Learning to make lemonade again

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

Marilyn Monroe
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A recent article penned by Mallika Rao couldn’t have passed over my reading stack in any more of a timely fashion than her personal story she shared in the May 2019 issue of Real Simple magazine. The title of Rao’s piece: “No Apologies: For how I live my life.”

I first skimmed this article a few hours after the third and most recent therapy session. I have read it thoroughly two more times since.

You see, the first half of 2019 brought several truly monumental explosions to descend onto my personal home front, and the shrapnel has really damaged my flow. I have since been struggling with a sense of purpose and direction as a result, and the therapist and I are working on getting me back on track.

A little backstory: For those of you who may not know, my husband and I had moved from Illinois out to West Virginia to start our new life together shortly after our wedding in 2014. That new life, however, was short lived out East. In 2016, we found ourselves moving back to Illinois and moving my mother in with us. It is important to note that we have no regrets for doing this. None at all, none whatsoever. The only regrets we would have would be if we hadn’t done this.

At that time, she was 81 years old and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment. Still managing independently, she was starting to fall, and there were a few occasions where she laid on the floor for hours at her apartment until she slowly worked her way back off the floor. When she and I would have our weekly Monday night phone calls, she would share these stories with me, and I would find myself in near-panic mode each time and wishing I could help her somehow.

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My husband came up with the idea of moving back home and bringing her in. So, in time, that’s exactly what we did. And up until April 2019, she lived with us and we were her full-time caregivers. Physically, she still maintains her own self even to this day. But in February and March of this year particularly, her vascular dementia was officially diagnosed during a 3-day hospital stay that resulted from a manifestation of hallucinations, delusions and very psychologically dangerous episodes that spanned all hours of the days, weeks and months.

Long story short: She is now residing in a nearby long-term memory care assisted living facility that is part of a local nursing home. The transition continues to be new, and difficult, despite the fact that I know I did everything I could for her as long as I could before moving her into a place now that is safe and has qualified staff to take care of all her needs. I am struggling still not to feel guilty, but it was during my preparation for my therapy session that it dawned on me:

I had done exactly what she had always asked.

Mom had always said, during her nearly 3 years in our home and even before she moved in, that she hoped we would know when it we could no longer meet her needs and that we would be strong enough to place her in long-term care. She had repeatedly told us that she never wanted to become a burden or a problem to any of her children, and when the time came that she needed more extensive care, she wanted to be “placed in an old folks’ home.”

Her 20-plus years primary care physician had said at her follow-up visit after that 3-day hospital stay that her memory health had reached a point where she needed around-the-clock care and could never be left alone. That was a need that my husband and I could not meet for her in our home. I had pulled one of my brothers and one of my sisters into the discussion, and we all agreed that it was time for Mom to be in a safer place with trained people and resources available that could meet these new needs.

I am now her healthcare POA, so emotionally I am still a bit of a wreck over the decision to move her into a nursing home, but not as much as I once was. And with 3 therapy sessions under my belt now to help me work through this, I am already feeling so much better.

Mom has been my biggest “explosion” so far this year, but her situation came on the heels of another personal land mine being set off that also really rocked my world.

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I was downsized in early February from the job I had for 2 years and 2 months. I may have more easily managed the downsizing if the story I was told for my layoff was the same story the employer shared with the unemployment office. It was having my unemployment claim contested and the story my employer had shared as to why I was being downsized that really knocked me off balance. So much so that I have been questioning myself as a writer, how to move forward, or whether I even should.

My personal assessment on that continues, but I have assessed myself enough professionally over these past few months to solidify the fact that I am a damn good writer. And a damn good editor. I also know I love to research, and to help others move forward with their writing with confidence. I am starting to stand on my own 2 feet again now when it comes to what I write and when I write, who I help and where my talents take me.

I have also started to define myself, my purpose, my vision, and what I stand for even more than I ever did. (A side note: As a journalist, if you want to be a good one and a professional, you keep your opinions to yourself. Now I can actively and visibly take part in those causes I once had to remain neutral on in order to protect my professional integrity. I’m liking that…)

After all this rambling, and there’s even more I could tell about other “explosions” on the home front, but I’ll hold off for now, you might be asking what does Rao’s article have to do with all of this? In the article, Rao referenced an interview that Michelle Obama once had with Larry King.

During that interview, Rao noted that King had asked Mrs. Obama if she was surprised by campaign life, to which Mrs. Obama responded by saying that she and her husband weren’t new to politics and that a national campaign brought, “more of the same, except more people are watching. If you’re secure in yourself and you sort of know who you are…”

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Rao went on to say she had an epiphany at that point, noting, “If Michelle Obama could withstand judgment of every adult in the known world, perhaps so could I.” Rao further wrote that she had only herself to rely on as a gauge of the quality of judgment and that she had begun “to see scrutiny as a gift.” Her ending sentence to the article: “In time, the judgment that seemed to matter most was my own.”

Just a few hours before reading Rao’s article, I had gone through the same thought process. I have now started a journey along a personal healing path where I remind myself to keep it small, to say no and reinforce boundaries, and to stop worrying about things and people outside of my own control.

I am taking small steps every day, but they are indeed empowering my forward momentum. The struggles I have been facing – I am starting to see them instead as gifts.

And for the first time in many years well beyond these last 3, I am starting to reveal and discover the authentic me. “For how I want to live my life.”

I’m learning how to make lemonade again out of all these lemons…

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