Is it just me, or are we all searching for something? And by something I mean it in that grander, life's purpose kind-of way that has us all itching for a magic key that unlocks contentment. Contentment, different from "settled" yet settled in a way that allows the passing of each day feel gratifying, accomplished and with the favor of satisfaction that feels like we have earned it. This is an annoying and haunting itch that scratches away reason and leaves a paranoid residue that times-a-wastin'.
I feel like I have spent so much time chasing down dreams, anxious to get on to the next thing only to wind-up lost and confused as I circle back to some original thought that I have long but abandoned. And now, as I transition into this role of "caretaker" this cyclical pattern repeats, again, only this time distraction waits at a distance. Without the flurry of my life's former routine I am forced to address circumstance while equally measuring possibility against the culmination of my experiences, skills, and abilities.
I know I am smart. This confusion isn't a matter of insecurities. I have an undergraduate degree in Human Development and Learning from East Tennessee State University. I have a master's degree in Central and Eastern European Studies from the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland with a concentration in social transformation. I am a Certified Natural Chef thanks to the Nutrition Therapy Institute and upon graduation landed an amazing gig with the Sea Education Association. There has been no shortage of education or adventure, so like I said, my floundering is not a matter of insecurities.
All of these things stack nicely in the job department but when you are a caregiver it doesn't matter much. That dream job within grasp is an illusion because obligations on the home-front come first. Try explaining that to your would-be employer. Can you tell I have entered a deep pondering phase? And it's one thing to ponder the future but it's quite another to give up on those dreams (aka: Grain & Grain) when the reality of this life and this moment, is the cage I must learn to live in. There is no fun in dreaming dreams that hold no possibility and this is one of the biggest crimes against caring for someone with Alzheimer's and Dementia.
As a caregiver, it's dangerous to believe in your own ideas because fantasies can break you. I don't want to see the marketing materials full of smiling faces at assisted living centers or rehab hospitals or any other misguided sales pitch. I want reality! I want to see the real life of this disease like the moments captured by Upside Down Daughter. Show me how bad it can get so I can understand my own capacity and develop a measure for when I need help. I need to establish my own foundation and understand where it is weak.
The future is bleak for so many reasons but maybe those are projections too? Maybe the face of pain is actually one of strength and all that work you managed prior to this moment is the foundation for a better you? A foundation for a future that you are still building and doesn't need to make sense now because it's just the ground layer but its the work necessary to stabilize your future. If I circle back to 17 years ago that Human Development and Learning degree really laid some ground work. What at the time seemed the fastest exit strategy from college is now a tool for understanding aging, an interest I guess I have had all along. That chef certification is used constantly and when combined with the human development knowledge I realize, maybe there is a place for me to help explain diet and age related illnesses. Maybe social transformation exists within social media and these things are all working together to create my purpose? Maybe Grain & Grain, my budding business idea of artisan bread baking and wooden spoon carving isn't a dream to abandon, but a passion to explore within the context of my current circumstance?
What if we don't need to have everything all figured out? What if the quest for purpose isn't something you happen upon, but instead becomes you? Like with carving spoons, life experience is a tool in the making, taking shape little by little until you have a handle on things and destiny is the dessert, a dessert you created yourself and is sweeter than ever. Is this self care? I don't know. I certainly don't have things figured out but as I listen in the stillness and try and calm the restlessness I have moments where I can reflect on my trajectory and I start to wonder if maybe, just maybe...I have arrived?