Looking back over time, I've always been comfortable with being a loner. When I moved away from home, I'd had a few brief roommates in my new city but mostly you'd find me like that image of every little loner kid in the playground...all by myself, but out of sight. But truly I'm an odd blend of extrovert in a crowd and hermit everywhere else. But I acknowledge that there have been far too many times when being the loner didn't make me a good friend or even a good daughter. I was bad about holidays, birthdays or even keeping in touch with folks. If there was a rock to hide under when it came to getting together with friends, I'd be happier under that rock. Funny how I'm more comfortable with those I barely know than with those who know me fairly well.
Today, as I tried to piece together some things in my home to make it more of a home for two, I put on some Earth, Wind and Fire and began to sing along as memories from back in the day flooded in. Of course that meant I stopped to look through old photos (so...not much was accomplished). Then I thought of an old friend, deejay, song writer, music producer, Eddie "Eaze" Coleman. Like so many of my old friends, we only keep in touch on Facebook. Eddie was one of the first people I met when I moved to my new city. I don't remember how we met or exactly when but I remember how comfortable he made me feel in the recording studio when I was usually a messy ball of nerves. He got me to sing like I didn't know was possible for me. I surprised myself (and truthfully him too). Thinking of Eddie made me go on Facebook to reach out to him. Eddie's last post was December 31, 2018. That was odd, I thought. He was an outspoken man with plenty to say about our current political climate. Quiet, Eddie wasn't. Looking through that last post, my fears were confirmed. I was almost 4 months past his death.
Seeing myself in the pages of a magazine...so to speak...
So, while in line at Whole Foods, I looked through a copy of Psychology Today. In this month's edition, there's currently an article about this journey of those of us acting as caretaker to our aging parents. The author speaks of the emotional roller coaster from guilt to anger and everything in between. She feels guilt because her parent died and she feels she missed the signs. I've felt this guilt when, as it turns out, my mom's body was shutting down from a UTI (a couple of times) and I missed it (both times). Today I wondered if on the weekend of our flu-like shenanigans I missed something then too.
So, regarding anger, I've had plenty of angry hot bursts that seem to come from nowhere at all. But during those times (like this morning), I am mad as hell. I'm mad but truthfully I'm not even sure why I'm mad or what I'm really mad about. But do stay out of my way at those times.
But the guilt...
I feel off mentally and guilty for not knowing Eddie died. I feel guilty for this loner in me who prefers being alone, going places alone, doing things on my own...alone. I feel guilty for not reaching out to my friends over the years. I feel guilty for not being better prepared to take care of my mom and for being broke more times than I care to admit. I feel guilty for never being much of a homemaker and for faking the whole homemaker thing ... like I am now.
My mom's in my care and that dominates everything. And I hate it, but I know it's what's kept her alive this long. She was quickly heading out of this planet if left like she was. So, I feel guilty for hating having to do it. But to tell the truth, in all of this, I am not fully taking care of me. I almost feel invisible.
But tonight I'm doing a "me-time" thing. I'm on my way, right now, to play volleyball. But in the spirit of not taking care of myself, I'm going out to play on a foot I somehow injured that hurts like a mugga-fugga. I feel guilty for that. I said yes to tonight's game and seriously I have no idea how I can stand on this foot on the court...so what about all that volleyballing stuff: bending, squatting, quick bursts, jumping, running? Ugh. I wish I said no. Sort of...
So, after the game...
My foot's still attached to my body. And I had mad fun. And even though my weight is up, and my mind is heavy, I played a bit like my old self. I didn't spike like myself (not really) but I sure did dig the ball like a ballin' libero pro. Bring it!!!!
Then guilt, or something like it, invaded my headspace again...
After the game, as 12 middle aged men and women made their way onto the oddly long elevator, I learned another friend, a volleyball comrade, died. Peter Lem was a really nice guy who is certainly hard for anybody to forget since he put nearly an entire roll of sport's tape on his fingers before each and every game. It was something unique and special to Peter alone. Peter, who I thought was named Victor all of these years but who smiled, hugged me just the same even though I often called him the wrong name, played a solid competitive game every week. He was a perfect blend of nice guy but fierce competitor. Talking about the tape made us all laugh a little bit on the elevator ride down.
In one day, I'd learned I'd lost two friends over the past few months.
But this full year and some months of taking care of my mom, I realize lost something in me too. I've maybe played 3 games of volleyball in an entire year when I'm used to playing once or more a week.
As I walked the streets alone to the train after the game, forgoing an opportunity to hang out with my volleyball buddies, it occured to me I've walked this same path after a volleyball game for nearly 30 years. Over those years I've shared an after game drink here or there, but I've mostly left the gang of volleyball players and walked this route alone. It was funny to notice the changes along the walk: new buildings, restaurants closed, new ones opened, the street is still a one way going north, the people are still all age ranges: some young, some older -- like me.
