How Well Do You Know Yourself?

I don’t like change. This isn’t really some new revelation to me and it is also not a secret confession. I don’t like change. I get a lot of it thrown at me it seems and I really don’t like it. It is such a normal statement for me to make that I even made it while chatting with my boss at lunch today while we were talking about our lives. I don’t even remember specifically what we were saying but I said, “Yeah well it makes sense because I don’t like change.”

She laughed and said well that’s funny because you are in PR. And we moved on to talking about other things. But the comment hasn’t left me all day because it’s true- I work in public relations- a career that no two days are alike, I never know what will be thrown at me when I walk into my office in the morning or even the second half of the day. The media could call, I could need to pitch a story, a crisis could occur…there is a constant unknown and that means a constant ability to change.

Yet I don’t like change.

It never and I do mean never occurred to me that the career path I have chosen for myself is in direct conflict with who I am deep down. Or is it who I am deep down? Do I really dislike change as much as I think I do? Do I really struggle with it as much as I think I do? Because I do really well at work. I do really well with the thrill of all of suddenly being thrown the impossible and making it possible. It’s a stressful period while I am making it happen but once I do, it is a complete rush.

It’s just got me thinking. They say opposites attract when it comes to significant others, but do you think opposites ever attract when it comes to a career? Is my work persona who I really want to be in my personal life…or is it who I already am, I just need to realize it?

Lots of questions here today but definitely no answers. I do think the thought and connection has entered my head for a reason…now I just need to figure out that reason.

Have you ever worked in a job or volunteer position that requires skills that are opposite of your personality? Do you think we are ever drawn to tasks that are opposite of what we think we would really prefer? Do you ever think we believe our personality traits are one way, yet really they are another? 

Leaping Over Puddles

Halloween is pretty uneventful for me because Husband and I live in an apartment and we don’t get any trick-or-treaters in an apartment complex. So minus taking pictures of people dressed up in costume at work today (since I am in charge of our company’s social media and internal communications) and my cupcake adventure last night, it’s just been a normal day. But a very rainy day. It poured here all last night and all day until around 4pm. Then it all just went away, it had cooled off a little and the sun came out.

I decided to go for a run at the park even though I knew the trail would be soggy. Something about it just felt nice on this holiday evening. As I was running I was doing some thinking and also a lot of leaping over puddles. I had to really pay attention to the path because all of a sudden you’d be zig zagging to avoid huge puddles or piles of mud. Occasionally though you had no way around the puddle- so I leaped over it.

After I did this a few times I started thinking about those puddles. About how life is full of them. Smooth ground for awhile and then a big mess you have to get through and then smooth for awhile and then a mess to trudge through..and if you are not paying attention the big messy puddle sneaks up on you and before you know it you are right in it. I think I have a tendency to get in a puddle and then stay there. Focus on the puddle. I have a hard time letting go of the puddle. It’s a small feeling of negativity/glass half empty I am noticing that is always there in the back of my mind. But when I was running tonight I got such a rush after I’d leap over a puddle successfully. I started thinking wouldn’t it be great if I could just leap over the negativity and keep things positive. Leap over the messy puddles in my life. Not avoid the puddle, not jump into the puddle, but simply acknowledge it, figure out a plan and leap over it.

How do you handle negative thoughts? Do you think sometimes we can just dwell on things too much and really we just need to leap over them to move forward? Did you or your family dress up today? Happy Halloween!

My Head is Full of Nothing

People love drama. Not everyone, but some people really do. Just an observation I have made and one that is becoming a bigger one to Sister K and me recently. People complain of so much going on- X, Y and Z…and we just look at them. We empathize. We are sympathetic. We then share our own daily stresses…and we don’t get irritated in any way because the issues they describe are valid. Everyone has issues. It’s part of life.

