You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
Henry David Thoreau
Right now, at this moment, life is good. I'm sitting in the hospital coffee shop writing this, drinking coffee, and listening to some not bad music on the sound system. Hendrix was just on and before that the Blues, which I love. Before starting this posting, I ate a cannoli, a delectable treat that I've been resisting for the six days I've been here. But now seemed the time. For the moment, my mother's condition is stable, my father is with her, and they have my cell number. And so I'm enjoying the longest stretch of free time that I've had in days. I don't really count nighttime, when I go home to sleep, because I'm too exhausted to do much more than that: sleep. Most other days, I've been waiting to speak to the attending doctor or get test results or - like last night, waiting for my Mom's pain meds to arrive and keeping her calm while she waited.
Today, I thought I had it made and so I went downstairs to get lunch in the cafeteria. It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today and so I was thinking, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty [I'm] . . . free at last," under my breath and smiling. I selected a grilled pork chop, mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans. It looked great. I chose a table and - I swear - no sooner had I cut into a pork chop and taken one bite when my cell rang. It was my mother's nurse who was calling to tell me the attending doctor had dropped in. I am sure that doctors have one of those maps like the one in Harry Potter where you can see the position of everyone in the building and the minute family members leave the room, they swoop down out of nowhere. Seriously, that has happened all too often. This time, though, I knew that my mom's vital signs looked good, my dad was with her, and so I took a deep breath and told the nurse, "You know what? I'm eating and I'm sure my parents will be fine. If they miss some things, I'll check with you later or even have you page the attending." I'm proud of myself. My sister has been reminding me to take time for myself. So I am and it feels good.
As more than one person has said, caregiving is a "marathon not a sprint," and the caregiver needs to take care of themselves or, as someone else said, "they won't finish the race." Anyone caregiving, either full time or part time, needs to keep that in mind. I know that, speaking for myself, it can be difficult to relinquish control because both of my parents have cognitive decline and often don't completely understand what the doctors and nurses tell them. Even worse, they belong to that generation of people for whom the doctor is God. They only rarely ask questions and tend to take the doctor's conclusions or recommendations as law. And, to make matters worse, things have definitely gone wrong when I leave my mom's room for too long. Tests ordered that shouldn't have been done, too many pain medications given, not enough, on and on. But I am working on letting go because all caregivers need to take a break and I knew that I was in need of one today and so I took it.
For more ideas, take a look at the book Simply Relax.
If you don't have time to go out to relax, listen to the song below, settle into your recliner or less comfortable chair and take a mental relaxation break. We all need them.