Two weeks ago I went to Dallas to see number one Grandson play soccer and then I took him to Toys R Us to shop for his birthday. Marty didn’t go, Marty couldn’t go, it was a fast trip and there was really no way to get her wheelchair to the soccer field. I don’t know if she really wanted to go, but I went alone wondering if I should have found a way to accommodate her.
Last week we took furniture to our daughter in Dallas in Marty’s new van. I was amazed at how much stuff we got in the van. Marty and I were having dinner and I asked her if she wanted to go and she said yes. I then talked about trying to get all of that stuff in the van and how tight it would be. Marty looked at me and said, “Do you have room for me?”
Of course I will always make room for her, that’s exactly what I told her, but that's not always the simple truth.
Sometimes to survive you have to simplify, you have to find the bare essentials and strip life down to the basics. That’s what we had to do in our lives to cope with Marty’s stroke, that’s where I took us, thinking, believing we needed to focus inward to survive.
With Marty, when we came home, it was all about survival, hers and mine. Simply staying alive and mentally stable took all of our energy and efforts and even then we sometimes came up short.
Recovery from a stroke takes a tremendous amount of energy and focus. Everything is hard and exhausting. Thinking, talking, eating, and breathing, basic living skills all require enormous amounts of concentration, calories, and focus. The extras in life like relationships, work and play are shoved to the back of the closet until you can move out of survival mode. (See Maslow’s hierarchy of needs….we start with survival)
There are a lot of problems with this whole stripping down thing, like, you get really tired of looking at yourself naked, you see way too many of your own flaws. You end up pushing too much in the closet, you get too internal and too focused on just living and you forget that the world outside your sphere still exists and still matters.
You know, or you think the stripping down is temporary, but it soon becomes an integral part of your life that seems permanent. You know in the back of your brain that sooner or later you have to start adding elements of life back in and that can be scary, a little daunting. Reincorporating yourself back into the ebb and flow of life is hard.
The truth is if you step out of the main stream, eventually you get left behind; other people evolve and move on without you. It only makes sense because the stream, the river is still running, with or without you. The boat really does leave you where you stepped off and you don’t get the benefit of gently floating down a creek and seeing the same sights as the rest of the world as a leveling experience, you have to get back on where everybody else already is and that is frightening.
And, bringing Marty up to speed adds a real level of complexity and difficulty. I want her to be part of life, I want her to be able to re engage, but the truth is, on so many levels, she simply can’t, she doesn’t have the physical, mental or emotional bandwidth to do it and I find myself, too often, leaving her sitting on the bank and watching as I start putting my toes back in the water.
I will always have room for her, I will leave stuff on the side of the road to make room for her, I hate that she even asked the question, “Do you have room for me?”
It’s one of those care giving issues. It’s an issue of caring for yourself and making sure that the cared for are present, are literally cared for, are noticed and are part of the flow of life.
That’s not always easy, in fact, it’s very rarely easy, but nobody said it would be. They did say it would be worth it, for once they were right.