Tag Archives: elder care

Welcome to 2016

Dear all,

Well, here I am, settled in front of the fire, with the Christmas tree still twinkling behind me (I don’t take mine down till Twelfth Night), resting in the stillness of a grey afternoon.

For once, nothing to do, and nowhere to be.

There are a few SHOULDs rattling my cage, but I am choosing to ignore them right now, and rest in the present moment.

Because there hasn’t been enough of that lately.

I was horrified to find that I hadn’t written a post on this blog since Samhain, but not really surprised.  You see, 2015 was that kind of year.  It was relentless.  Caring for declining elders with dementia at a distance, coping with my own health problems, and Husband’s.  We spent the second six months of the year basically just surviving.

I want 2016 to consist of more than just surviving.

I don’t have a Word for 2016 yet, but I suspect its going to be something like Thrive, or Flourish.  The one I had for 2015 was EASE, and frankly in the end, it reduced me to sarcastic laughter.  It gets like that when you don’t know when the next disaster will turn up, when the next phonecall from the paramedics will come.  We’ve lived on eggshells for too long.

In 2016, I want to stop drowning. I want to ride on top of the wave for a change.  I can’t stop the wave, of course.  Life is happening.  Nothing I do is going to change the situation itself. But I can change how I relate to it.

For 2016, I wish the same for you.  I wish you peace.  I wish you calm. I wish you acceptance of the things you can’t change, and the strength to change those you can.

Most of all, I wish you what I have lacked in 2015.

I wish you hope.

Happy Creating,

E

The Annual Samhain Post

This year's haul of jack o' lanterns, carved by the Husband

This year’s haul of jack o’ lanterns, carved by the Husband, with lanterns and baby pumpkins decorated by Lottie and Michelle.

Dear Friends,

On my old blog, I used to celebrate Samhain every year with an annual post, looking back over the previous year and looking forward to the coming one.  A kind of taking stock.  Most people do that at the turn of the calendar year, but we Pagans tend to do it at Samhain – or Halloween – as well.  And it struck me today, in the wake of a serious pumpkin-carving and trick-or-treating with my little god-daughter last night, that such a tradition might still have some value.

In Review then:

My ongoing absence from this space lately should tell you all you need to know.  We continue to struggle with elder care, and the stress it involves.  Just when you think things are settled for a while, another crisis arises.  My poor Husband is skating perilously close to the limits.  I try to support him.  Between us, we attempt to do our best in a situation in which there is no answer, no magic wand, no way to be right, or to even be appreciated for our efforts.  The best we can hope for is that in years to come, we will will at least be able to sleep at night, in the knowledge that we did everything we could.

As an antidote to all this, I have set to work on remaking a novel from an idea I came up with years ago, in the hope that it will give me something productive to focus on for myself, something outside the ‘wrinkly situation’.  After an enlightening session with a great Life Coach, I’m trying new approaches, new ways of thinking, new ways of working.

And honestly?  Its fantastic!

No matter what is happening, this delicious landscape is chuntering away in the back of my skull, building up details, accumulating momentum, reminding me constantly of who I am apart from my situation.  I am doing something for myself.  I am doing something that gives me enormous pleasure.  And it feels great.  (More to come on that project in future posts!)

So much has changed for me in the last 10 months.  My choice of the annual word ‘Ease’ turned out to be laughable – I haven’t had any!  Oh, but I am so much more easeful in myself in countless ways.

Giving myself time off, allowing myself space to grow, has enabled exactly that.  I can see my writing, my creativity, and my very self in so many new ways.  I truly have grown.

And now for something completely different?

No, not really.  More of the growing, changing, evolving, I hope.

Less of the stress in future, I hope, now that professional care is in place for the elders.  Things aren’t going to get any better, but I hope that I can give up fighting reality, wishing things were different.  Accepting where we are seems to be the only way forward at this point.  Giving up struggling against the situation means having more energy to put into what can really be helped and changed.  And into looking after myself and my man, so that we come out of this with at least something of our sanity intact.

More investing in myself.  More self respect.  Stronger boundaries.  Taking less shit (ie “don’t fucking ask me how I’m going to make money out of this damned novel when I haven’t even finished writing it yet!  Can’t you see that its the PROCESS thats important, not the bloody money that may or may not come at the end?”)

And more journalling.  Lots and LOTS more journalling.  Because it is an outlet for all the feelings.  And in this situation, there are LOTS of feelings.

In the meantime, I am in the process of remembering how to write again.  I’m rusty.  My fingers are stiff.  The words are clunky, the metaphors are tired.  I need to practice, strengthen the muscles, write every day, do a little bit, often.

