We are creatures of habit. We have our favorite food, our favorite music and our favorite clothes. We may try new things, but on the whole, we typically stick with what we know because it’s served us well. We drive the same route to work. We fill up at the same gas station. We buy the same brands at the store. And as we get older, we become even more cemented in our ways.
Now there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you like. But if you always insist on it, if the thought of choosing something different makes you anxious, then when life throws you a curveball, it will rock your world.
Some curveballs in life are glorious. Falling in love, having children, or starting your dream job. Naturally these have a certain level of stress to them, but overall, they are welcome changes. Stepping stones. Pivotal points that define your life.
Then there are other curveballs that define your life, curveballs that aren’t so welcome. Your loved one receives a horrible diagnosis. You become a caregiver. You’re laid off from your dream job and unemployment lasts much longer than your benefits. Your child has an accident and is now in a coma. Your own health is compromised and you no longer have health insurance.
So, what do you do?
You digest the news, regroup and come up with a plan. You make lifestyle changes and move forward, with a treatment plan, a broader job search, a support group, requests for prayer. You know life has valleys but this one seems to last a very long time. You stick to the plan and press on. At times you’re just barely holding on. Other times it’s three steps forward and two steps back. You celebrate the one step you’ve gained and keep pressing on.
Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s isn’t just one curveball. It’s nine innings of curveballs. Every time your loved one exhibits behavior that isn’t their normal behavior, that’s a curveball. When they forget how to dress themselves or brush their teeth, curveball. When they forget who you are, giant curveball. When they decide to wander, curveball. When they get up in the middle of the night to venture outside, another curveball.
I’m learning that every time I get thrown a curveball, it’s essential that I step back, reevaluate and determine if there’s anything I need to let go of. You can’t very well catch a curveball if you’re holding onto something. For example, we were taught to recycle before we even knew what the word meant. Whatever could be repurposed, we repurposed. When I moved in with my parents, I jumped on the bandwagon, separated plastic, glass and paper and dutifully toted it to the curb. I wasn’t trying to save the planet. I just wanted to be a good steward.
After a couple of years, when caregiver exhaustion became my norm, I made the decision to forgo recycling. No, I don’t like the idea of throwing away recyclable materials. But my sanity and strength are worth so much more than aluminum cans, water bottles and cereal boxes. It may not seem like much but eliminating that one thing has made a big difference.
If Mom or I have planned to make dinner, but we’re at our wits’ end, we let someone else do the cooking. Sometimes a bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches can satisfy more than just hunger.
What we need is grace. Grace like oxygen.
Grace to be late to church and refuse the lie that God is angry with me if I can’t get out the door on time. Grace to put things off until later. Grace to get to work when I can, rather than hold myself to a strict start time if I just can’t get my act together. Grace to forgo plans if those plans will not rejuvenate me. Grace to skip church altogether if I’m too tired and just stay home and rest in His presence. Grace to eat more dark chocolate than my normal share if I really need a boost.
Grace isn’t just a cup of cold water to a weary traveler. It’s a torrential rain that soaks the ground and saturates the soul after a year of drought. It’s a dozen bear hugs rather than one little pat on the back. It’s an enormous bouquet of fragrant roses. It’s an unexpected check in the mail. It’s hearing from a dear friend with a timely word of encouragement. It’s a huge blessing you didn’t see coming that puts the wind back in your sails.
The more curveballs life throws at you, the more grace you need. So don’t wait to give yourself grace. And if you’ve received God’s grace, remember you have an unlimited supply.