Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not As Easy As I Thought

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when becoming a caretaker for my wife.  It seemed like it wouldn't be a big deal, that hard, or overly stressful.  I honestly thought that it wouldn't be that life changing.  All the shit I was told about making sure I take care of myself and using my support system I kind of brushed aside because "I knew" all that already.  Unfortunately I knew all that already in theory and not from ever really experiencing it.  I saw my mother, grandmother, and grandfather do it when my great gram was coming to the end of her life.  I knew what I was getting in to and it wouldn't be an issue...I'm finding out that all the things I knew, didn't add up to "piss hole in the snow" as my grandfather would say, once I began putting them into practice.

I don't tend to talk much or open up about my feelings.  I'm a work in progress on that front but still have a god damn long ways to go.  I'm aware of it but it still doesn't make it any easier to do it.  I swallow and bottle and believe that my shoulders are strong enough to take on my issues and anyone else's that I care about.  I suppose it's why people come to me with things.  Unfortunately, while I can help them with issues I haven't always been able to help myself.  I've often been so busy helping others take care of their problems, mine get masked over and I keep pushing them further and further down the list of necessary items to take care of. In this kind of life that will eventually lead to issues.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a support system.  And I'm not just talking about people who'll tell you what you want to hear or just try to make you feel better, though there can be a time and place for that.  I'm talking about friends and family who are the kind of people that will tell you when you're doing something wrong and are acting like a douche.  The people who can see that's something isn't right and will say something or ask questions without you having to approach them.  Who understand that you're not having issues because you're weak but you're having them because, like carrying a 50 lb weight on your back, eventually you get tired and have to unload that shit before continuing on.  They can put your mind as easy and let you know that it's ok to let your guard down and talk to them without having to censor your feelings or thoughts.  Those are the people to search out when seeking support.

I'll be honest.  I don't tell my wife everything that's going on in my head and I don't expect that she does with me either.  I know she's aware of that fact and I know this bothers her somewhat.  We try to protect those that we love and guard them from any unnecessary hurt or concern.  That's when the support system is most necessary.  It allows you to get things out in the open and free your mind without causing any undo stress.  Sometimes what you reveal may stay strictly between you and the one you're opening up to and other times that second point of view may reveal other approaches that allow you to open up to your loved one.  That depends on many things including what the information is, the circumstances, ect.

Having a support system is very influential to the other major facet of being a caretaker:  Taking care of yourself.  This encompasses so many different variables that I'm not sure I can touch on them all but there are a few key ones for me.  Diet, fitness, and hobbies.  Here's some truth.  If you're in poor health how are you going to be able to take care of someone else and insure that they're in the best health possible?  You can't.  If I'm cooking and eating nothing but prepackaged foods and serving fatty cakes and coke what is that going to do for us?  I'm going to be tired and lethargic all the time and am likely going to end up causing myself health effects down the road.  This is not conducive to insuring that my loved one is being well taken care of.  Food and exercise also effects my mood and the way I conduct myself.  Bad food makes be feel like shit.  I notice a vast difference in my behavior when I'm eating well vs when I'm eating trash.  My family notices it as well.  I'm almost a different person.  It's the same when I'm not injured and can exercise on a regular basis.  I feel better about myself and in turn I'm a better father and husband for my family.  If you're a caretaker and unaware of good diet and exercise habits, getting in touch with someone who is is vital..  Eating and moving are two necessary, yet often overlooked essentials to this lifestyle and I implore you to work toward getting on the right track for your health and your loved one.

Hobbies is huge.  When I say it's huge, I mean it's ABSOLUTELY FUCKING ESSENTIAL TO YOUR LIFE!  You can live solely for another person for awhile but eventually it's going to catch up to you.  You need to find things that you enjoy and pursue them.  I like to write. It's a hobby (and one that I haven't been very good at keeping up with honestly) but I have other interests I want to pursue as well.  Some of them are on hold at the moment because of where we live but you can bet your ass once we're moved I'm going to be finding some outlets that I enjoy.  You have to.  Living life without doing things one finds interesting, challenging and enjoyable leads to boredom, depression, and oftentimes resent.  Don't let it get that far.  Find a passion and pursue it.  You don't have to put other things on the back burner, especially as a caretaker when you may have a lot of down time between when you're needed.  Use that time to relax your brain and explore your passions.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Missing in Action

Beginning the year I set a goal to write a blog post every week.  Like many New Year's goals, I made it until about a month ago and have run into failure.  I hit a wall with my writing and though I've sat down to write something repeatedly, I could get nothing to come out.  I wouldn't feel quite so guilty about it if I'd been writing something, somewhere but even that was a failure.  But as with any failure, anywhere, where there is failure there is opportunity to learn and improve.

