They say when life gives you Lemons you make Lemon juice or maybe add a dash of tequila if you like Margaritas. In my case, I have made a variety of cocktails with it whenever life gave me lemons, big and solid ones at that.
Life is always a roller coaster ride and it’s no different from one person to the other. The moment you feel everything is too good to be true, it does turn out to be too good. And at that precise moment when you feel that nanosecond of contentment WHOOSH! comes Life right back at you.
Mine came just after coming back from New York. While work was as hectic and stressful, I was glad to be back home, raring to go, all set to look at the horizon where I saw new things coming my way, the chance to move ahead and then came the call..
A dear loved one had a massive brain stroke in another part of the world in one of the least accessible countries. I was the second emergency contact and I felt numb, thunderstruck and helpless. He was unconscious for 6 hours before someone knocked open the door. It left me hanging, right there..
For the next 25 days it was about keeping myself calm and normal somehow and yet figure out how to get there, a country that was so strict when it came to Sharia Law and didn’t give an option for a tourist visa.
How would you know what was happening? The only way was one telephone call a day, miscommunication thanks to an alien language and heavily accented English where I could barely figure out anything.
As I went about communicating with his family and calling back and forth trying to figure out the options, my own helplessness was getting to me.
Hot tears, heavy heart, immense anger, like of all places did he have to work there? and to have a stroke there? Which went to… Why?
Why was there so much of neglect to his health all these years? Why? Inspite of all these years of telling,pleading and requesting? He already had a congenital heart condition with a pacemaker and now this? He is young damn it!
My first instinct was to get there no matter what, to hell with everything else, there are few people in my life I love, cherish,value and believe in and he is one of them. But how do I get there? After all that angst, there was this, the sheer practicality of it, that no matter how much I cried, got frustrated, the visa process was what it is. It was a dead end.
Finally a family member could get there and get him to USA for treatment, for post stroke recovery and rehabilitation. I set my date to travel back to New York again with no idea as to what exactly was his condition and what do I need to do and how long will I be there. Impulsive is it? I don’t think so for this is how I have been always.
I was not prepared to see the once brilliant man in this condition. A man with a sensitive heart, an engaging articulate man and now he could barely move or talk. The 3 hour window to revive him and make him recover fast was already out of the park as 6 hours of being unconscious led to further complications.
En route to New York, I felt a trepidation, a fear if I would be able to see the reality in front of me, but I guess I had used up that well of tears I had in the past 25 days.
What I expected to what I saw was completely different. It was not just about the man anymore, it was about the concept of caregiving. Yes.. Caregiving..
I followed quietly what his family did, giving my support in whatever way I can, be there in whatever way I could and yet I felt something was amiss, mostly in me.
It was draining me, wallowing me into the pit, getting me deeper into sorrow, more and more, I was smiling on the surface and engaging him in conversations but deep down I was falling into a dark crevasse.
Then I realized what it was..The expectations.. The high expectation I had of myself as a caregiver giving everything of myself and anything less I thought I gave, I was berating myself.
As someone very close to him, I was expected of that by everyone in the family, silently without any words, it was understood. The self absorption among themselves was killing me inside. Was I becoming toxic or was it others?
Everyone wanted to be the caregiver, telling what’s right and what’s wrong and I was getting entangled in it deeper and deeper like a tight knot around my neck.
Last night I was about to snap, snap big at everyone out there. In the winter weather of -12 degrees at midnight, I wanted to pack my bags and walk out. I was seeing what it was doing to me. I was a messy mix of guilt, despair, sadness and anger.
But then something happened.. I sat until early morning near the steps and wondered.. All my life I took 5 steps forward if one asked for one step to be there with them, it felt good, it boosted my ego, after all I was always the caretaker since I became aware .
Right from my older parents to my friend’s kids, always taking those extra steps. I relished that role and how! When my parents were no longer there, I extended it to my work, my home, my friends, my dogs, to everyone except myself.
In the past 10 days I saw how people subconsciously look after their own interests while not acknowledging another person’s help and support and yet hurling those high expectations on that same person.
And that’s when for the FIRST TIME, I took a step back, a step back to caregiving, a step back and not feeling guilty about it, a step back and not letting expectations cow me down.
That’s when it became clear to me. Caregiving for your loved one is not just about ‘helping’ out but to also give in when it’s time and to step out a bit and look at it objectively. To not forget that one has to be a caregiver to oneself too.
The latest Star War Movie, ‘The Last Jedi’ came to my mind. That movie taught me what it means to be a failure as a teacher and my harrowing experience taught what it is to fail as a caregiver.
By constantly watching out for one person and taking in all those expectations of others, I failed to take care of myself. That tiny inner voice in your head , yes the same one, that pops up rarely if you are lucky enough told me,I must let go.
And when I do let go, I should stop burdening myself with the expectations of others on me and focus on the task at hand, The person you came for, the person you wanted to care for, the rest is all just sand…
And as I sit with my laptop in this cold wintry night I will fall asleep content knowing am doing my best, and there is only so much I can do and the biggest help I can be is to let things be and take it’s own course..