A few days ago I had a conversation with my sister it went like this…
Me: And so then I…
Her (interrupting): What in the hell are you doing? It sounds like you are in a tornado.
Me: Walking down a highway in some crazy wind somewhere in South Dakota.
Me: I forgot to check to make sure they had everything. I am looking for a store. We are missing essential utensils and I can’t keep my skirt down.
And then we both dissolved into giggles. That is what I knew this trip would be…a giant step into the unknown. I told her we need to come up with an acronym for the feeling that overcomes when my mother has that look on her face that means she doesn’t know what she should be doing or when she asks the questions…Where are we? How long are we here? Where are we going? What am I supposed to be doing? What month is it? The feeling that happens when we are confronted with the reality of caregiving. It is one of sadness, grief, anger, guilt, resignation, tenderness, hope, and rage. Maybe STARGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!! It is all I can do to resist the urge to run into the wilderness, to numb, to react vs. respond, to do ANYTHING to get away from it.
But instead I remind myself to stay in the moment, to “just breathe,” and to respond with compassion. I remind myself why I am doing this whole trip. I answer each question she asks although I’ve already done so. I remind myself of entering the Badlands a few days ago with a boy on each knee listening as their grandfather explained how the weird landscape got its name – as he did for me 32 years ago. I remind myself of the time the three of us attempted to sing a rendition of “Home on the Range” for the boys and ended up laughing hysterically at its horribleness.
Also, I remind myself that in order to deal I need to take extremely good care of myself and that means moments I do “run away.” I struggle with the noise, mediating, dealing, cooking, and looking after. So I seize every moment of alone time I can get. I treasure these moments like Gollum does his Precious. I wake, put the boys breakfast on the table, and go for a run. Or I find a spot to sit in silence. Or I get on my bike and ride for as long as I think the kids will be entertained. I will admit there are times I don’t want to return but I do. As I reluctantly pull myself back I do so with renewed energy.
These moments save me…the run where I ended up on a bluff with the sight of the rolling green hills and the Missouri river spread below me, sailing down a hill with the Badlands in the distance with the smell of the sweet butter-yellow clover that lined the highway, and waking up in the middle of the night with a boy snuggled on either side to a bowlful of stars above. Moments like these ground me and remind me everything really will be ok.