But lately I am feeling a bit lost when I stop to think about how much is truly going on- I felt this way this past weekend while I was sitting at home at our kitchen table talking to Dad. He told me he just feels worn out. He has gotten help during the days for Mom but at night as soon as he gets home he said he literally has no time for himself. He goes all evening and all night long. He is a full-time caretaker. In some ways this would work if this was all he did but he also runs a major company during the day. He has the added stress of a full-time job on top of this. Then on top of that he is the head of our household. He is Dad- the one who is supposed to know everything and fix everything.

And now, in light of events from last week he now has the added weight of Papa’s hip replacement recovery. He is not responsible for the recovery and Papa really seems to be doing well- but Mom wants to get to the hospital to see Papa, therefore time now has to be allotted for that too. The process of getting Mom just out the door is a lengthy one, then getting her in/out of the car and back inside…it is not easy and it’s not quick. He told me that when he got the call in the middle of the night about Papa’s fall Mom was upset that he wasn’t more upset- and he said he just sat and stared thinking, how am I going to take on another thing right now?

He’s doing it though. Somehow he is doing it. But it worries me too. You can read between the lines and see why that would worry a daughter about her father. At the same time it frustrates me with Mom’s MS because quite honestly I don’t understand it. We have been told often by people the MS sort of ebbs and flows; you experience relapses; then recover; but Mom just seems to ebb. She doesn’t seem to go back to where she was before, she just gets worse– and I don’t understand why? Is that how this works? Is that how this is going to work for her? What is going on?

I have a lot of questions. Questions that are sitting right below the surface for me. Questions and concerns about all of this. I also feel helpless. I want to do more. I wish I could do more. I can listen but that’s all I feel like I can do- I can’t even think of advice to offer. Yesterday as I listened to Dad I just sat there with my head feeling blank…thinking how much more can you seriously take. I didn’t think this about myself- I thought this about Dad. And he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t get upset, he just takes it on- but I can see how it is wearing on him. I can see how he is tired. I can see how all of this is becoming too much…but then I am left with the question of how do you even fix that? How do you make it less? I don’t know how you do.

I feel like all I can do personally is not add to the stress. But beyond that I am at a loss. A head full of thoughts but no words and no way to fix anything.

Do you ever feel helpless that you can’t help a loved one more? How do you handle your MS with either yourself or as a caretaker? How do you stay positive and keep going? Does anyone even understand the path of MS?

The Reality of Needing Help

“When it gets bad enough he will ask for help.”

Those words were told to me awhile ago by a friend when I shared my concerns with Dad being spread too thin between working and caring for Mom full-time. But sometimes I believe God forces you to make a decision you have been putting off by making other parts of your life begin to spin and that is exactly what has happened to Dad the past few weeks.

Dad was recently promoted which is really exciting but it also means more demands at work. At the same time, Mom seems to be digressing. She is having a harder time moving around lately and her MS is demanding more from Dad. I have been worried about Dad for some time but like I said above, I realized at some point I had to stop voicing my concerns and realize it was not my place to demand Dad get help with caring for Mom. The relationship between Mom and me verses Mom and Dad is different. They are married. They are husband and wife and I believe Dad is trying to do everything he can to fulfill his vow to be there for Mom in sickness and in health. I can’t get in the middle and force him into making decisions he isn’t ready to make.

But Sunday Mom seemed to be struggling and Monday she woke up with excruciating pain in her leg. Dad needed to be at work. This has happened before but this time his work demands are greater and he realized it was the beginning of being unable to be in two places at once. He was stuck. He called the nurse who had come to our house to administer Mom’s steroid infusion. She had spoken with Dad awhile back about staff she has that will come out and assist around the house. The nurse came out to meet with him and she and Dad began to move forward with making arrangements for someone to come out to be with Mom during the day.

So when I spoke with Mom during lunch yesterday, her new home helper/nurse/assistant…for blog purposes I’ll call her Nurse B…Nurse B was at our house with Dad getting acquainted with everything. I tried to talk to Mom like everything was normal but she was tired and explaining she was frustrated because she preferred to be by herself.

