In this land of caring, I often find myself too tired for toffees. Although I am on the case, the case itself scoots off in random directions at a second’s notice. Needs are immediate in the mind of one with dementia and, I confess, the schoolmarm in me comes to the fore if I am busy doing what was in the original plan for the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening. It thinks me of times when I could sit for four hours writing my book, undisturbed (but only as the result of a strongly voiced back-off), or settle down to read a few chapters of some fine book, or, even, to lay down the rolls of paper for a Christmas wrap-up. Those days are long gone now in the blast of immediate needs.
Being the only one now who greets a door knocker, or answers the phone, or speaks with a carer on what to do this day, to name but 3 of hundreds of additions to my daily job, is exhausting. Physically, I am fit and agile, strong and versatile in a most practical way, but mentally, emotionally I am often scunnered. Someone once said, I think as a compliment, that he could hardly believe I could sustain consistent cheerfulness over long periods of time, like years. I understood what he meant. Part of this cheerfulness is innate. Part learned behaviour. Part sewn in to the pattern that is I, or is it me? I observe carefully others who rise above their own desire to run, or to murder, or to just turn the world off, even for a blessed hour or two, and then I work out how to achieve that for myself, inside my own set of circumstances. It isn’t just stamina, it’s stamina with a positive attitude and that is quite a different thing.
Living in someone else’s life was never my plan, although I do concede that any marriage requires a personal sacrifice to some degree or other. I feared, oh, many times, that I would turn into pretty wallpaper, lose my voice, my dreams, myself, and, to a degree, I have, but only to a degree and the great news is that these losses are all rebuildable, like cells in a body. Like the body, the mind can regenerate as long as it stays open. So, how to stay open when the denial of self reads as an absolute? I keep writing, for one. I keep reading for two. I create fantasy landscapes on tapestry canvas for three and for the rest, all the way up to ten, I have my children and grandchildren to keep the Tigger in me bouncy, bouncy, bouncy.
And…..I think sideways. Laterally, is the correct word for this way of thinking. If forward looks like a train wreck and backwards looks like a load of bad decisions, then sideways it is. There are hundreds of people, hundreds of opportunities in the side-lines, just waiting for a nod from me. Step forward, you! And they do. It thinks me of a long line of us all moving forward, but not alone. We don’t have to make eye contact. We just have to hold another’s warm hand as we face the wilderness together, feet marching to our own drums, and ready to lift anyone or anything that falters or falls, together. The way our culture seems to choose to live is alone, each one of us striving to achieve whatever is in our storyline, regardless of others. I believe this is a big error of judgement, for we are all linked by that single thread, and in moving together, we can create an fire unachievable by our own little candle held up against the hurricanes of our world.
Caring is sharing. So cheesy, but true. And, not only the ice cream but the sad stuff too, the mess and chaos of life, the demands and rejections, the rage and pain and suffering. Of course we all need time alone (thank God for respite breaks) but to think we can walk a rocky path alone however consistently cheerful we manage to be, is madness. I’ve tried it, determined that I should be able to do this all by myself. Should. One of my BIN words, along with Ought. Well blow that for a bunch of monkeys. I walk with my sideways friends, their gentle kindly thoughts, their spark and sparkle. Some lift out from the pages of a book, some from a movie, some as door knockers, and I welcome them all for they lift me out of my tired old boots and tell me that, just because I am not covered in feathers doesn’t mean I cannot fly, and, if I can fly, then so can they.