Saturday, May 19, 2007

Treasure The Journey

Friday night when I got all my stuff done, I finally collapsed onto Mom's couch to sit with Gram for a bit before she went to bed. I looked over at the little endtable and picked up the book sitting there. Don't Sweat The Small Stuff For Women by Kristine Carlson, which Mom had picked up a few weeks ago when she went with my husband and me to the annual library book sale. I flipped to the back - of course. The last section is titled "Treasure the Journey."

I thought about Mom on her mad spree to feel as much like her old self as she can this weekend. That was how I felt last November when I spent a week in Toronto, saw my old friends, went to the ballet and had a chance to just be me.

My Mom is a person who prefers spontaneity, so having to build her days around her elderly mother has been very wearying to her spirit. In the six years that we've all joined our households together, I've shown Mom how making advance plans to get time away can prevent her from burn-outs and meltdowns. She's been resistant to that idea, mainly because she finds plans restrictive, even if they're plans for her own freedom. She'd rather get an urge to do something and go off and do it. That would be true freedom for her.

But I take regular time for myself. I have done this consistently in all of my caregiving. With my husband's bipolar disorder, taking time for myself is of paramount importance, for both myself and my ability to be there for him. Over the years, Mom has started to do the unthinkable. Plan! Last year she went on a two week vacation to Newfoundland with her two friends (the ones she's with now). Just making the arrangements for the trip made the first half of the year feel lighter.

So as I looked through the passage in the book, I paused over these lines:

"Before your mind skips to the fact that today your life might not be what you had expected or hoped for, take the time to repeat these words to yourself: Today, I will treasure the journey."

I think my mom has begun to refocus her attention to that journey. I got a real sense when she decided to take this weekend off, that she was not so much fleeing her day-to-day rut as she was embracing a chance to connect with everything she cherishes that she also misses. I feel really proud of her. It's still hard for some women to say straight out, "I need this." My mom is unconsciously waiting for someone to sweep her away for that Calgon moment.

But I don't wait. I take the time I need. I tell her, "I'm going on my writer's retreat," and she writes it on her calendar. We've got into the habit of going over our schedules so we don't get double-booked, making sure we've got grandma coverage and our own stuff taken care of. And over time, Mom has begun to schedule herself on the calendar.

One small step for Mom. One giant leap for womankind.

Meanwhile, tonight as I helped Gram into bed she said, "I'll do like today," thinking about tomorrow morning. Talk about planning! "I'll sleep as long as I want."

"If it gets too late," I said, "I'll come and get you."

"Unless I'm gone," she said with the most hilarious smirk.

"Well, if you are," I said, "I'll make sure and wake you up, then."


Crabby McSlacker said...

What a nice post!

All that "treasure the journey" stuff is so easy to lose sight of. Your post is a great reminder. (Which is not to say I'll remember tomorrow, of course--I'll be bitching about something new). But between this post and the flower pictures down below, you've got me stopping to smell the roses this evening.


I loved your post, and easily related to it. I think most of us are so used to giving, it's hard to admit when we need to "receive" or to give but to ourselves. Yet its important to care for us, so that we can care for those we love. It was beautiful, Julia. I'm glad your mom is planning! =)

Its Beerfest INNIT!!! said...

Thanks for commenting on my page. after reading what you've been talkng about, I think you'd be interested in Natalie Goldberg, an author who writes guideline type books on writing. However, the true beneifit doesn't come from her tips on writing, but more her stories about her own life and stuggles as not only a woman, but one who found herself in the middle of a marriage unsatisfied. She uses her past to help outline steps and methods that help her creatively and offers exercises that I myself have found beneficial. Check out "Writing Down the Bones" or "Wild Mind". Alos if you don't already know her, the work of poet Louise Gluck is excellent, and one of my personal favorites. I recommend either "Averno" or "Medowlands", although all of her work is amazing.

Annie Mac said...

What a thought-provoking post.

I used to be the kind of person that was always very goal oriented, looking forward to what I would have, what I could achieve, where I would go... After life threw me some challenges I learned to cherish the day and make the best of each moment. Control is just an illusion - life just sends stuff your way and you have to deal with it.

julia said...

Welcome Crabby McSlacker and Beerfest! Enjoyed checking out your blogs.

Red and Annie Mac, it seems that no matter how many steps women take in one direction, there is always our sense of nurturing that arises even in the most activity-oriented of us. It's so much easier to be the nurturer than to allow ourselves to be nurtured. It would appear that receiving would be an automatic female urge, as we physically receive in the act of procreation. But perhaps that is the very reason we resist receiving in our actions. Perhaps women need to balance that with the outward motion of giving.

gabriella hewitt said...

This was a very touching post. And so very important. Life doesn't go as planned and some of us are better able to cope with those detours than others. But I think your central point of making time for yourself doesn't get stressed enough. Sometimes people are afraid to ask for help and feel they have to do it all alone. I think it's wonderful that you are working together as a family and that your mom is learning to adjust to this new path.

Treasure the journey. I'm going to remember those words.