Caregiving 101: Sometimes, you have to hit the ground lounging
After nearly three months of going nonstop seven days a week while taking care of my father after he suffered two strokes, I found myself with three unscheduled hours in the middle of a day last week.
My first thought was a nap, but because it was early in the day, I wasn’t that tired. It was then that I took off my sneakers to relax and caught sight of my neglected, half-polished toes. It had been months since I had been to the salon. “I could go get a pedicure,” I thought.
The go-go-go side of my brain, trained from these long hours and many miles of being a caregiver (running two businesses, and trying to keep up with two houses and yards and multiple pets) said, “I don’t have time.” And then, I nearly burst into tears. “Seriously,” some small part of me said, “I don’t have time for myself? I don’t have time to take care of me?”
I knew then I HAD to go get that pedicure. I hadn’t read a book or magazine in many months. The winter had been hard on me. I got really sick in December and I had fallen on some ice in January, seriously injuring my back and a knee. Both required long recovery periods.
I needed some time to just sit and breathe and maybe do nothing while someone spoiled me with a sweet touch and added some beauty and color to my life.
I took a book I was excited to start and headed for a salon. The wait there was long and I walked out in frustration. I Googled another salon and found it was almost empty. The woman took me to a chair in the back where I put my feet in wonderful-smelling warm water and she turned on the massaging, vibrating chair. There wasn’t another soul back there; everyone else was up front getting manicures.
She said it would be about five minutes before someone got to me. It was more like 25. I read many pages in my book, my mind immersed in the glorious Kennedy years of the 60s before his assassination and far from medical procedures and various types of therapies. And for part of that time, I just sat and breathed with my eyes closed. And maybe sensing my need, the woman who did my pedicure quietly gave me an extra long foot and leg massage. I can’t describe how refreshing that was.
The next day, I hopped back on the hamster wheel of appointments with a different attitude, in beautiful sandals and with a spring in my step. I started thinking of ways I could get some breaks in each day, even small ones, just a little time for myself to refresh, renew and restore my exhausted spirit.
I thought back to a text conversation with a friend a few days earlier where he told me he was sitting outside for hours after work. I recalled my outdoor recliner, folded up on my porch collecting dust since fall. The weather had turned warm while I was constantly on the go – driving, running errands, taking my dad here and there, researching treatments and medications, interviewing specialists.
I got that chair out the first chance I had and sat in the sun for just 15 minutes, reclining with my feet up. I was revived for the rest of the day. I am finding time each day to do this now. And every time I see my chair, even when I don’t have time to sit it in right away, I smile. The same thing happens when I see my beautiful toes.
I was texting with the same friend one morning a few days later. The night before, when I told him how tired I was, he told me to get some sleep and then hit the ground running the next day. That morning, he asked what I was doing. I was sitting outside in my chair, watching my German Shepherd romp happily in the grass, and I told him so. And then I added, “So, you could say I am hitting the ground lounging.”
And that’s when the message really hit home. You have to care for you and love yourself every day, which I usually do, but it’s especially important, even crucial, when you’re caring for someone else.
I am tired today, but instead of running my dad around for his errands without a break, I took him to breakfast and we just sat and talked and breathed for a time. And then I took him to his house to rest before our afternoon appointments, and I am writing, one of the things I most love in my life. We’re both having the better day for it.
I wish you much peace and love today. And as always, if this resonates with you, please share it with your family and friends.