Even after all the time I have spent trying to get Dad to make this decision, I have to admit it was strange to think Nurse B was there. She was there to take care of Mom. My mom who has always taken care of us needed someone to take care of her. This is reality now and it made me sad and full of a mix of emotions…a big one being acceptance that this is my family now. It’s just strange. It feels strange. And even though Mom needs this, I feel sorry for her. I can’t help but struggle that her independence has been taken away and I played a part in that. Even though Dad ultimately made the decision I agreed with him. I don’t know why but I’m struggling with that realization because secretly I never thought it would happen- I never really thought we’d need to bring someone in to help Dad; I thought Mom would get better; Dad would figure out some magical way to manage it better. I just didn’t think it would happen and it has now.

Have you ever dealt with getting help for a family member that maybe impacted their independence? Have you ever felt the guilt of feeling responsible for taking it away? Do you believe sometimes life may force you to make a difficult decision?

The Family We Were/The Family We Are

MS has changed my family in a lot of ways and it is continuing to change my family in a lot of ways. My family that I have always been fiercely proud of and very protective over is changing in ways I cannot control. It is changing Mom, Dad, Sister K and me. Changing the way we interact, changing our dynamic at home, changing our activities- it is changing us.

This past weekend really shed a light on those changes as Sister K brought her boyfriend home for the weekend to celebrate Easter. All weekend I tried hard to fill in the holes that Mom should’ve been responsible for with a guest at our house. I didn’t mind but it made me realize even more that this is my role now and I needed to step into it for Sister K. I feel like I am doing that a lot in many capacities in my family- filling in the holes of where Mom cannot anymore.

But as the weekend ended and we were heading back in the car I was talking to Husband and I got upset. I felt uneasy after the weekend and couldn’t figure out why- and then it hit me…I was mourning in many ways the loss of my family as we were and realizing what we have become. I was sad because Sister K’s boyfriend will never know us without Mom’s MS. Because Husband and I started dating in college, he knew Mom before her MS and knew our family dynamic without all the extra added stress. At this point in my life I can define all relationships into two categories- those who knew my family before MS and those who knew us after MS. There are pros and cons to being on both sides of the line but I know that those who knew us before knew who were were- knew how we operated- they knew our true family. Those who know us now I am not so confident of the picture they get. I don’t know what they take away after meeting all of us in our current dynamic.

I still love my family very much and I am still obsessed with the people I am blessed to call parents, grandparents and of course Sister K…I would not change them for a minute. But I still feel like I am mourning the loss of my family as we were and realizing with both eyes open the family we are becoming.

Have you ever experienced changes in your family that make you aware your family dynamic is changing? Are there people in your life who know your family in the past as opposed to who they are in the present? Does what I am talking about even make any sense?

The Mental Slow down

I was home for a few days two weeks ago to stay with Mom while Dad was out of town. I had a love/hate relationship with those two days. I loved being home. I loved staying with Mom and spending time with her. I hated everything that had to do with MS. I hated how it tested my patience.

It gave me a great sense of appreciation for everything Dad is dealing with when it comes to Mom. It also made me feel like a failure because I can’t seem to handle everything as smoothly as he or Sister K does.

After quite a bit of soul searching, I think I may have found the root of part of this- I need to slow down. I like to go-go-go. I am a planner. I am always one step ahead and thinking one step ahead. This way of living, feeling and thinking does not work when your Mom has MS. Because these tendencies are pretty heavily intertwined in who I am…in may ways Mom’s MS is fighting constantly with who I am.

I came to this realization about halfway through. I then felt really frustrated with myself. I spent the rest of my time home trying to mentally slow down. Physically slowing down is one thing. But mentally slowing down and focusing on the present with Mom is tough. But I tried. And I was successful for a day. I know it’s a day, but it is some sort of proof to myself that I can do this…baby steps.

So here comes my new challenge, the mental slow down.

