Sunday 31 May 2015

What Next! When Best Laid Plans Fall Through

Sometimes, even the best laid plans fall apart.  And life feels very, very unfair.  Every caregiver has a story about a high school reunion or an anniversary dinner that had to be cancelled at the last minute because of a loved one's illness or worse, bad weather.  Sometimes, the Gods just don't want us to have a break.

Caring over time requires patience and resilience.  We must reconcile the fact that we are not in control of our agenda and that our primary task is one of service.  We must find a way to be OK when plans are cancelled for dates that are very important to us.

Managing disappointment is on the job description of the caregiver.  It's not at the top of the list, but it's there.  I remember once when my husband was travelling on business and we'd arranged that I would have a nurse live in for a week so I could join my spouse for a much-needed, exotic break abroad.  I had dreamed about this holiday, shopped for special clothes, packed, booked my flights and spent many hours daydreaming about this week away with my beloved.  As the departure date drew near, the realisation dawned that our son was unwell.  Trembling in his body and stiffness in his left leg prompted me to call the neurologist.  An examination of his spinal cord pain pump confirmed the worst: the catheter delivering medication to our son's spine was blocked and emergency surgery was the only recourse we had to correct it.  Travel was out of the question.

At first, I didn't have time to be disappointed.  Adrenaline kicked in and I rose to the occasion.  But afterwards, I felt sad and exhausted.  For a few days, I was even bitter that my holiday had been cancelled.  But I knew that those negative feelings would just multiply if I let them and so I decided to do two things: accept what had happened and make new plans.

I knew that travelling abroad wouldn't happen again - that opportunity had come and gone.  But a weekend away with my husband might be possible if our son could be cared for in a respite home and our daughter could stay with relatives.  I remembered reading a quote from an article about street people that had stayed with me:  "You can live without money, but you can't live without plans."  I decided to make plans.

Nowadays, my Mom and I make plans.  When they fall through, we make new plans.  Planning is fun, it's hopeful and it's action-oriented.  My Mom is 93 and frail, but we're getting her a passport.  She wants to see to her old summer home of Kennebunk Port in Maine and you never know, she may get there yet.  We're planning.

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