I love a good carnival. Roller coasters, crystal ball seers, that creepy guy running The Himalayan ride who won’t let you off the damn thing even though you beg for mercy as you fly by (OK, not him).
Just the word carnival invokes that kid feeling of running away from it all. Running away to join the circus? Never thought of it before, but I saw a quote this week on Facebook (that bastion of culture) that said something like I’ve thought more about running away as an adult than I ever did as a kid. Right??
You thought multiplication tables and spelling bees were a bitch, try being a caregiver. Try being a parent to your parent. That’ll have you packing PB&Js into a bandana, tying it to a stick, slinging it over your shoulder, and walking the rails (ok, my runaway fantasies are Opie inspired).
Truth is? Carnivals scare me (it’s those dang clowns). Roller coasters make me barf. And fortune tellers, well…who believes someone in a caftan and turban?
But lately, I’ve been desperate to see the future. As if knowing the future would somehow make it all better when the future actually happened. I know that’s a lie; it would still be hard. In fact, all wishing for the future does is rob us of the present. I don’t know about you, but that’s a one-way ticket to Crazy Town right there.
And that’s where I’ve been living lately. Because I really haven’t been living — I’ve had one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow. (Don’t anybody finish that by snidely remarking so you’ve been pissing all over today. That’s just gross.)
We all want to know what’s coming. We all want off the roller coaster. But when you stop wishing for those fairy tales and focus instead on accepting what is, RIGHT NOW (even if it’s just for a nanosecond), doesn’t your whole body relax? Mine does. Even though what’s happening right now isn’t all that great. Far from it.
My mom seems to be declining fast. She’s on Hospice. She may or may not be with us, physically and/or mentally, a whole helluva lot longer. Or she might be stabilizing. She might get discharged from Hospice. She might be with us, physically and mentally, a whole helluva lot longer.
In a tweet posted last week (I can’t believe I just said tweet), Kim Linder of Senior Holistic Living summed it up perfectly:
“You will be on a roller coaster ride and you won’t know if you will be on the top or at the bottom on any given day.”
I read that and it hit me: GET OFF THE DAMN RIDE. I mean, I can’t stop being a caregiver. I don’t want to stop — I love my mom and dad (and my 2 friends who also have dementia) and for whatever reason, this is my life. It’s my path. And oddly enough, it makes me happy. It’s fulfilling. I can say today (without a trace of sarcasm), it’s a blessing.
But I can get off a ride that makes me puke and puts me in traction. Have you been on a wooden roller coaster lately? Good lord – they should give away free chiropractic visits with every ticket.
For me, that means I have to stop trying to anticipate whether I’ll be at the top or bottom on any given day, or at any given part of any day. Because it can change on a dime. In the morning I can be happy because mom is making perfect sense on the phone, but by dinner I can be despondent because she wasn’t able to feed herself at dinner.
This is the nature of dementia. As my stepbrother reminds me: it’s cyclical. Up down, up down, up down. It is a roller coaster, but I don’t have to let it control my every move, my every emotion, my every action. When I do that, I go crazy. I get sick. My whole body hurts and I need a doctor (calling Dr Larry, Dr. Curly, Dr. Moe).
We have to live our own lives. As my sister-in-law said to me the other day, when I was moaning about not knowing what to do (please whine loudly when you say this, because I did): We just have to do the best we can.
Yes, that’s it. That’s the answer. What else is there?
Fire the seer, shred those carnival tickets, stop looking in the Fun House mirrors — it’s not reality. You’re not 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide (and if you are, well bless your heart). And by the way, the same people who created fried butter on a stick came up with the misnomer “Fun House.”
So, after several weeks of searching for the crystal ball, putting everybody and everything on hold, being completely shut down, having shoulder pain and stomach issues…I’M DONE. I hit the emergency stop button and climbed down off the monster roller coaster.
Time to feel the ground again. Time to be present in our own lives. Time to give ourselves permission to live. Only from this perspective – from this unshakeable foundation – are we truly able to serve.