So what led to this particular failure.  I've been stuck in my own damn head.  I'm at the burn out point between Jimmy's hockey schedule, Marilyn's declining or at the very least non-improving health and shitty Dr's, and the weather we've had this winter.  Cabin fever has begun to set in for everyone in the house, even the damn dog.  It's March 27th and last week we had a night where it fell to -13 and we still have about four feet of snow on the ground.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy snowshoeing but when that's all that really available for you to do and you're an outside kind of person after awhile it wears on you.

But the reality is those are just excuses.  They're daily obsticles to overcome and work around and that's what I've been focusing on the past couple of weeks.  While I haven't written anything of record until today, I did begin writing in a daily journal once again a few days ago.  It's nothing big, mostly reporting on the weather and what I did throughout the day but it's writing.  And I'm finding even with that I fit in a few personal observations now and then so it's beginning to help break down some barriers.

I've been on contact with some friends with open ears.  Living up where we do, so far away from my support system was rough this winter.  I had no time to get away for even a day or two for over 6 months due to Jimmy's hockey schedule and that locked me in at home with no way to relieve stress or to really talk to anyone about what was going on in my head.  Yes, I could talk to my wife.  But that's not what I need(ed).  Sometimes you need independet third parties to either listen or tell you to stop being a bitch.  Those are the people I've been in contact with.  A good support system isn't just there to make you feel better, it's there to pick you back up when you fall.  While it's not the same as having face to face conversations, I'm very much trying to embrace the use of technology as an aid until we can move closer to those people.

Reading.  This is awesome for a multitude of reasons.  One is that it will help me with my writing.  Writers should read.  It's the best way to improve your craft and any writer will tell you that.  (Believe me, I've read it 100 times at this point).  Another reason why reading is so great is that it can open up your mind and make you see issues from multiple perspectives.  In the past couple of weeks I've read three books which have really helped me.  Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehelo, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  All three books had great messages about living life, overcoming adversity, and goal setting.  One of the main messages I received from all three was to focus on the task at hand and not worry about what's going to come later.  To live in the moment.  This was key to Luttrell getting through BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition) training (Navy SEAL training for those who aren't aware) and as it was the first of the three I read it was on my mind as I read the other two.  That is an area that I've always had a lot of trouble with and something I'm now striving to make a strength.  Writing this post is part of that process.

Action.  Trying not to sit still can be something to overcome once you hit a point of feeling stuck.  The key to getting unstuck is to begin moving.  Sometimes it's forward but often times you may need to retrace your steps.  Moving back words can be a pain in the ass but is often a necessary pain in the ass.  I had a football coach in high school that used to tell us all the time, "you have to give ground to gain ground."  As I understood it then, stepping back or allowing yourself to be moved back can often put you in a better position to make a play.  It's the same thing with life.  Sometimes we try to push so far forward that we remove ourselves from the optimal position for reaching our goal.  Recognizing this is hard but is necessary.

Keeping a positive mental attitude.  Are some days going to suck?  Absolutely.  Am I going to get down from time to time?  No doubt about it.  However, in those times, if nothing else, I simply try to keep pushing.  If I don't feel great on a particular day or am pissed off, I try get at least one thing done.  Perhaps it's just putting the dishes in the washer or throwing in a load of laundry.  By doing that, it's one less thing on my list.  Even if it's simply something small, I know that when it's done I don't have to worry about it anymore and that free's my mind up a little bit.  The idea of sitting to write this today seemed almost terrifying.  So when I pulled out the computer I did it with the intention of just getting the first paragraph down.  Once that was accomplished I did the second, and so on.  I set a small, attainable goal and let it go from there.  Sometimes that's all that needed to get one started.

Regardless of everything else, this winter has been a learning experience and has been fairly enlightening.  Both myself and my wife have learned about of lot of things we're not overly happy with which is turn has and will continue to open up our minds in search of things that we prefer.  Moving is one of those.  While we like many things about our current location, it's time to move on and to find a home that's better suited to our needs.  However, we tried it and I feel as though for the most part we've succeeded in what we were attempting to learn and experience living here.  And as always, when times get tough, we try to step back and enjoy the simple things.