Not surprisingly, we’ve had a rough go of things lately. So I was thrilled to get our child care person in for about four hours yesterday. We know we can hand the reins of the house and whatever else to her for a few hours and do whatever we need to do. We’ve found a variety of ways to reduce the amount of money we spend on various things during the month, and we’ve used some of that savings to pay for occasional in-home child care, which lets us have a few opportunities to get some things done and generally get a break.
Yesterday for me was the truest form of respite care. I’ve been so tired lately that I feel delirious much of the time. All the lack of sleep that went into all of us traveling to my grandmother’s funeral and all the extra emotional exhaustion that went with it has just about done me in. Having her come over is always a godsend, but yesterday felt close to a miracle.
She got here about 12:30, I did a couple of quick chores, and then fell into bed, piled on the blankets, and tried to sleep. It took me a while to unwind enough to rest, but finally I could feel myself sinking into something close to unconsciousness. I slept until about 5:00. I barely even knew who I was when Mary nudged me and told me it was time to eat dinner. I probably could have slept another 24 hours.
I imagine that most of us develop a pretty high tolerance for lack of sleep, mental and physical exhaustion, and all sorts of stress. We build up the equivalent of Kevlar armor like our own brand of callouses. If we don’t, we fall apart. I’ve drunk enough coffee lately to keep half of Central America in business and eaten enough donuts and sweets to stone an elephant. It’s another coping mechanism. But I’m realizing that this is like charging all that energy we put out on a credit card; eventually you have to pay it back somehow.
One of my words for the year is ‘bamboo’, but I’ve been more like a gnarled, old tree lately. While I have been giving myself some latitude within the understanding that this is so much about grief, I can’t keep this up. Life doesn’t wait around for us. It’s not like I can tell the kids to take a couple of weeks off from being themselves while Daddy regroups. Finding ways to grieve and rebuild myself at the same time is just something I have to start figuring out.
Mamaw frequently gave me a piece of advice that I often didn’t care to follow. Don’t dwell on the past, acknowledge it, move on and move forward. She tried to have this attitude about everything. I don’t think I got this at all until after the J-Man was diagnosed. I guess I liked holding on to all the psychological debris of my life as if not to would be to deny who I am. But I think what she was getting at is that holding on to all that stuff requires us to pay a steep toll, and paying it costs us and our families too much.
I invested a lot of time and energy doing what I needed to do for her obituary and funeral because I wanted everything to be perfect for her and to honor her in the best way I could. I am content with how things turned out. I feel like right now she would be gracious and thankful to us for that celebration of her life, and with her next breath she’d kick us in the behinds and tell us to get moving on with life because our families need us in the here and now.
I finally understood today that we honor her not with how much sleep we can get by without or how much coffee and donuts we can consume, but by the way we build up our families, do good for others, spread some laughter, and keep trying to leave the world a little better each day. She left us the blueprints for a well-lived life. It’s about more than survival and getting through the day; it’s about living a life that others will want to honor and celebrate, just like we did hers.