Sometimes “S**T” happens. When it does, you had better deal with it – before it starts dealing with you.
About 2 years ago the Universe, in its wisdom, cast me in the role of caregiver. I didn’t ask for this role; I didn’t audition for it or prepare for it; it simply was assigned to me.
It started with a phone call from the police. My brother had a heart attack and stroke while driving his truck in the U.S. and was languishing in a Florida hospital. To be critically ill is one thing; to be critically ill and be a foreigner in a country that has yet to develop a comprehensive philosophy and system of health care is something else. We had to pull all the stops out to get him back into Canada.
So there it was: the simple and quiet life I had created for myself had turned upside down. Within six weeks of my ailing brother landing on my doorstep, my 86 year old mother, who up until then had been living independently, showed up with early signs of dementia. It was clear that she could no longer live alone.
What do you when your life suddenly turns upside down?
Do you rant and rail at the unfairness of it all and become angry? Do you become overwhelmed by it and become depressed, or do you come to terms with your lot and accept it with grace and dignity?
Travelling through this roller coaster of emotions I found myself back in the class room, re- learning lessons, that I thought I already knew.
The morning that I woke up gasping for breath, feeling crushed by the weight of carrying two people, was the day that I not only learned to quiet my mind… it was the day I started to really breathe. In a state of panic that morning, the only thing I could think to do was to chant – of all things, the Serenity Prayer. It became my personal mantra. I said it in the morning when I woke up, and at night before I went to bed.
Within days things began to shift – not on the outside, nothing had changed there – but within me.
I began to let go of my need to be in control. I began to just detach and allow things to happen. In letting go, I discovered an exhilarating feeling of freedom of not always having to be responsible.
Sometimes all you have to do is to just breathe.
Life Lesson #1
It was only when I calmed my brain that I was able to see the options that were available to me.
As the old (but good) cliché kicked in, “you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can start helping others,” another powerful lesson began to emerge.
While it was important to harness compassion and empathy for others, it was just as important for me to develop compassion and empathy for myself too.
I had become so totally immersed in the caregiving role that I had lost sight of what was important to me. Imagine my surprise when I realized I needed to fill my own jug first, reclaim my own life, prioritize my own needs and ensure that they were on the top of the list and not on the bottom.
Life Lesson #2
Taking good care of myself meant that the people in my life got the best of me and not what was left of me.
Life lesson number 3 emerged in a funny way. I remember waking up at 6:00 one morning to the sun beaming through my window and a persistent scratching at my door. I jumped out of bed ready to yell “what the hell do you want,” only to find two pairs of pleading eyes looking up at me: a large German Sheppard dog and a coon cat who seemed to be saying “The sun is shining! It’s a new day! Please get up and engage with us.” Rather than banishing them, I sat on the stairs and did just that. I engaged with them. There we were, for a good 10 minutes, experiencing a major love-fest of positive energy. I was petting and stroking the animals while they were engaging with me and each other.
This simple positive experience was priceless. It cost nothing, but was so restoratively, therapeutically healthy, that I began to make it a part of my morning routine. From there I made it my mission to seek and find those small delicious delightful moments that I could sprinkle throughout the day; moments that provided joy, fun, play, relaxation, humour and peace of mind.
Life Lesson #3
I realized that I was smart enough to create my own strategies for self care and use them when needed.
The universe’s tendency to turn our lives upside down when we least expect it (no Law of Attraction Thinking for me,) is the measure of our resilience, our bounce-back-ability and character. I may not be able to control every situation or outcome, but I can control my attitude and how I deal with it. So now when things just don’t go the way I want them to, I shout, “plot twist” and move on.
Yes, life can be an uphill climb at times; but while I’m climbing that hill I am stopping to take in the view.
Some people say life is like a camera. I say ok – then focus, develop the negatives and create an astounding picture.
For me, life is no longer a struggle; instead I prefer to see it as an amazing ADVENTURE.
This blog post was written by Veronica Hislop. Catch Veronica at momondays Toronto, ON on 04/25/2016! Get your advance tickets here: Buy Tickets