And reading.  Lots of reading.  Because as writers, we learn so much from our peers.

I’m changing.  I am different even to the person who wrote the last blog post here.  Next time, I think I will be different again.  But if we do not evolve, we die.

And as for Samhain:

Dear friends, I wish you a peaceful, happy Samhain.  May your ancestors gather around you in love and support.  May you step out on the path of peace and creativity in the coming year.  May you know yourself, and find peace therein. May you find healing.  And may your path be strewn with joy.

with love,

EF

Resuming Normal Life

Taking time to rest

Taking time to rest

Hello my Lovelies,

I am sorry I have been absent for a whole month.  What started as a bit of a staycation became a full-blown nightmare, when Husband’s mother became seriously ill and nearly died.  We have spent the best part of the last month travelling between home and Oxford, juggling doctors and carers, fighting needless battles, emotionally stretched to the limit.  I have to tell you that this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, trying to help not one but two old ladies who refuse to admit they need help, and who have lost the capacity for reasoned argument.  Anyone who has had to deal with Alzheimers disease will understand what I mean.  On the other hand, I was able to find reserves of compassion and care that I never thought I had.

Last week, we finally managed to have some time alone together, something of a holiday, although we stayed at home.  Husband is desperately exhausted, a situation not helped by the stress, and his diabetes.  He has gone back to work today, but I think we had a little respite that did him good.

And so today I resume my own life, my writing life.

This afternoon I am going to sit down with my diary and journal and work out what I want to achieve this Autumn, where I want my writing to go after all this upheaval.  I am grounding myself once more in my life, in my creativity, because I know that the only way to cope with this ongoing situation (and lets face it, it could go on for years more) and stay sane, is to have a life of my own, work of my own, something to distract myself from the worry, something to sink into and forget.

This is why we need creativity.

(Or at least, this is why I need creativity.)

Because Creativity rescues us when nothing else can, gives us a distraction, a reason to keep exploring, keep hoping, keep going.  And there are times in our lives when our art, our creativity, is the only thing that can save us.

I hope that where ever you are in your life, whatever challenges you face, that your creativity will provide you with a lifeboat to carry you to safety.

And I also want to thank you for being here with me.  Its really great to be back!

Happy Creating,

EF

The Confundus Charm

sussex churchHusband arrived home today after his annual walking holiday on the First World War battlefields with his mates.  And I breathed a sigh of relief.

Not because he managed to come home without stepping on unexploded ordnance, though of course there was that.

Its just that since before Easter, there has been a continual series of appointments on the calendar, friends visiting (which I love, btw, don’t get me wrong), elder care visits to make (emotionally as well as physically exhausting) and illness.  And I’m not very good at times like that.

When the diary fills up, or like this week, is forcibly emptied by the need to lie in bed and groan, I sort of go AWOL on myself.  Do you know what I mean?

Today I read this article by Meghan Genge, and thought:

Yes.  That is where I am too.

I’ve forgotten who I am.  I’ve forgotten me.  I’ve forgotten what I do to be me. The core practices.  The core feelings.

When I’m busy, when I am rushing around from appointment to appointment, or looking after others, its not just the little things that get forgotten, like shaving my legs and flossing my teeth – no time, no time!

I forget where I put my soul.

So now His Lordship is home, I have a small window of a few weeks between elder care visits to remember.  I’ve finished the hurdling for a while.  As I’m recovering from a nasty virus which has knocked me flat for the last week, I plan to take things gently.  But I’m going to pick up my journal first, because whenever I need a compass to find myself and my creativity, thats what I find in my hand.  Pen and paper.  And it never fails.

Happy Creating,

EF

Creative Recuperation

Statue by Anthony Gormley on the top of Blackwells Art and Poster shop, Broad Street, Oxford.

Statue by Anthony Gormley on the top of Blackwells Art and Poster shop, Broad Street, Oxford.

We just got back from a demanding time in Oxford, and after the difficult fortnight we have had, I find myself feeling emotionally as well as physically exhausted.  So when I found this post from Jamie Ridler this morning, I realised I had to make a concerted effort to have some healing time.

One of the hardest things to accept about our creativity is that it often comes and goes.  There are times of bounty, when the Muse is flowing and there are so many ideas coming into your head and out of your pen that you feel like you could get hysterical just trying to keep pace.

And there are the droughts.  The times when nothing new has come for months, and you feel like you may never paint or write or dance again.

One of the things that my ME/CFS has taught me, and continues to teach me, is to go with that flow.  There are times of the year when our bodies need downtime, and times when our tails are up and we are full of energy.  Any woman knows this from her menstrual cycle.

