But how they were meant to be. I had a plan for this year. And anyone who knows me knows that my life always has a plan. Without a plan, how will you get that thing or do that awesome adventure, or stop that annoying habit? Often without a plan, you end up stuck where you are, without momentum, and bitter. Or you’re super happy because you just followed whatever came your way. That’s just not my style.
I used to suffer from serious anxiety in my late teens, early 20s. I worked SUPER hard to figure out how to counter it, without relying on medication, cuz I just can’t remember to take pills on a regular basis. So, I got a lot of counseling, set exercise, good sleep, and diet as pillars of life. I also used to set big goals that often included doing things that scared the crap out of me just so I wouldn’t be afraid to try new things. It’s been so long that I’ve sort of forgotten what that was like, being afraid of things, that is.
Here was my grand plan for this year:
- Spend time reflecting on the decades past (i.e. formative years, teen years, 20s in California, grad school, post-grad, and married life)
- Revisit a lot of my “firsts” (which for triathlon, I kind of did)
- Pay my respects of things that came before that have made me who I am now
Here’s how things actually have gone:
- Do lots of fitness between January and June (and lose weight)
- Lose focus after June and slide backward on all things me. (gain the weight all back)
- Deal with a parent who has an incurable memory disease, figure out how to keep her safe, and relatively happy.
- Upend her life of 40 years in a house with her beloved dogs.
- Think it will be easier than it really is.
- Feel the familiar anxiety of not being able to control all the unpleasant things in life and forget how you used to cope with said anxiety.
- Try to maintain a semblance of life, work, family balance and always feel like you’re failing.
I may be embellishing a bit but even though there are lots of books, support groups, and information out there to help guide people through supporting someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s never enough. I thought if I educated myself on what I didn’t know, I’d magically be able to avoid the emotional toll of watching my mother fade away in front of me. I didn’t anticipate the stress of caring for her to impact my marriage the way it has. I’ve lost the wonderful achievements from the first half of the year but I did it once so there’s hope I can do it again. My next decade of existence is just a number, not a death sentence.
The past few months have made me consider how I want to live, assuming that in 20 years, I’ll be in the same boat as my mom is now. I have no desire to put my husband in the same situation I’m in. No children mean that he or someone else needs to make difficult decision on my behalf if I chose to ignore the inevitable. I’m very fortunate to enjoy excellent health but so did my mother and fate dealt her a genetic and incurable disease that impacts more and more people each day.
And then there’s the guilt. The guilt for taking her away from her familiar and comfortable home, separating her from her beloved and treasured dogs, putting her into a very nice but unfamiliar place and expect her to adapt, and then consider moving across the country to ensure that if and when I’m in the same scenario, I have made the most of the years I have.
I think in the grand scheme of life, things can always be worse than they are. People say I’m doing a great job, that I’m a good daughter, and that mom is lucky to have me in her support network. I believe them because I have dedicated the bulk of my energy for the last several years to ensuring her safety, well being, and care.
So instead of lamenting how this year didn’t result in a reflection of the past decades I’ve experienced, I’ll accept what has transpired and appreciate that while I do not have a crystal ball to see how the next 15 years will go, they will unfold exactly as they are meant to. I will also be grateful and appreciative of all who have provided counsel, support, and wisdom along the way.