Sisyphus, because of his hubris and pliable relationship with the truth was cursed to push a boulder up a hill, for the rest of his life. He would get to the top and the damn thing would roll back down and there he found himself, perpetually pushing a rock.
Some days, sometimes, a lot of times, care giving feels like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill. Care giving is constant, it is constant in its need for attention, it is constant in the ebbs and flows of life, it can be like pushing a rock…..up a hill….all day, every day, never sure when everything will go down hill.
When we first came home after the second stroke we were at the bottom of the mountain with a big ol’ dirty boulder sitting in front of us. Marty was weak, sick, confused, afraid and helpless. I was mostly dumb and afraid but we both stood behind the boulder and shoved, we were going to, together, push the damn rock up the hill, up to the top and stand at the mountain top and crow like a banty roosters.
Marty got better, not a lot and not very fast, but slowly, over time, she became more communicative, she didn’t cry all of the time, she used words instead of signs and we gradually started to learn ways to deal with her illness. We pushed the rock up the mountain a little further, not fast, but we made steady progress.
Occasionally, in fact, frequently, we would find ourselves sliding backwards, we would push the rock up and instead it would go to the side and slide back down. I was afraid, in some ways I still am afraid, we are going to slip and lose control and the rock will roll all of the way back down to the bottom, crushing both of us as it bounces and careens down the mountain side.
It’s been close a couple of times, the rock spinning almost out of our control but one of us managing to get behind it, putting our back to the boulder, and by digging our heels into the dirt we managed to slow the momentum until help could arrive to stop it from tumbling out of control.
Along the way, as we pushed, we found help, people to help us push, people to allow me to rest while they pushed. We found help in our family, in medical providers and home care givers. We found pushing as a team helps; it just makes sense, the extra muscle, more people controlling the tilts and turns, keeps the momentum up and keeps us moving, inching forward, a little at a time.
Sisyphus could have used a team to spell him and more importantly Sisyphus really needed to develop an understanding and a sense of reality about his life goals. He needed to accept the fact the rock wasn’t going to stay at the top.
Marty and her team had to understand that in our journey of recovery we weren’t going to have a mountain top apex kind of experience. You have to learn, through experience, what is possible and getting the rock to the top ain’t happening for us.
I used to think not reaching for the top was settling; now I understand it is reality, now I see it as acceptance. It’s like I know I will never be tall, dark and handsome, I’m just not ever going to be taller or darker. I just have to accept reality and settle for handsome.
So like Sisyphus should have, we have found support and we have pushed the rock as far up the mountain as we can. Today, we, Marty, me, our team, we are holding the rock in static mode part of the way up the mountain.
Marty and I have not given up on small improvements. I know we can still push the rock up the hill a bit further and with our team, by adding new members to our happy little group we sometimes take a deep breath, put our collective shoulders to the boulder, dig our Asics into the scrabble rock and together push as hard as we can making sure we don’t let the rock slip and roll backwards.
We do it together, as a team because it lightens the load on all of us, particularly Marty and me. We add new people to help us push from time to time and always keep more people holding the rock than needed so someone can occasionally take a pee break. We do it together because community makes you stronger.
Poor Sisyphus, he really thought too highly of his own solo capabilities. He really needed some friends and maybe Medicare.