I’ve lost myself.
One minute your dreams are written on your heart and the next minute you realize that life has washed over you in waves, year after year. Sometimes you’ve been able to swim strong, other times to float and other times doggie paddle just to keep your head above water. You get mired down in the day-to-day minutia without even realizing it. Those dreams are still written on your heart. They haven’t gone anywhere, but you feel so far from them, you’re wondering how to get back to them. If you walked down the hallway of your heart, could you even find the door those dreams are tucked behind? You know it’s there somewhere. So how do you get back to it?
The tide washes in.
Your Father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the grief sets in. From that moment on, every birthday, every Thanksgiving and Christmas is worth so much more because you know his days are numbered. You cherish your family and your time with them.
The tide washes out.
The medicine is working very well to slow down the progression of the disease. Most people can’t even tell he has Alzheimer’s. You even wonder at times if the doctor made a mistake. You pray. You pray a lot. You find a Godsend of an adult day care for your Father with people who love unconditionally and have the patience of Job. He quickly acclimates to his new family and they not only keep him engaged, they keep him young.
The tide washes in.
Your Father regresses to the point he needs another caregiver besides your Mother. She can’t carry the burden alone. But this is not a 2-week stay. And this was never included in the board game of Life you once played. You give up your career, your friends, your church family and your life, head south and move back in with your parents.
The tide washes out.
Life is hard, but good. You adapt. You learn much as a caregiver. How to translate your Father’s words and moods, how to read him, how to talk to him so as not to irritate him. You realize you’re no longer human but an octopus, juggling doctors’ appointments, pharmacy runs, mood swings, health crises, work, some semblance of a social life and more than you can say grace over. Somewhere along the way, you become a caregiver for two.
You turn around and a decade has passed. Because of Divine grace and a loving community of support, you’ve weathered your Father’s heart attack, six heart stents, two hospitalizations, a few times wandering away, which included police officers, a K-9 unit, firemen and EMT’s. You’ve also endured your mother’s spinal fusion surgery, multiple falls, four broken ribs, three hospitalizations, three 911 calls and one rehab stay.
And now I’ve stood back and become extremely aware that I’ve lost myself.
This is what happens when you have loved ones. You step in and take care of things. You take care of them. All those years of high school and college when you were cramming for exams and stretching your wings to fly, you never once thought of being a caregiver. You didn’t choose nursing or social work as a career. But now you have a decade of experience for a job you never applied for. It was gifted to you. You don’t regret it at all.
But with this job, you realize you’ve lost yourself.
So how do I fix this? How do I figure out which door in my heart has my dreams tucked inside? Would I even notice them if I saw them?
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace. *
And now is my time to find myself.