Community of One

What do you think of when the word community comes to mind? It may be when you were a child and played basketball  in the neighborhood community building. It involved others, playing , laughing, having fun. Or it may involve caring for others, like feeding the homeless, or giving their children clothes. In either event, it involves others. What if the community was one, your loved one?

Community involves coming out of yourself, with the emphasis of concerns of another. It is through this involvement I believe you learn some things, not so much about the other person, but about yourself, like I did today.

For a change I was having a productive day at work, and enjoying having lunch with good friend and coworker, Cheryl, when I got a phone call. It was my mother.  I froze staring at the phone with my mind going a zillion miles a second fearing what I would words I would hear on the other end of the phone line. “Sorry to bother you, but I could use some help. I fell again…”

While she sounded fine, my mind continued to spin. I told her to call 911, she said no. Later, when Cheryl and I left the restaurant, she asked me if my mother was going to call 911. My response: “no, she’s not calling 911. And why wouldn’t she? I am 911!”

It was a joke that we both laughed at, but there was a ring of truth in it, and I think all caregivers to some degree would agree with the statement. We got back to the office, I made some calls, emailed my manager that I had to leave, and I lit up the highways and the bridge to get home as soon as I could (live in one state but work in another), not knowing what I would find. I got to her apartment and (long story short) found a man who worked at the complex who was gracious enough to get her off the floor and into a chair. That only took less than six seconds. We thanked him profusely, he got his tools and left. My mother said now that she was sitting in the chair and off the floor, “you can go back to work now if you want.”  W–h–a–a–t–t–t~~??? I told her I would not be doing that.

Eventually, the conversation got into why didn’t she just call 911. Answer: there would be a cost. Next was conversation of having a service like AlertOne, those things worn around the neck that she could push the button and get the help she needed. Answer: the cost, not only for the service but also to pay the police for taking the call. Then I said “and what would you do if I was out of town?” Answer: “then I would have no choice, I would have to call 911.” As these type of conversations usually go, we got into an argument, with me saying what Cheryl and I joked about in the car, only this time there was no laughter; neither of us were happy with the road this conversation was going. “Well, you don’t have to worry, I won’t bother you anymore. Now I know where you stand.” And where do I stand?

I stand at that moment in time as one who is truly trying to do the right thing here. I stand trying to gather what is left of my frazzled emotions, trying to ignore the throbbing pain of my head that I have had since this morning that still hurts, after taking three Advil pills this morning. I stand being one who is frustrated and just worn out, but still trying to continue being a caregiver. Having done all, I just want to stand…

I quickly gathered my things. we said some not-too-good curt sentences to each other and I left and went four doors down to my apartment, upon entering throwing my jacket and keys on the couch, and with all the strength I had in me slammed as hard as I could my door. As I sat down (with the pain in my head thinking it not robbery to enlist my neck in joining in the pain party), the word of community of one came in my head. I didn’t know why, and frankly didn’t want to explore it, but did anyway.

Community is where there is caring coupled with disagreements, but nevertheless you stand. Community is where the focus is not on self but on others. Community is where you find answers of making things work, and in the process get a crash course of how to deal with others’ personalities as you discover some things about yourself. Patience is key, but I have to admit, this not so easy process makes me want to yell out a loud Charlie Brown AHHHGGGGHHHH, though.

Addendum: About a couple of hours later, my mother called to talk about her medicine, like nothing happened earlier…

 

How’s “making it work” working for you?

On the show Project Runway, fashion consultant Tim Gunn is always saying to the fashion designers “make it work”. It is also the mantra of every caregiver on the planet.

Whether caring for children or parents or anyone for that matter, the ones that give care are mentally saying to themselves, make it work. We lose sleep mentally trying to devise a plan of doing this so that can get done, coming home early (as I did today) and not telling anyone you are there so you can have some quiet time to just sit and be quiet and try not to think about what else needs to get done.  We use our break times at work to make phone calls, run errands during lunchtime (mine was going to the post office to pick up stamps for my mother), and actually enjoying the ride home from work because of leaving work early and beating the traffic crunch.

