My mother was a proud woman. She was a school teacher, a minister, a Yoga teacher, and fiercely independent. Ours was a relationship grounded in deep love and peppered by years of funny pearls of wisdom. In 2007, as she began to pass, her bedroom became the place where my friends and I sat and received instructions for how to live your best life NOW
There were moments, as a Caregiver, when I didn't feel like I could go on. When my mother first became ill, I thought I could keep my life and also help her save hers. I was working in Public Relations, at the time, and waitressing at night. I was living the life as a young 20 something in NYC living with my girlfriends in an apartment none of us could afford but loved. I wanted desperately to retain some sense of what everyone else around me was doing. Living a carefree life...
Eventually, it became impossible and exhausting and I made the decision to leave work and move back in with my mother to be there full time. And then I realized I hadn't known what exhausted truly was. Chemo treatments began multiples times during the week and it forced her to leave her own full time job as a teacher. The entire day revolved around how to get her through it with as little pain and suffering as possible.
And at night, while she would try to sleep, I would sit and listen for any sound of her needing me. I barely slept. I hardly ate. And I was consuming insane quantities of wine to numb just how bad things had become.
I remember sitting in a hospital hallway one day, with my head against the wall, and my eyes closed wondering how we would get through this. And all of a sudden it became very clear, we would manage because we had to. There was no way over this but through it. And the only thing I had control of, was how I was going to react to it.
I realized that I could control how I managed my new role in life. And I would do so because I had no choice. And so I sat, and kept my eyes closed and began to take deep breaths and I began to meditate. Right there in the middle of a busy New York hospital.
What I found was that by taking a few moments, in a hospital or in a bathroom or on the floor of her bedroom, to sit in silence and to focus on nothing but being calm that I became the best version of myself and her Caregiver.
I used this to help me when doctors gave us bad news, or even if it was good day but I was just really fucking over it. I took a deep breath and I closed my eyes and I just sat. It allowed me to be calm, and it helped me to regain the strength and energy it took to care for her.
I urge you to try this. Meditation is not something that is just done by hippies or Yoga masters or those who are enlightened. You're not going to begin to levitate or automatically smell like patchouli. But you will find yourself managing your stress and your own pain in ways you didn't think possible.
Try it today, and if it doesn't work today try again tomorrow and the day after. I promise you, you will thank yourself.
Many of you have asked what my own background with Caregiving is....
As the holidays approach, I think of my parents.
In 2007, my mother, Anandi, passed away from Breast Cancer. It was a long battle and one she endured twice.
When she was diagnosed, for the second time, in 2003 I became her primary caretaker. I drove her to chemotherapy and sat during her treatments, I gave injections and learned how to cook foods she could tolerate. I helped her dress and held her hand at night while she cried in pain. I became friends with her nurses and doctors and became too familiar with which hospital had the best coffee.
It seemed as if overnight I became an adult. Id gone from being the party girl to the girl who sat up at night watching her mother breathe, just to make sure…
And in 2007, as Hospice moved into our home, I became the woman who rubbed her feet and played her Nina Simone and cried with her because we both knew this was the end.
During this time, I was desperate for help and advice. I would scour bookstores for information to help me understand what I was going through. The books were depressing and written by people decades older than me. I needed somebody who understood why, at times, I was angry that I was being forced into this role. Someone who could explain why, at 27, while I watched my friends enjoy life and get engaged and married I was sitting at home feeling guilty because I felt like I was being robbed of that life. I needed a voice to laugh with me and totally understand why wine had become my closest companion. And when she passed in 2007, I longed for the validation that it was okay to feel a sense of relief because the war we had been fighting was now over.
Those books didn’t exist. It was through Yoga and meditation and the prayers and love of family and friends that I survived losing the love of my life.
A few years later, my father was diagnosed with Cancer. We had a very difficult relationship, and I had years of resentment built up. In fact, until I was called and told that he was laying in a coma, I had barely spoken to him. The angry child in me, wanted to let him lay there. And when he awoke, I struggled with not wanting to give him the same care and love that I had given my mother. I didn’t feel like he deserved it. Thankfully, he had a wonderful woman in his life, who cared for him deeply and took care of him in his day to day. But as his daughter, I knew that I couldn’t let him pass without coming to peace with our relationship. I knew that if I wanted to feel peace in my soul, I had to go to him. And so, I went. I sat by his side in the hospital and his home and held his hand and told him I loved him and I forgave him. I did crossword puzzles with him and watched the news and filled him in on the woman I had become. And when he passed, I knew that I had done the right thing. That I had finally released the anger, because the truth is holding on to anger only hurts you.
I write this to you, because I believe that I have been dealt with all of this to help people. I believe that everything happens for a reason and you must find the lesson in your trials. And it is with this holiday season that I am grateful and thankful that I am now at a place in my life where I can help others.
I am starting this blog, because I want a place for people to ask questions. For people to ask for advice. For those who are caring for a parent, or family member or even if you are a friend of a caregiver, I want you to have a voice speaking to you that is young and one that is firmly aware of all that you are going through. I want to be for you, what I didn’t have.
You can post questions and concerns here. You can email me directly if you wish at email@example.com. I will never share your identity if you would prefer me not to. I want only for this to be a safe place for me to help you. Because, honey I have been through it all!
And today, I stand happy and strong and at peace…
On Thanksgiving, we are often thankful for so many things. We are thankful for our friends and families, our jobs and our pets. We sit at our tables and thank whatever higher being we pray to for the food we are about to eat and the impending food coma we know will soon follow.
But how often do we thank ourselves? How often do we take a moment, and sit in silence, and thank our spirit? The inner you that wakes up every morning and carries you through your day as you, probably, care for everyone before yourself. The light inside of you, that no matter how hard yesterday was, hopes for a better today.
On this Thanksgiving, find a quiet place in the midst of the turkey and football. Take a moment. Take a deep breath. And thank yourself . Without you, nothing else is possible. Be grateful for just how fabulous you are.