I have officially been here for one year now. Wha-what?! How has it been that long and also a lifetime at the same time? I can't say that I feel like I have adjusted but at the same time, I have fallen into a routine which is quite telling that I've settled in. Looking back at all that's happened, I realize a single year can act as an eternity and for good reason. Some things just take time.
The hardest thing about moving here to care for my parents with Alzheimer's and dementia was the decision to actually do so. Knowing the vision I had for my future would likely never reach reality was hard to swallow. Like, chokingly hard to swallow. I used to have nightmares where I would literally wake-up gagging. (You can read about that here.) I developed something called Plum Pit Syndrome, a psychosomatic stress disorder that lived in my throat and caused strange episodes of laryngitis that would last for weeks on end. I also lost about 20 pounds. These things helped clue me into the fact that it was "time" but really it came down to a single photograph taken by my friend Julie.
I spent quite a few nights at Julie's house to avoid the long drive home from Bourne to Wellfleet after teaching Grain & Grain, my bread and spoon carving class. Those nights typically included wine, tears, and a strategic plan for a new vision of my future. I absolutely dreaded what I imagined laid before me and desperately longed for a version I could like. I was overwhelmed by my pending future and it contained nothing but darkness. The strange thing though was the blindness to my then current reality. This picture (Not the best. Good job Julie!), complete with striped sweater and bulky blanket with medium sized dog was a sudden wake-up call. All things which should have added size, somehow made me feel small. And not just small but frail. I was losing myself to a battle in which the war had yet to start!
This photo helped me realize my parents weren't the only ones who were sick. The anxiety surrounding the decision to move, which had been on my mind for roughly two years at this point, was literally impacting my health and deteriorating my quality of life. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the decision was made for me with a call from Adult Protective Services that came shortly after it was taken. You can read about how that went down here but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if that call never came. Would I still be clinging to old dreams, wasting time with procrastination? Would my parents' health have reached a devastating critical mass? Would my own health be an issue obstructing my desires of any kind? I don't know... But what I do know is that the nightmares have subsided, the plum pit has gone away and my weight has plateaued which is telling that life has normalized.
The fragility I owned a year ago has given way to a stronger person with clear values if nothing else. There is no room for the weak and I mean that literally. Lifting my mom off the ground after a fainting spell is no easy task and all 130 pounds of her lifts like the weight of the world. The weight of my conscience is also gaining strength as this experience has shown me the atrocities of bureaucratic culture and a general lack of dignity for the elderly. However, I can also say, I have never been more aware of the beautiful resilience of the human condition and the profound reach of the human spirit. These things were never part of the visions crafted on Julie's couch because these were part of the unimaginable. I never would have guessed...
As for my future, the vision remains blurry and pixilated but with pops of color and structure of something still coming into focus. After months, even years of living with the hovering darkness of responsibility, I am finally putting some trust in the idea that things are going to be ok. I am once again, dreaming of a future that is my own and it's a version that I like! As my wise friend Angela often preaches, "life auto corrects" and we all will be rerouted in the right direction with time.