I can’t count how many times I say that to myself. I’m tired, overworked, overwhelmed, a caregiver with a job, dealing with my Dad’s chronic illness, dealing with my own chronic conditions and with probate from a recent death in the family and with all the twists and turns that is life.
But as a caregiver I’ve always been the first to say, “I’m okay.” After all, what is now won’t always be. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it won’t get easier. So I keep on putting one foot in front of the other and I don’t really think about myself when I cut another thing I enjoy doing from my routine because there simply isn’t time for it anymore. It’s the life of a caregiver. It’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years off and on, caring for Mom, Grandmother, my Uncle and now Dad. I’ve told myself I’m okay over and over and just pressed on and kept moving.
But when I had a conversation with one of the ladies at work, basically trying to figure out how I could resuscitate 12 hours of vacation time I really had been hanging onto, this time that was to be mine and mine alone, this precious time that was to be vacation from everything and not just one of my duties but all of them. I really need more than that. I have a To-Do list that never gets completed. It just gets longer and longer and I keep marking stuff off of it not because it’s been done but because I just can’t get those ends to meet up, much less tie them together. I really had not realized how desperately I was hanging on to those 12 hours until I had to use them for something else, basically giving up that precious vacation time for a more practical caregiving use.
So, with that in mind and knowing that another Christmas is coming when I will be busier than I should be, unable to see to any of my needs, knowing Dad is not getting better but is actually losing a bit of ground each year, knowing that work is going to continue to take up more and more of my time. Knowing that we’ll have another year of no holidays because I’m too tired to do anything for them. Knowing that I should enjoy my Dad while he’s here and make every moment count.
I love my work at the Salvation Army and enjoy it most of the time. But I can’t enjoy it when I just wish I could fit in these other things that I need to take care of too. But the only time I have to do these things are after 9pm when everything is closed and by 10 I’m ready for sleep.
And I’ve been here before. I’ve said it thousands of times. I can do it. I’m okay. It’s just for now not always. But this time I refused to say it. I’m not okay. I need to rest and I need to get some very important things done for my Dad and for myself too. I need to stop demanding so much of myself and allow myself time to do all the things I love and have been denying myself. I need to admit I have needs too.
So I’ve resigned. I gave them a month so I wouldn’t miss out on some of the great things happening there but when that is over I will be saying goodbye to employment at the Salvation Army. I might still volunteer but probably not for a while. But it’ll free up time for me to fit in more for me and to get some things done to get the house ready for Dad. I’ve got a feeling his situation is about to change and I want to be ready. It’s what a caregiver does. I want to enjoy sunrises and sunsets and not be too tired to smell the flowers. And I will go back to the Salvation Army one day when I’m able and ready to take on that task of Doing the Most Good.
For now that means taking care of myself and also of Dad. Because life is short and there’s no reason I should be miserable, pulled in a thousand directions. I need to be able to fit back in some of what I enjoy. So much has been ignored because there wasn’t time. I would like to add in some of the joys I once had and also tackle that To-Do list. When Christmas comes, I want to have time to go through all our routines like we used to. I want to be able to sit down and watch a movie or watch a sunset or sunrise and not be too tired to enjoy it. I need to slow down so I can be present in my own life. Just because I can doesn’t mean I should keep going and going and going, and telling everyone I’m okay. Because I’m not. I’m tired.