I’m trying again. This is the photo I wanted to show you in my previous post, and I’ve figured out how to share it with you!
It has been a crushingly busy week and a half, and a delightfully busy weekend; and today, Thanksgiving Monday in Canada, I give thanks for a day of rest and recovery. I am not on-call for anything or anyone in particular.
Yesterday, I led worship at my church — a service that fed me and that was what I wished for, for my own agonized mind and weary body. It was a gift to myself (and I hope to those in attendance too). It was an invitation to be moved and held by the beauty of poetry, by song, by harmony, by grounding and resting and allowing yourself to be fed. I biked to the service, too, on trails that run through parks and behind industrial areas and through neighbourhood back yards. This gave me time to prepare and soak myself in nature. My art therapist recently observed that water often appears in my sketches, symbolizing comfort, peace, ease, release, renewal, even creativity. She suggested I visit bodies of water when I’m feeling stressed or down, and at first I couldn’t think of any bodies of water worth visiting — nothing I could really immerse myself in completely. But then I realized that I don’t need a lake or an ocean. Even a small stream running through a concrete viaduct speaks to me. It reminds me of my childhood self. When I stand beside a stream, no matter how small, I feel like I’ve come across a secret world, somewhere special, magical, otherworldly.
So yesterday, when I got to the stream that runs through the concrete viaduct, I stopped, even though I was running a little bit late, and said, Carrie, take a breath, here. Look. Enjoy. Let yourself feel how special this moment is, for you.
I opened this new blogging template to try again because I want to write about how I’m caring for myself in the midst of a time when I’m being called on to be a caregiver — a new and intense and somewhat relentless level of caregiving that has no particular end in sight.
I hear myself saying, out loud, “Great job, Carrie!” The voice is my own, but my brain interprets it as a general voice of omniscient kindness. “You can do this, Carrie. Take a deep breath.” “Hang in there. This is hard and you are doing it!” “You seem stressed out, Carrie, can you uncross your legs and sit more comfortably? Ground your feet? Breathe, just breathe.”
I hear myself telling others that they are doing a great job. Thanking them for their efforts and care. Really noticing and appreciating the efforts and care of others.
I see myself pausing to enjoy a moment: to scratch the dog’s belly and snuggle her, to take a photo of a beautiful sight, to stop and look at the light hitting the leaves, to savour what’s happening, to meet people’s eyes on the trail, smile, say good morning, savouring the reward and good feeling of a connection being offered in return.
Laughter, stories, listening. Giving myself some slack. Lowering the bar. Asking for what I need instead of stewing resentfully in silence, waiting for someone to notice or read my mind.
Clearly saying what I want or need: “No thanks, I don’t need help in the kitchen. I’m really enjoying this meditative time alone chopping the veggies and turning them into delicious food. It’s very therapeutic for me. Thank you for offering to help.”
Being honest: “Hey, I’m feeling really down right now. It’s not you, it’s me. I just need a little time on my own.” “I don’t have the energy to cook dinner tonight, could you help with that, please?”
On Friday, late afternoon, totally depleted, I instinctively went to the piano and began to play. I started by sight-reading classical music and eventually moved to inventions by ear. I played for at least an hour. It felt like I was literally healing my own brain with rhythm and patterns and tonal sounds. I was repaired. I was no longer depleted. I was ready to welcome guests.
Clarity. Connection. Kindness. Wholeness. Humour. Pause, release, rest. Breath. Empathy too. Everyone is acting out of their own powerful stories, known to them or not. I am not responsible for their stories, but I can be understanding and empathetic. And I can take responsibility for my own — observe my own patterns, do the work to excavate my limiting stories and reframe them, rewire the patterns in my own brain in order to better serve myself and those around me.
It takes time, patience, repetition, and an understanding that there is no end point, no goal of perfection, just pleasure in the process, joy in the journey, peace on the path.