I guess all of this adds up to the joyless parts of growing older: parents become like children, friends pass away or divorce, places change but really are kind of the same, the seasons keep changing in the rhythmic way they do, and I too am truly growing older. It was a rather lonely walk tonight. Someday I won't be able to do it like I do now. My volleyball days might be numbered...just not for right now. I am sorry to have not had the opportunity to speak one more time to Eddie or Peter. I want to vow too not to allow my care of my mom to consume me, but I struggle to keep that vow. Something always comes up and I grow more and more tired.
But on a cheerier note...
I practiced a wee bit of self care this weekend. I went off with a friend without inviting my mom. I did have to slip out the door in order to hang with my friend, but once away I hung for a few hours then slipped back in. I've learned it's easier to go quietly and come back than to explain to my mom. Sometimes explaining works and sometimes it turns into something that exhausts me. I've also cut back in accepting some weekday jobs this week so that I can work in my home without my mom being here. While she's away, I clean, organize, dance, sing, go for a walk, and nap. Being home alone has become my chance to exhail, to just breathe. It's my temporary sanctuary.
Every time I think I have more control of my own life, like I have more me time, like I can focus on myself and be me, there feels like there is some sort of setback. Like I'm back at putting the focus back on my mom and off me. It's like I'm becoming a peripheral character in my own story.
So as you know it was another trip to the emergency room via ambulance. Thank God I had the good sense to call for medics. It was her second UTI since she's been with me. I seriously remain clueless when it comes to urinary track infections. I can't believe how biologically devastating they are and even mentally debilitating they are. It was her mental state that made me call for medics. She could answer the beginning of a question and then finished all statements by singing Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus. I'm embarrassed to say that initially I thought it was normal, then a cute proclamation of her faith, and I even thought it was kind of funny. But it began to shift into something odd, or probably better yet I began to recognize it as odd. When the medics arrived she continued the Thank You, Jesus song. And as we arrived to the emergency room, she again entertained every one who spoke to her with the same song. Turns out she had a temperature of 101.2. I really don't understand how a urinary track infection messes with the brain so; how it makes someone behave so out of character, so confused, so odd. It actually confuses me.
You know what's crazy and depressing as hell?
I'm in a scene study class and currently working on a scene from the play The Waverly Gallery by Kenneth Lonergan, and it's depressing the hell out of me. I see me and my mom throughout much of it. While my mom went to a neurologist since she's been here and had multiple MRIs we never received an affirmative in any sort of mental decline or mental disease. But she has continued her daily regimen of Memantine twice a day and Donepezil (Aricept) once a day. But this encounter with this past UTI was creepy. She was confused. She was odd. She was way way out of character. Then strangely after a few bags of antibiotics she was more coherent. Why the heck is that? While on her antibiotic regimen, oddities popped up every now and then, but as she continued with the antibiotics, she became more clear headed.
So as I read this play, the impatience, the lying just to end the confusion, the having to speak loudly, the confusion as to if the confusion is connected to mental decline or hearing loss, the having to take in this parent into my home, the having to figure out whether to keep the parent at home or put her in a nursing home, the guilt for thinking that, the sleepless nights, even the humming she has started doing or I have recently recognized. I experience so much of this. I guess I am just still in shock as to how many of us are having these same or similar experiences, and how equally clueless or shocked many of us are collectively.
But through all of this, I am struggling to take care of me. Under my eyes is nearly purple. My weight is through the roof. I am struggling to motivate myself to do anything for me. These emergencies so often come up when I have plans for me. My time to go out and have fun is regularly obliterated. I have to toss it out the window. I wanted to put more time into just exercising and being healthier but then I have to do something for her. It makes the whole Seasonal Affective Disorder feel bigger than life, but the thought of spring coming and me being stuck inside with caring for my mom, or afraid to do anything on a Saturday or Sunday morning because I have to entertain my mom, or just feeling guilty as shit for thinking any of this, ugh.....
How does this make me feel?
Exhausted to such a depth as I have never visited before. I am just plain tired. I mean I am deeply tired. But I did re-join New York Road Runners. I hope to get out and do some weekend races again. I dread some crisis will pop up before I can just have fun or before I can just leave the house. I still sneak out. Turning off the alarm and walking miles. It's the only way I can figure out how to have a life. Other than sneaking out or omiting my plans or even my auditions in our conversations, I can't figure out how to reclaim my life, my time, my space. I can't figure out how to have a life while taking care of my mom's life. Like Lonergan's play, I fear I'll be like his characters. That I will be in this shrinking bubble of absurdity for a while and losing myself the entire time. The character that I am becoming shifts constantly displaying traits I'm not used to owning. It's like I don't recognize myself, but I am growing used to seeing this middle aged woman who keeps popping up in my mirror with her ever appearing new grey stands and soft muscles who seldom, if ever, sees her own old friends. This shit is hard. And I now swear a lot. Damn.
I'm just writing to keep from losing it.