Where. To. Begin?

At the beginning of quarantine in March, being completely honest, I wasn’t in a good place.  I was overwhelmed.  Drowning in stress and pressure.

I needed a break.

A break from life.

My parents are snowbirds, and above all else, I knew they needed a break.

The past year has been overwhelming for all of us.  Them, especially.

When my grandma was moved into assisted living in 2016, my dad and his sister never saw eye to eye on the care of my grandma.  But, we dealt with it.  My dad making the tough decisions, being the bad guy.  All to ensure my grandma’s safety.

Responsibility was “shared.”

But over the past year, his sisters involvement declined.

Long story short, she stopped showing up.

So, we stepped up.

Lot’s of things happened.  Her husband fell.  Traumatic things happened.  We realized she wasn’t taking care of herself.  But, despite the desire to help someone, you cannot force someone to care for themselves.

You just can’t.

So when we discussed whether or not my parents would take the much needed few months break, I stepped up.

Willingly.

I took on the normal responsibility that I have for several years, helping collect mail, pay bills.  Adulting stuff.  But then I added in caring for my grandma.

Many times over the winter, I kept reminding myself that I am grateful for the time I have been given to spend with her.  Sometimes, I had to remind myself of that fact repeatedly.  Because, at 96, she isn’t caring for herself at the same level that she has so bravely and fiercely done since her husband died 45 years ago.

And then I had to take care of my brother after he broke his knee.  Which is an even larger complication.  Despite the fact that he and I had barely spoken over the last 8 years…he’s still my brother.  So I took the time off work.  And I was there for him.

Even while going through his surgery, I knew that God was working.  I can’t always say I agreed with or appreciated how He was working.  I still knew he was working.

And then quarantine happened.

Again, overwhelmed and stressed, and in desperate need of a break, I felt relief that I didn’t have to do anything except stay home.

Except, when you’re quarantined with just yourself, and your dog (who is ADORABLE AND AMAZING, but not a very good conversationalist) I found myself alone.  With myself.

There were days, there ARE days, I barely recognize myself.

Who is this person that I have become?

Though I tried to put on a good show most of the time, I started to spiral  Not completely out of control.  But I just haven’t been the person that I have become.  The person I worked so hard to be.

I was breaking down.

Now, before you get too worried…

I truly believe that in the process of breaking down, you lose a part of yourself.  But the key point being, you often lose part of yourself that you didn’t really need to be in the first place.

But let me tell you…even though some of those pieces needed to be lost…it’s TOUGH!!

My parents got home.  And things started feeling like they were on a slightly more even keel.  Except that’s a dangerous place to be.  Because, life happens.

My aunt died.

Plain and simple.  She died.  She refused to take care of herself.  The very last conversation my dad had with her was telling her to reach out.  She needed help.  But instead, she gave in.  And her health, that she had blatantly ignored for far too long, gave up.  She died.

My dad and I handled it.  We are steady.  And we deal with what needs to be dealt with.  And I continued to fall apart.

It hasn’t been easy, at all.  I have felt the absolute most despair of loneliness.

I know, and have known, that I am the caregiver in the family.  I have always known that I would be the one to take care of my parents.  When I moved home 8 years ago, that was a big part of the reason why.

I didn’t expect that to happen immediately.  Though, it did, because…life.

And I certainly didn’t expect to be doing it all alone.

I figured somewhere along the way, God would help a girl out and finally bring me my husband.

He hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t tried to force the issue.  Because, to combat the overwhelming loneliness, I signed up for online dating.  Again.

I met a lot of idiots.

One person, I thought I made a genuine connection with.  But for reasons I still don’t understand, it fell apart.  Pushing me even further into my pit of loneliness and despair.

I feel alone.

Heck…

I AM alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing and wonderful friends and family.  But for the big stuff, it’s just me.  And I’m not saying that trying to have a pity party.  That is the furthest thing from what I want.  It’s just a simple fact.

