermit. Working on that that will be beneficial to everyone. They both have to do with parts of me I’ve been slack on keeping up on. I haven’t really been to the doctor since I had the last kiddo. My spiritual self has been equally glossed over. I’ve been taking great care to maintain, but sometimes maintenance is in order. That’s what I’m taking care of now.

I’m slowly moving events from “interested” to “going”. And for me, that’s huge. I’m actually starting to DO the things instead of overthinking all the things. Take this post for example. It’s taken me most of the day, dropping sentences in those spaces between errands, but here it is. Instead of thinking how nice it would sparkle once it was done, I started it. I worked on it. I created it. And now here I am and here it is. While some of this fluttering in my damp wings is from determination, a lot of it is from the support and love of those in my circle. It’s gotten pretty small over the years, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t the absolute best.

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I don’t want to tag this Summer with some cliche (even though I love them) title. It’s not My Summer or The Summer It All Comes Together. It’s even not the beginning of a revolutionary tale where the heroine finds herself in the midst of domestic chaos. It is simply going to be a summer. Whether it’s a summer of legend or something we hardly remember, it is what it is.

We’ll sweat, we’ll be lazy, and we’ll have fun. We’ll also be grumpy, busy, and bored. The Summer will roll on and the Sun will still shine.

I’m going to sit by the AC and try to chill out while it happens.

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The Queen and Her Crown

My husband had been vomiting for six hours. I had been on hold with the medical helpline for twenty minutes. In the living room, the two youngest kids were going to war with each other and the older one was trying to mediate. The dog was barking at the cat who was drinking from the dog’s water bowl. All of this played over a soundtrack provided by the whichever annoying Youtube Play-Along video the kids had previously been watching. The automated message telling me someone would join my call in just a moment repeated over and over in my ear. And for some reason, there was suddenly not enough air in the room.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no pause button on life. If there were, this would have been when I hit it, went outside, and screamed all of my worries and frustrations right into the face of the sun. Since that didn’t happen, I did the only thing I could. I took in a breath, put on the crown and started handling the shit in front of me like a Queen.

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Obviously, this was no a real crown. I’ve got some beanies and maybe even a baseball cap or two, but I do not own a crown.

Or a Queenly dress.

Or fancy shoes.

Or anything else you’d imagine a Queen has.

That’s because for me, being a Queen has fuck-all to do with outward appearances.

Being a Queen means taking a stand against the forces of self-doubt. It’s about bringing sovereignty to a world of chaos. More so, being a Queen is about justly, fairly, and fiercely reigning over your world. Most importantly, being a Queen also means not giving into and becoming incapacitated by fear.

I’m afraid a lot. In fact, I think it’s my factory preset is to be anxious. I have always been a Chicken Little type of person.  In the last few years, I’ve realized that letting this fear and its anxiety rule my life is unfair. It’s stolen moments and relationships. Its made me dependent on the wrong people. I have put myself in the hands of people who have not had my best interest in mind because I was afraid. When I look back at my life, there are so many times when instead of inspiring me, fear clipped my wings and locked the cage door.

As the primary caregiver for three young children and a husband with multiple health problems, I can no longer allow this fear to exist. By acknowledging my Queenhood, I rebuke the helplessness that fear brings. It gives me the confidence I need to accomplish the things I think I can not. I have people counting on me. And I can not let them down.

So when things get tough, when I feel overwhelmed, and when I’m certain the sky is falling, all I have to do is reach for the crown. My self-professed royalty lifts me up and turns me into the type of woman who bows the head and bends the knee to no one. Especially fear.

2018, so far, has shown me that my family needs a Queen who is not afraid to stand, back straight and chin high, in front of the adversaries in life and tell them to sit the hell down. Heavy may be the head that wears the crown, but someone needs to slay these dragons.

So since it doesn’t seem that this year is going to get easier

Note to Self:

Queen up, Buttercup. It’s time to reign.

 

P.S. The Husband ended up being taken to the hospital for a four-day stay. As a Type 1 diabetic, complications can strike at any moment, especially when battling other illnesses. We are still all recovering from this hectic and frightening start to the new year. The week of this posting, he will be returning to work. We’re hoping the bad times are behind us. Even if they aren’t, I’ve got my crown on.

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