Sunday, January 19, 2014

Caring for the Care Partner

You are wondering why a picture of this book?  It just happens to be by my favorite author whom I am going to greet up close and personal this Wednesday when she arrives in Houston her usual nervous wreck to sign this wonderful book.  I hope to get more copies to give to everyone I know who struggles with life.  And who doesn't?  It life, right?  It doesn't come in neat, tidy little packages, only in moments, just moments, one at a time...sometimes they are tiny, full of joy, sometimes long hours of grief, sadness but Anne's point is that we must be authentic in all of them to find meaning in our lives.  To find meaning in our lives, we must really live into them.  It is what we have to work with so take it by the horns and wrestle and ride.  Damn, that's a big order and I'm not sure I have a saddle.

For me as a Care Partner (notice the capital letters...I deserve a title) of an spouse with Alzheimer's , it means learning to live into the moments of clarity, hold on to them as part of the life we know together.  And it also means fully accepting the feelings of frustration of my partner AND myself when expectations aren't met, communication breaks down.  It means making new priorities in my life, accepting the losses of time, place, energy and finding new ways to find joy...easier said than done.

One of my joys of retirement is the time to pursue long-held interessts with great abandon, mainly art and writing.  But now I find my time is needed in other ways so much so, that I must take a close look at what is most important.  Alzheimer's disease is sneaky.  It eats away slowly at the hours.  First for this Care Partner it was taking over the finances of the household and discovering I probably do a better job than hubby did.  Then is added instructions on how to turn on the TV or dealing with repairmen and so it goes and the clock is ticking.  Priorities, priorities it says.

And so here we are now facing a move.  It is with such mixed feelings letting go of years and years of art supplies and as a mixed media artist that means not only paint, brushes, paper and glue, the bones of collage but all the other stuff like buttons, tickets, maps, game pieces and a hugh collection of rubber stamps.  However, along with the sadness, comes a sense of relief.  I like to think I'm closing this door so that another may open.

But it is the time thing that gets a bit squeamish here.  How much time do I allow myself to do things just for me?  Go to poetry events? How much for hubby?  How much for church, community?  And what of all of that is the highest priority?  And that gets back to Anne Lamott, my first priority for the week.  I am going with a friend, I will get her to sign my book and I will come home elated having met one of my most favorite authors.  Why a favorite?  Because Anne Lamott addresses the realities of life with disconcerting honesty.  She puts out there for all of us to look at those big questions about life that can only be part of the Great Mystery.
So for all you Care Partners out there trying to find meaning in your life.  Read Stitches.  Even if you don't consider yourself a spiritual person, you can dig this.

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