Seasonal Stress Stretches Resiliency

Sometimes, a backwards look offers insights for where we find ourselves today. Such was the case as I began my annual purge of old documents and computer files.  I discovered an article I had written years ago during the holiday season.

See if you can relate!

2010: Mom has been “stepped down” from assisted living into memory care. I am juggling all the seasonal demands, incoming house guests, and daily visits and care of Mom.

Maybe it was the hot water pipe that burst in the foundation that started the meltdown.  Even as I write this, the wood floor in the kitchen, dining room, and den is being splintered and thrown into the jaws of a construction bin.  The walls and ceiling have huge holes in them, and a HAZMAT team has come searching for mold. The living room is an obstacle course from the pantry and closets. The refrigerator is in the garage and latest date for completion “might” be Dec.23.

OK, so the first Christmas was in a stable. But the holy family wasn’t expecting families from Boston, Oregon, and Los Angeles who would seek a bed as well as food.

Maybe it was compounded by my laser printer dying and discovering after I bought a replacement, that not all printers will work well with a MAC. The anxiety level ratcheted upward when my I-phone then died and I discovered someone had hacked my user ID and password.  An hour’s worth of AppleCare finally fixed the problem but not before I found myself crying to the technician. Of course, I had already screamed at the switchboard for Hospice of the West because I needed help with Mom. (Little did I know a nurse had come in the back door while I was waiting at the front door. I had to call back and apologize.)

Few presents have been bought, ornaments remain in the garage eves, and I am definitely not a “jolly old soul”.

Bet you have been there too!  

Time for me to take a dose of my own medicine. 

Here’s the prescription I am taking:

  1. Give up the illusion of control. My “illusion” is that I can make it all better. I cannot. So the question becomes: of what of this can I control? I can move household items into boxes. I can clean other rooms of my house. I can learn how to eat with chopsticks. I can slow down before I pounce. I can relish whatever time I have with Mom and focus on the moment.
  2. Ask for help. My neighbor has volunteered her home that will be empty over Christmas. My MAC buddies can give me advice about printers. (Duh-I should have asked them first. No, I “pounced”.) I will ask my relatives to wash their own dishes.
  3. Reframe the situation. As my husband says, “this will be an adventure.” He’s right. Who knows what lurks around the bend. Why not ask for what wonderful surprises there might be. Maybe we can make a game of “who can find the can of soup?”
  4. Help someone else. When Mom is in a state that I can’t get her in a wheelchair to hear the music she loves, I will join the other residents and lead them in song. I did this and felt a wonderful peace in the process. It is about “doing what you can do”. I loved it. And from the looks on faces, they loved it to.
  5. Be grateful. How can I forget this!  I have a roof over my head. I have an insurance policy. I have neighbors. I have a good place for Mom. I have loving caregivers. I have glorious family and friends. And yes, I can still sing.

2021:  As I re-read these words, I realize that each of these five “prescriptions” are as totally appropriate for today as they were now 11 years ago. In fact, maybe even more so.

  1. Give up the illusion of control. Better still, control the controllable. What we CAN do is self-care and all the protocols.
  2. Ask for help. The incredible demands upon health workers leave me tearful and concerned. You are not invincible. Neighbors, family members, colleagues will not know what you need unless you ask. We can get groceries for you, put gas in your car, drop off dinner, even put a do-not-disturb sign on your door.
  3. Help someone else. Although you might feel “helped out”, there’s an energy surge with stepping out of your normal routine. Take out your neighbor’s trashcans. Leave surprise $ for car behind you at the toll booth, the customer waiting outside at Starbuck’s.  
  4. Be grateful because you ARE great. If you have clean water, hot shower, a bed to sleep in, and someone who thinks you hung the moon (ok—even if it’s your dog), be grateful. Gratitude is a cornerstone for building resilience. When we realize what IS working, we find strength to look for ways to be adaptable for what is not.

As we begin 2021, amid the chaos, confusion, remember and be grateful for the words of Howard Zinn: “To have hope, one doesn’t need certainty, only possibility.”  May we search for all possibilities for compassion, community, and caring 2021.

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