One of the things that I have been told repeatedly since the day Pat was admitted to the hospital is this: Take care of you. Again and again this advice is offered, most recently by a friend who experienced trauma in her life and by the school counselor. Take care of you. It seems simple, right? It's not as easy as it seems.
As a wife we are always taking care of our husband. As a mother we are always taking care of our children. We don't plan for those roles to end. For most women I know this is self-sacrificing service. We rarely say "no" (and when we do, we usually get raked over the coals and berated for our refusal). Over the years we forego nice underwear to buy our kids shoes. We give up hang outs with friends in order to drive our children hither and yon. When grandchildren come along, we give up evenings and weekends to spend time with them. We offer midnight support, hand-holding, hugs, listening ears and whatever is called for. When is there time to take care of ourselves?
Death happened. Devastation ripped open my heart and stomped on it. My life went all topsy-turvy, everything different, foreign, alien. Plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, crushed. Dreams for the future, gone. Finances, housing, insurance - you name it, it is caught up in the vortex. You can't sleep, you can't eat. Anxiety and dread fill your every waking moment. Taking care of you now seems necessary but impossible. How do you take care of you when you are in the midst of a freefall?
A fronte praceipitium a tergo lupi - A precipice in front, wolves behind. This is what happens. You start to crawl out from under the pain, under the despair and defeat. You find reasons to wake up and live. And someone finds fault with it -- they want you to be well enough to manage life without assistance, still sad but comfortable enough to not be needy and in their way. Certainly not happy. Never happy. There is apparently a time frame that determines when you are allowed to find happiness or not. If happiness happens to surprise you, damned if it isn't inconvenient and ugly to your critics. By all means, do not be so ridiculous as to hope for there to be any joy to be found in seeing light creep back into your eyes.
Decisions have to be made. Do you sink or do you swim? Do you live or do you die? Do you hover in some half state between life and death just to please someone else who isn't walking the path you are forced to walk? Dum viviumus, vivamus - Epicurus. "When we live, let us live."
I choose happiness. I choose to take care of me.
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