I have a tiny wardrobe and I tend to wear the same clothes each week. I’m a huge fan of merino wool shirts, black dresses and my black Patagonia vest.
Last week, I organized my closet with gusto. I pulled out my pin-striped pants, a scarf, a pink sweater and a flowered blouse that I rarely wear and placed them on my kitchen counter. Now they are sitting on the top shelf of my closet, neatly folded, and I haven’t missed them. Soon my old clothes will be donated to Goodwill.
It felt good to organize my closet. The activity gave me a sense of control; something I’ve been needing. Why? Well, for the last few weeks I’ve felt off kilter. One minute, I’m happy and at ease, and the next minute tears stream down my face. It’s been three months since my step-dad, Mahlon, had two major strokes. He still can’t walk by himself, eat by himself, and his cognitive abilities are impaired.
Since the stroke happened everything feels temporal. The self-destructive part of me wants to numb my emotions with booze, sleep, and lots of sugary treats. The logical side of my brain knows that I need to take care of myself and to focus on work. Self-destruction isn’t an option, but it’s appealing. It would be easy to succumb to temptation and numb my emotions with too much sleep or alcohol.
I keep coming back to a quote by Diane Ackerman, in One Hundred Names for Love because it sums up my feeling so well. In the quote she describes how she felt soon after her husband’s stroke. Ackerman notes, “I went to a windowed alcove just beyond the Rehab Unit doors and wept. Out of shame that I couldn’t fix things, and out of grief. I’d never before had to mourn for someone who was still alive . . . The loss was too intimate. It had settled in like a lonely lodger with a scrapbook of memories.”
I’m grateful that Mahlon is still alive, but I can’t pretend that everything is wonderful. I can’t pick up the phone and have a conversation with him. He won’t be coming to Portland anytime soon and the reality is he may or may not recover from the strokes. In addition, I’m worried about my mom. As the primary caregiver it’s essential that she takes care of herself, but I don’t know if that’s happening. To ease my worries, I’ve been focusing on the following:
Ignoring guilt. I feel like some friends, and even family members, don’t understand why I’m so sad. And that makes me feel guilty. I feel like I should put on a happy face and keep trucking along, with no care in the world. But I can’t. I can’t stuff my emotions or dissociate from my feelings. Feeling guilty isn’t helpful, so I’m focusing on surrounding myself with people who understand the situation and me.
Exercise. Everyday I pedal to LA Fitness (LAF) for my workout. I decided to join LAF because they have a beautiful pool for lap swimming and I’m taking full advantage of it. I haven’t been doing much yoga lately, but I’m planning on taking classes after my trip to California. Overall, I’ve found that a little bit of movement makes my day a whole lot brighter.
Sauna meditations. I love sitting in the sauna at LAF. It’s a quiet space where I can meditate and sweat out toxins too. Usually, I sit in the space for fifteen to thirty minutes and breathe. By the time I’m done I feel like a new person.
Engaging in fun projects. I’ve been busy brainstorming article ideas for our next e-course, Make Time. I’m also thinking about the marketing plan for my print book and I’ll be finishing up a few more edits too. Doing work that I love makes me happy.
Parting Words . . .
As I move forward, I’m going to ask for help when I need it. And I’ll be focusing on projects, both big and small, that make me smile.
How do you make it through a rough patch? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
P. S. Since my theme for the year is experiment, I’ve decided to be brave and open comments on selected articles. Before you comment, please remember that I’m a human being. I will not approve comments that are hateful or mean-spirited. I do my best to operate from a non-judgmental frame of mind and I expect the same from readers. Be helpful, not hurtful. As Brené Brown recently said, “Embrace difference. Be respectful. Let’s take responsibility for our comments.”
One more postscript. Today is the start of the second annual Simplify Your Family Life book sale. Be sure to check it out!