Know how everyone tells you to “stop and smell the roses”? Well when people have said that to me before, I kinda wanted to make ’em sniff the thorns of the roses. Now that I find myself in the position of caregiver for my father, I’ve learned the beauty of that saying.
I had moved out of state last year but my dad was diagnosed with an inoperable lung tumor and he has spots of cancer on his spine — all of a sudden my life changed. I came back to NY to help out as my sister and brother had been doing the majority of the running to the doctor’s visits with my parents until the diagnosis was handed down. I’d planned to come back to NY for a few weeks to help out then head back to AZ. Now that I am here, I’ve extended my trip and paid the exorbitant airplane ticket fees — thank you American Airlines/Continental — so I can help out.
In my writing career, I’ve been blogging about caregiver stress and how caregivers need to take care of themselves and even when I wrote those posts I thought, “come on, how hard can driving to and from the oncologist be?” Well, let me tell you it’s harder than I imagined. Add to the fact that since I am a self-employed individual, I need to get my work done and yes, I have the luxury of not having to do it between 9 and 5, but I still have to do it.
It’s only been two weeks and I guess I was burning out without even realizing it. It was taking me longer and longer to do a blog post, seemingly hours to edit a piece, and I can’t tell you the last time I finished a book or newspaper article. Yesterday, after the visit to the oncologist, I decided to “treat” myself to a trip to Walmart — big day out, I know.
As I drove to the store I decided I “deserved” a day off. I drove to Greece, went to every craft store I could find, fondled every skein of yarn I came across, wandered Wegmans and almost every store in the mall. I stood in line and was jostled by crazed shoppers and I didn’t even care. What the What?! I hated malls. Abhorred crowds yet here I was willingly subjecting myself to it and before Christmas no less.
I left the mall and my car seemed to have a mind of its own and I made my way to a coffee shop in the city – the opposite direction of going home and going to work. I pushed back guilt for not working, I swallowed the “oh my god” I’ll be working ’til midnight woes and just enjoyed myself. When I got home last night I looked at the computer screen and my to-do list and know what I thought? “It will still be there in the morning.” I picked up a book and sat down and read for two hours. The day was topped off by pizza and wine.
Did I take time to smell the roses? Figuratively, yes. Do I feel better for it today? You bet! Is my workload from yesterday waiting to be finished? Yes, of course. Am I less stressed than I was? Oh yeah. No matter how hard, or long I work today, yesterday was worth it. To every caregiver out there I now know how stressful the job is, but then I also know how precious those moments with my dad are and I am cherishing these five day a week trips to the oncologist.