When I am in the presence of Mom I need to make a conscious effort to mentally slow down. Fight my urges to speed through our time together and get lots of things accomplished. Instead slow down. Realize I am not going to accomplish that many things. Most importantly realize that is okay and realize the important part is the moment with Mom.

Do you ever had a tendency to try to speed through life? Is it easier to physically slow down than mentally slow down? Do you ever get the two confused?

The Warrior

This past weekend Husband’s family visited. I struggle sometimes because it is difficult to have a mother-in-law who is healthy and active and then have my own mother who is struggling and not as active. It brings to mind a lot of challenges internally for me and has pretty much since we got married. But this weekend, I really put those aside and tried to just enjoy the time with Husband’s parents and I found that when I did that things worked smoothly. My mind was more at ease. When I just lived in the moment, not worrying about the future with my parents and inlaws but instead just enjoyed the weekend…things just worked.

One interesting thing did happen though. We took Husband’s parents to a university basketball game. My father-in-law is having issues with his hip and may have to get a hip replacement eventually. There was a quite a bit of walking to get into the stadium. We saw an area for accessible entry and Husband and I walked up to ask a question about how to get to our seats from outside. The thought went through my mind to ask if we could enter in this specific spot, but I held back since it wasn’t my own parent. In hindsight I should’ve just asked and next time I will. Later, Husband told me he wanted to ask but didn’t know how. He said he didn’t know how to word it. He said he was unsure what was appropriate to say or unsure what they would say in response. He also said he thought I would’ve known exactly what to say in this situation…I deal with this all the time…and I am years ahead of him on this topic.”

And he was right. It made me take a step back and think of the lessons I am learning in the process of dealing with MS. Sure there are tough moments. There are also good moments. There are also moments of complete failure and moments of complete success. But through all of them I am learning lessons. Life lessons.

In no particular order, I offer you a few of my own personal lessons learned:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for anything. What is the worst that will happen? Someone will say no. They might..but most of the time they won’t.
  • Chivalry for Mom exists 100%. People hold doors. People get out of our way. People don’t mind stopping their cars while we cross the street. We force people to press pause in a very hectic world. They press pause and watch. Sometimes they are impatient and rude, but for the most part they are kind. Blow off the rude ones but embrace the feeling of the kind ones.
  • Also realize people are selfish and are not paying as much attention to you as you think. They are not staring at you pushing your Mom in a wheelchair or getting in and out of the car. Even if they are staring they will forget shortly. Because strangers don’t really care that much about you..and take comfort in that.
  • Assume your plans will fail. Something will go wrong. Learn to roll with the punches of MS and the punches of life.
  • Stay calm. Mom is watching me and waiting for my cue. If I get stressed it means Mom will get stressed. And a Mom with MS who is stressed is a full on recipe for disaster.
  • Cherish the moment. Cherish the phone call. Cherish the experience. If Mom is having a good day, cherish it. Take seconds to remember it and embrace it. Don’t assume these will come everyday. But cherish them because the memories of these are what gets you through the tough moments.
  • Life is going to bring people into your life. Wonderful people you never imagined meeting. Realize these people are your support team and they are gifts. At the same time, people in your life who you always thought would be your support team are going to disappoint you. You will have to find a way to “let them go” realizing at times we have to clean out the old to make room for the new.
  • Keep perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Realize the importance of MS in your life and the large place it holds in managing your daily stress level. With that being said, little things don’t deserve a big place in your stress level. They don’t deserve a place at all. Anything unnecessary that contributes in a negative way to your daily stress- get rid of it.

Only the strongest families are given MS to deal with- and even more so than that, only the strongest children (no matter what your age) are given a parent with MS. Life is going to give you the tools you need to get through it, but it is figuring out what those tools are and how to apply them in your life is hard. Find your tools and embrace them. And above all, remember we are warriors.

What lessons have you learned from dealing with a disease such as MS in either yourself or a family member? Do you know a child who has a parent with MS? Take a minute sometime to recognize them for what they are- a warrior.