Finding Myself: Taking Care in Hard Times
Some of the things I'm figuring out on this journey of self-discovery are things that come to me over time. Like water wearing away a riverbed, truth is gradually exposed to be discovered. But other times it comes all at once, like someone just flipped on a switch and I can see, where I didn't really realize how dark it was.
That's what happened to me yesterday.
As I've mentioned several times, this has been a hard summer. On June 30th, I worked my last day on a contract that I have been working on for the previous three years. I had been the sole breadwinner for our family, so on July 1st I woke up, both excited and scared, wondering what this new journey would hold, ready to jump in and start my new adventure.
The adventure that started that day wasn't anything I was expecting. On July 1st, my Mom went to the emergency room and then the hospital. She has been in two more times. My Dad has been to the emergency room four times, and in the hospital four times. My daughter had to go to the emergency room at 2am this last weekend, for a new journey called asthma. This entire summer, every time I've thought things were calming down and I could get back to "normal," another front has moved in and flattened us. There's even more to tell, but recounting it all wears me out, and besides, that's not what this post is about.
This post is about what I discovered yesterday.
Yesterday my Dad went to the emergency room after being home for less than 12 hours. It was a long, stressful wait, wondering if he was going back to the hospital again or coming home. Neither of my parents can drive, and their hospital is far away, so at times like this, everything gets put on hold because we have to be able to respond to what is happening. But this time, we are sick. We can't be around my Dad when we are sick, so instead I was stuck, just sitting by the phone, waiting, feeling helpless while my Mom dealt with all of this on her own.
And I waited. I couldn't do anything. I felt awful. I just sat on the bed with the phone on my hand, wondering if it had been long enough that I could reasonably call in to the nurse or my Mom again to get an update.
People say at times like these, the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. You know, "You have to take care of yourself to take care of anyone else," and "Put on your own oxygen mask first," and things I always thought of as meaningless platitudes. Until yesterday, I thought that taking care of myself in the face of hard times was incredibly selfish. How *dare* I, I thought, do something normal, like put up the zucchini I have in the kitchen, when my family is suffering? How *dare* I, I thought, take a nap when there are others who are stuck in emergency room limbo, wondering what is happening next.
Oh, but I was so wrong.
I sat there, and I sat there, and things went on and on and on, and finally I realized something.
Sitting there, being miserable, staring at my phone? Not helping.
Not helping me, not helping my family, not helping anyone.
In that moment, I could not do *anything* that would have any material difference on the situation my parents (and us, by extension) were facing. But I *could* take action to make *my* life better. I could take care of MYSELF.
So I got up.
I got up, I cleared the kitchen table, and I started blanching and freezing the cooler full of zucchini we had gotten from our community farm share.
Did this sound like fun? No.
Did I feel better by the time I was into the project? Absolutely.
Once I got up and actually took action to make *my* life better, I felt better. In fact, I felt great! When I was done, I felt like I had made a difference in my life and the life of my family. I had a freezer stocked with zucchini, a nice clean kitchen and dinner on the way. I felt like I was in charge of my life again, instead of my life being in charge of me.
Such a simple thing, but such a hugely impactful one.
Yes, I am still tired. Yes, I am still stressed. Yes, I am still living with a crap-ton (sorry) of uncertainty about my future and the future of my family.
But I am taking action, and when I take action, I feel better. And when I feel better, nothing seems quite as insurmountable as it was before. Things seem doable. They seem survivable.
And now I know that about myself. I'm sure it will come in handy.
What about you? How do you handle hard times?
P.S. Oh yes, and Mr. Magpie had a job interview today. Maybe I won't be the breadwinner this time around. I would like that.