As I sit down to write this post, I am so stressed out I can hardly breathe. When I feel overwhelmed, I have to write it out. Writing is how I best express myself. If we met face-to-face, I would put up a good front and push everything down inside. That said, I am willing to put my heart on a page and put it out for the world to see. I guess that’s a good thing, since writing is my passion!
I am a member of the sandwich generation, which is defined as “a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children.” When it comes to my membership, I’m lucky. My parents were older when they had me, but I had my children in my mid-twenties. My youngest moved out last summer so the child-rearing responsibilities have eased. A good thing since my responsibilities at work kicked into overdrive just as my nest emptied.
I guess the change in my parenting responsibilities means that I am more of an open-faced sandwich. To those of you still in full Panini mode, you have my utmost respect. I don’t know how you do it.
Stress and second-guessing our decisions seem to be part and parcel for us sandwichers. (Sandwiches? I’m not sure of the correct title. If you know, please tell me!) My stress level tends to range from high to off-the-charts depending on the day. So, what has me so stressed today? This time, I’m stressed because I took a couple of days off work to recover from a sinus infection. There is something wrong when trying to care for yourself causes stress.
I know that in some ways I am my own worst enemy. I tend to borrow trouble and make up all of these scenarios in my head that may or may not come about. (They usually don’t, but that doesn’t stop me!) I “know” that when I go back to the office tomorrow, I will be met (or called) by dozens of people whose ability to work came to a screeching halt because I wasn’t there. They are welcome to complain to my management; I’m not the one that allowed my position to become one deep so that I have no alternate/backup.
Tomorrow is also the day my elderly father goes to his first appointment with the wound doctor. He is diabetic and a blister on his toe became infected; we have already been warned that he may lose all or part of his toe. Since my father does all of the driving for my parents, I live in dread of the day he can no longer do so. That day may now be here.
I feel supremely unequipped for my position as caregiver. I don’t have an endless supply of leave at work. I feel guilty when I use some of my leave for myself, yet balk at using all of it to care for my parents. I have a dream of occasionally going on vacation and getting away from my responsibilities. However, that is a topic for another blog/rant. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times we have had to cancel plans at the last minute or the amount of money that we have lost by doing so.
So, where am I going with this? What does the title of this post have to do with the subject? I had a brief epiphany over the weekend that I am struggling to hold on to. Elder care is not the first difficult time I have had in my life, nor will it be the last. The epiphany? No matter how difficult each of those times were, they ended and I survived. No, I did more than survive, I grew stronger.
I have to remember that whether I am having a difficult day at work or stressing over elder care, the situation will pass and I will be okay. Remembering this is something I struggle with. I am currently holding on to the saying “this too shall pass” with both hands. Even if my dad does lose all or part of his toe, it will be okay. Things may not be easy, but they will be all right. I may have to learn how to ask for help and hold others to their promises, but, you guessed it – it will be okay.
I plan to have this quote tattooed on my forearm. (No, I’m not kidding.) I want it where I can see it, where it will remind me to stop and breathe. It will be all right. This too shall pass.
Are you a member of the sandwich generation? What helps you deal with your responsibilities?