As I sat there next to the hospital bed, looking across from mum to dad, I realised how small they had become, fragile almost. When did this happen? When did my larger than life parents, the people who have always supported me and been my rocks, shrink to this frailness? Time passes quickly and there is nothing like a traumatic event to catapult life into perspective. I am very fortunate to have parents who have always loved me unconditionally and for that I will be forever thankful.
I have on some level run on autopilot this past 4 weeks. My energy scattered and dispersed across every ball I have been trying to juggle and that, I have discovered is neither healthy or productive. Too many focuses which had the potential to completely overwhelm me, if I didn’t stop, take stock and redistribute my focus and energy to where it was most important. I had been driving up and down the coast, doing whatever needed to be done with and for mum, keeping an eye on dad, talking with medical teams, working, ensuring I’m still there for family and friends, keeping up my writing and course and trying to make sure I stay physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. I needed to re-evaluate what I was doing.
First and foremost I need to look after my wellbeing or I will be of no use to anyone. It dawned on me that I am currently parenting my parent. The ordeal my mum has been through including a new infection and several medication changes has seen her slip in and out of delirium and confusion for over a week now and I have to admit that it is really bloody tough to see and deal with. I walked in to her hospital room a few days back to her sobbing and yelling at me asking why I was doing this to her. It was heart wrenching and it took me over an hour to calm her and turn the situation around. Using a combination of reverse psychology, tough love, positive reinforcement and loving support seems to work in those moments and this has been a daily occurrence for the past week.
Truthfully once I calm her I leave the room and allow myself a few moments to deep breathe and shed a few tears, then it’s back in there for whatever comes next. She has not been eating so getting her to eat is a priority and a lot harder than you might imagine! Encouraging her to comply with the nurses and doctors when she is confused is another tough gig but the joy of any small step forward is a blessing.
I have tried to get out for a walk in nature most days to both ground and energise myself. I noticed my usually healthy diet slipping with all the running around, time constraints and the amount of time being spent in hospital so I have fixed that. I have meditated and used visualisation to visualise mum back at home sitting in her yard in the sun with dad, enjoying a coffee and a laugh surrounded by the family, all of us grateful and relieved that she is home and well. For me I have had to be gentle and kind with myself knowing that right now I cannot do it all and prioritising my energy to where it is most needed.
Today was a good day because today my mum smiled and tried to eat a little. Today was a good day because the sun was shining, my dad was feeling good with the small steps mum made and I spoke to both my kids. Today was a good day because I went for a walk and felt the warmth of the winter sun on my shoulders. Today was a good day because I made an amazing green juice and drank that goodness into me. Today was a good day because I found a moment to do some writing and treat myself to a little TLC. Today was a good day because I have so much to be grateful for and I will go to bed tonight appreciating and loving those in my life.
Sometimes it’s hard in the midst of a crisis to remain grateful, positive and calm but give yourself a moment to focus because getting yourself into this headspace is the best for you and everyone around you. Understanding that you may not be able to do it all right at this time is another important lesson because you are better off focusing on a few things well then trying to focus on everything half assed. I’ve set myself mini goals for each day and realise mum and her needs are the priority right now, after I ensure I’m looking after my own wellbeing. Lastly, you need to allow yourself to feel and deal with the emotion because an ordeal like this is highly emotive and you can’t ignore, bury or pretend you aren’t feeling what you are feeling as it’s unhealthy and will only cause YOU issues in the long run.
Parenting your parents is not something one often thinks of and it’s certainly not something I relish but we do what has to be done. We do what is going to get our loved one back home, even if it’s hard and they get angry or upset with us. We do what is going to ultimately be the best thing for them. We understand that harsh words are caused by their confusion and not to take it to heart. We reflect upon all those years that they tirelessly parented us and the unconditional love and support they have always provided and we know that what we need to do now is small in comparison. And in these moments we learn or remember that it’s the people in our life and the experiences and joy of what we have shared that is the most important thing, not money, not careers, not material things but people. Moments that may not have been captured on camera or social media but nevertheless moments that live forever in our heart and mind, that’s the real magic.
Parents act so strong for us, that we often forget just how fragile they are.