Island Blog – The Things I Learn

Himself is in respite for a week and I have moved like a gentle breeze through my home. There is nothing to stop my flow. No words, no sharp tacks splitting the atoms, no extra cleanery tasks, no need to defend; no need for that smile I keep in many jars by many doors. The show, after all, must go on, but when there is no show to go on about, it is peaceful.

That’s the outside of me. Inside, the tensions still rise like the Alps because it is only a week. Weeks tend to end, I have discovered over time. What last Monday offered will revert to the norm when the next Monday comes around. However, I have not just breezed. I have read my various guide books on various itchy subjects and I have learned things. Although it is without doubt the toughest job I have ever taken on, there are opportunities for development in many areas, most of them me. The outside is unchangeable bar the odd set of buffers to halt the Trouble Train and I do employ said buffers often, even though I would rather they weren’t required at all. I know, and have read through all the badly written pamphlets on How To Live With Dementia. I know they are not written with much consideration for the unpaid carer who is, and I quote, ‘required to move into the world of the loved one.’ Well, I am so not going there. That’s what I said 8 years ago and I’m still saying it. Of course, it is undeniably essential to go some way down the path for little bits of time in order to avoid Armageddon, but I have no intention of turning my back on my world in order to become wholly lost in the eternal mists of another.

This, my decision not to step willingly into chaos, causes its own problems, as you might imagine. Just picture it. There’s himself floating back to his mother and his childhood and there’s me, fully grown, fully adult and standing on the edge just knowing that it is not my time for stepping backwards. The balance of this complexity is down to me to maintain, deal with on an hourly basis, every single day of every single month and year and so on. And so on. And that is the tricksy bit. When does ‘so on’ stop? They throw up their hands, all of them, they who know it all. Of course they do because they do know it all. There is no timeline.

So, in this learning thingy whatsit, I meander, stomp, run, march, slow and sit with. My legs are strong from it all. In this gentle week of walks without having to explain where I am going, or of sitting reading from my many guide books without any sound effects from anywhere but Nature and the violin music I play endlessly – ‘turn that down!’ (I should have persisted with violin practice) on my sound system, in all rooms of the house so I never miss a single note or that glorious climb and fall of genius phrasing. Thank God for genius phrasing. Music is my safe place, as are my books, my craft, my writing. And there is something rather wonderful about such solitary affairs. I don’t need another to be with me. I am with me and I am enough, however much those comfy words, when turned into a question, pester my brain many times a day.

I know there are many other carers out there. I know nothing of their circumstances, their lonely hours, their inner questioning, doubts and fears. But, somehow, I know it all. Their situation may be so very different but the feelings around caring are my feelings too. I believe it is absolutely fine to feel fury as long as it doesn’t manifest in an act of violence, even though I know how hard it is at times to resist just that. I also know that those in the work of care are very reticent when asked questions. Everyone wants to be considered a ‘nice’ person, no matter what they face back home. In there, also is the need to protect another’s dignity, the commitment made to the one being cared for (sometimes far too long ago), the need to keep face before children, friends, neighbours, communities.

What I would love to do is to write the definitive “best seller’ (such nonsense). There is only one Best, not three million of them. Just saying. What I mean is that book of encouragement and experiential learning that just might lift some poor soul from the lonely pit; a tale that would tell of how this uninvited guest brought with him a welter of opportunities for someone who lived like Iggle Piggle bobbing across the waves with his sleepy blanket; opportunities for altered thinking, internal reassessment, the vulnerability to seek out guide books and guide people. But first it slams up in the form of a massive wild sea overcoming, such that requires even Iggle Piggle to Wake Up.

Maybe I will, one day.

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