And so I have a question for you: How is your “making it work” plan working for you? The designers on Project Runway oftentimes have to rethink their design, particularly when Tim puts his hand to his face and exhibits that concerned look that is silently saying “I think you may want to rethink this one”. The same holds true for the caregiver. Wanting to do the right thing but not sure how to go about it. But here’s the main thing about it all. Through no fault of their own, caregivers are very busy people, not so much because of their own life, but for the live(s) of the one(s) they are caring for. Because so much time is placed on that person, there is little time for the caregiver to care for self. This has the potential for a myriad of problems, from depression, to lack of focus, loss of sleep, and health concerns. As my mother has told me “you can’t keep going at the pace you’re going. I don’t want you to get sick.” She has a point, and I know her concern is an appropriate one.

But caregivers also don’t want to impose on others, and so they keep going at what appears to be a breakneck pace to get everything done. What happens when it doesn’t get done? We have to acknowledge some things:

  • You are only one person. Sorry to have to tell you this, but you are not perfect either. There are days all is going great, and there will be many times it seems like all is going wrong. Please do not fault yourself. If anything, perhaps this is something you need to do:
  • Learn to say no to things. Does it have to get done now? I was this week just getting into a good flow at work, and feeling good about it, when my mother reminded me she needed to be taken to the doctor this week. I told her the appointment would need to be rescheduled. The good news was she was okay with it, and I was successful in getting the date I wanted.
  • Make the time to be alone with yourself. Schedule it and stick to it. Unless there is an emergency don’t reschedule quiet time. Make it a daily habit.
    • Not a monthly…and not a weekly, but a daily habit. Take time for you. Give yourself some priority.
Of course this is not all caregivers need to do, but please consider the above as a beginning to de-stress your life.  Make it work…for you for a change.
Wow. What a concept…

Checkpoint

There are times I write when I’m in the moment, and this post is being written during  one of those times.  I decided since my mother was not driving and knowing she wanted to be at church, I asked her earlier today if she wanted to go, and it was agreed I would take her. Even though I had been up since 3am this morning, I decided to sacrifice a quiet evening and take her to church. The church service was nice, and those that were there were happy to see her familiar face.  I am usually in bed between 9 and 9:30, and I knew I needed to be in bed no later than 9:45. But my mother wanted to pick up something to eat on the way home.  She waited in the car and it took for ever for her order to get done (actually it was about 20- 30 minutes), because she wanted it fixed in a certain way. When I finally got in the car, she wondered what took so long, “they must have a different cook,” and “this is not what I’m used to getting”, and let us not forget (when I told her how much it cost)”oh no, that’s not how much it usually costs.” These were the comments which made me feel not only more tired than I already was, but experiencing another ‘failure as a daughter’ moment. I must admit she did say she didn’t mean to have me wait so long, but by that time I guess the damage had been done.

This post really has nothing to do with being a caregiver, just with being a daughter. During the ride home I stayed quiet as I heard the crunch of her order as she was munching, and wishing I could taste what I ordered. Anyway,  the checkpoint is the following:

Whether a caregiver or just a son or daughter, there are times when all of us have to speak up, set boundaries, and just say no: this phrase from the Reagan era is not just for a stance for not taking drugs, it can apply to other situations, like “Mom, I’ve been up since 3am and I’m really tired. Since you just went to the grocery store yesterday, don’t you have something you could fix at home?” Oftentimes, being silent to keep from saying something in an angry tone is not enough. But saying no in an even tone is.

Let’s just say this is something that I need to   work on: checkpoint is speaking up in the right way, and not feeling guilty for doing so.

I feel better for letting my fingers do the talking tonight. But it’s 11:02pm and I need at least 5 hours of sleep. So goodnight for now.