I am alone.

And while it’s tough to accept that when that is the last thing that I want, the last thing I ever thought I would have to do, I know that I need to accept it.  Learn to deal with it.  And keep moving forward.

I honestly don’t know where this crazy year will take any of us.

But…

From the very beginning, I knew that something good would come from all of this insanity.  I.  Just.  Knew.

I still feel that.

But looking at the last few months, the absolute unbelievable things that have happened.  I still can’t wrap my head around all of it.  I’m not sure it’s possible to right now.

One day, I hope that all of this makes sense.  It is my hope and my faith that all of it will.

But I will also say that this just sucks right now.  All of it.

Ok, I take that back.  Not all of it.  Because, let me tell you what else happened.  I needed to get out of Dodge for a few days.  So…I went to visit my brother.  He and I had conversations that we have needed to have for many years.  Conversations that he certainly wasn’t ready to have before.  But, we finally had them.  And I can’t say that I walked away smiling.  In fact, I may have referred to part of the conversation as the final nail in the coffin that I really am here alone, because he wants no part in helping care for our family.  But actually having the conversation was a step forward for us.

I cannot, nor will I, say that I’m in a great place right now.

But what I can finally say is that I know my worth.  And even though that is a HUGE burden to carry at times, I know my worth.

And that, my friends, is a start.

Self-Care

Have you ever paused a moment, and realized that even though you know what you need to do, you’re not doing it?

I’m rather annoyed with myself, because that’s exactly where I am right now.

I have willingly accepted taking on much more stress and responsibility.  Because I’m removing it from someone else’s shoulders, temporarily.  Because they need the break.  They deserve the break.

So, I figure for 3 months, I can handle some extra responsibility.

Except, I made a fatal flaw.

I failed to mentally and emotionally prepare to handle all of this additional stress.  And I allowed the stress to overwhelm me.

How incredibly easy does this happen to all of us?  We allow the external forces in our lives take over, and we, quite literally, lose our dadgum minds.  We don’t allow the stress to be managed in a healthy and appropriate way, and we get sick (which I did) and grumpy (that definitely happened).

And then, inevitably, we end up wallowing in self-pity.

Ok, maybe I wasn’t so much wallowing in self-pity so much as I let the grumpiness seep through every aspect of my life.  I let that take over, and I just had a bad attitude about, well, lots of things.  I had a bad attitude at God.  God, why am I going through this? God, why do I feel like this? God, why aren’t things just working out how they are supposed to? God, why don’t people just do the things they’re supposed to do?

Basically, the long list of questions I was asking God, and having a bad attitude toward was really my own fault.  Because…I didn’t do the thing I knew I was supposed to do.

SAID that I had all of my trust in God.

But what I really meant is that God is totally in charge, but I’m still going to worry about it, and tell God how I want Him to handle my problem.

Ok, so now that I know all of that, and I have realized all of that…I can move forward.

First, I can now channel some of the stress that I am feeling into a more positive way.

Second, I can change my attitude.

I got smacked in the face the other day while reading my Bible.  The words took a running jump off the page and smacked me in the face.  This thing made me realize that I was screwing up in a major way.

I stopped praising and thanking God for the things in my life.

I was still talking to God…about everything.  But my attitude toward Him while we were talking just stunk.  I had a great deal of stinkin’ thinkin’ going on.  And I was whining and complaining to God about all of the things in my life.  And while I said I was grateful and thankful…my attitude clearly showed that I was not.

Now, though I am not 100% cured of my negative Nancy-ness…I’m getting there.  Though the stress and the worry are still there, the burden upon my shoulders is much less.

I have even started thinking that I am grateful for the stress.  Because God has placed me in a position to be able to help.  This thing right now, it’s a blessing.

I know, without a doubt, I will one day look back and say I’m glad I did this.  I’m glad I got to spend the time doing this.

I.  Am.  Grateful.