What’s changing?

I’ve been thinking – something’s different. I can’t put my finger on it. In my last post, I wrote about feeling in suspension, in a liminal space. Have I crossed a threshold?

Pain no longer rules in our home – Ken has had a reprieve since his palliative radiation. When a visiting doctor surmised, ‘even a couple of weeks would be worth it’, my ears pricked up. Not months, weeks. Now, he’s had three, and quite a bit has changed. He’s more the companion he once was, without the oppression of heavy-duty painkillers.

And I’m more relaxed, less anxious. I’m becoming better at living in the present, appreciative of how things are right now and not wishing them different.

I no longer rail at the bizarre roster for Ken’s personal care workers – it delivers someone new every visit. Often, the worker has travelled 45 minutes to get here – how efficient is that? But as I register the lively chatter while he showers upstairs, I smile. He’s meeting someone new, and I’m free for 30 minutes twice a week to write in my journal.

I’m letting go my need to have Ken eat the way I think he ‘should’. I’ve come to understand his body struggles to manage certain types and amounts of food. ‘Main meals’ include his favourite takeaways like KFC, Turkish vegetarian pide, or the smooth North Indian chicken korma. In between, eggs, home-made vegetable soup, ice cream in any form, fruit juice and Sustagen suffice.

When my son Dave visited from Sydney recently, Ken had had a bad night. With fresh eyes, Dave assessed our situation. ‘Mum’ he urged, ‘get a clothes dryer!’

I’d not owned a dryer for over thirty years, believing the sun was best and clothes driers were terrible for the environment. There was already a space in the laundry where one had hung before our time. Within days, a new drier had been installed and my daily life was transformed.

No longer am I captive to the vagaries of our coastal weather, or the physical challenge of wrestling washing on and off the lines without over-balancing. Even though the home care workers deal with the bed sheets every fortnight, there is still plenty of washing to be done. Now I’m like a kid with a new toy, revelling not just in the way driers have improved over the years but also in how I’m freed to bank my energy for pleasures later in the day.

Life is still busy, and complex. As I transition into full-time caring, I’m learning to allow the whole of each day to fill and flow with that purpose: taking care of Ken, and of myself. I focus on the essentials and without guilt, lay other things aside for another time.

Over these past months, when overwhelmed by jostling priorities, I’ve been guided by a mantra I heard in the wonderful Nothing Much Happens podcast of ‘bedtime stories for grown-ups’.

A leader in self-care, podcast creator Kathryn Nicolai describes how one day, she felt panicked by all she had to do and had no idea where to start. Her friend reaches out and touches her arm. Looking into Kathryn’s eyes, holding her gaze, she says simply, First this, then that.

Some days, I’ve stopped and recalibrated myself this way three or four times in one morning. My hectic, skittering self is anchored and calmed by four short words. And savings pour into the energy-piggy-bank of restorative pleasures.

What's changing? »

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7 Responses

  1. So beautiful, Ruth, thank you.
    Edward Espe Brown in The Tassajara Cookbook – it’s better to hold 1 thing with 2 hands than 2 things in each hand – I who am always rushing love the peace that your quiet brings.

  2. Yes, I find myself needing to “re-calibrate” at times when (usually falsely) perceiving that ‘it’s all too much’. Such mindfulness can be a great gift.

    Thanks again and best wishes Ruth.

    1. Hi Geoff – I’d forgotten how things can ‘look and feel’ overwhelming but really it’s a trick of our minds. Typically that’s worst at 2am … thanks for the reminder.

      1. “…worst at 2am…” certainly resonates with me, Ruth. Things can appear much bleaker in the dark of night. This is well worth remembering!

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