The trouble is that we live in a 24/7 culture that requires us to be ‘on’ seven days a week, twelve months a year, and our biology just hasn’t evolved sufficiently to keep up with that. (We’ve only had the lightbulb for a hundred years or so, remember?)  We simply can’t be  in action continually.  We aren’t machines.  We have to stop and rest.

Resisting that PUSHPUSHPUSH productivity mindset is a constant practise, but if you are intent on living a truly creative life, you need to take account of not only your own biorhythms, but also your creative rhythms.

It is time to be gentle with ourselves.

Because if we don’t make time to be gentle with ourselves, our bodies will remind us that we must in no uncertain terms – often with the red traffic light of major illness.

So this week, I am resolved not to make any particular demands on myself. I will be journalling, and watching some old films, eating nurturing food, and taking lots of naps.  Maybe I’ll even paint my toenails, which always cheers me up!  I am going to take it one day at a time and listen to what my body needs.  By doing that, I know my mojo will come back eventually.   I just need to give it some space.

Happy creating – or resting, whichever you need to do right now,

EF

 

Processing

Snowy sky from my living room window today.

Snowy sky from my living room window today.

Well, I am finally coming down from my time away – six days caring for my mother, and then my annual weekend writing retreat.  There is so much to deal with, so many emotions to process.  Its been a very intense time, with not much time for myself or my creativity.  The only thing I have really been able to do is to keep taking photographs.  I’m so glad I did, though.  It gave me such pleasure to be able to capture a few moments, which I’d like to share with you:

john hallettDuring my time at my mother’s home, her hairdresser visited.  John Hallett has been cutting my mum’s hair for a mind-boggling 41 years.  He used to cut mine when I was little.  It was wonderful to see him again, and a privilege to watch him work.

We managed to get a couple of walks on the beach nearby when my mother was feeling better.  Even in the bitter wind, it did us both good.

Sunbeams over the Isle of Wight

Sunbeams over the Isle of Wight

You see trees like this on every coastline.  This one is on Stokes Bay, near Portsmouth.

You see trees like this on every coastline. This one is on Stokes Bay, near Portsmouth.

The view from the train station at Portsmouth on the way home was pretty impressive too:

HMS Warrior, the Royal Navy's first iron-clad warship, seen from Portsmouth Harbour train station.

HMS Warrior, the Royal Navy’s first iron-clad warship, seen from Portsmouth Harbour train station.

I managed to settle to a bit of writing on my retreat, in spite of all the emotional upheaval.  This is a shot of my desk during the weekend:

My desk at our 2015 writers retreat.

My desk at our 2015 writers retreat.

And this was the sky outside our house yesterday morning.  Freezing cold, but sunny and beautiful.  I’m so grateful to live where I do.

Freezing cold, but great weather!

Freezing cold, but great weather!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little photo interlude.  On Friday, I’ll have a new Quickfic for you, crafted on my writing retreat!  Yay!  I got something done!

Happy Creating,

EF

 

 

 

What to do when Life interrupts (again)

I have to go travelling once more.  My mother is ill and I am needed to go down there to look after her.  My brother and his partner have been doing a sterling job, but its really hard and they could do with a bit of respite.

This is what you do when you have to.  You go and pick up your shovel.   And you get to work.

I need to remember to look after myself, as well as her, whilst I am there.  It is so easy to forget that you can’t care for someone else if you are exhausted and sick yourself.  And I can get that way very easily.

(Witness two hours spent in a freezing bathroom in the early hours of this morning with a poorly tummy.  Trust me to choose the coldest night of the year so far to have a stomach upset/nervous meltdown!)

I’m taking my creativity with me, though.

I’m going to have to be creative about how I get her to eat and drink enough (and drinking enough is a real issue with old ladies.)  I’m going to have to be creative about how I keep her entertained and lift her spirits. (Hello Scrabble, crosswords, endless episodes of Miss Marple.) And I’m going to have to appear to be relentlessly optimistic (even though a part of me inside is a gibbering toddler afraid of losing her mummy.)

I’m tired just thinking about it, and thats without the fact that I only had three hours sleep last night.

But there are thousands of people out there right now who are doing exactly the same thing.  Caring for their elderly relatives.  Coping with looking after those with chronic illness or dementia.  Wrestling with the health care system.  Trying to face inevitable grief.  People like you and me.  A silent army of carers that is only going to get bigger.

In the face of this upheaval, I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to post again for a while.  I ask you to bear with me. I’ll be back soon, I promise.  The nib of the pen doesn’t stop moving, after all, and neither does the Muse,

Happy Creating,

EF