Would you like to know what it means to be a caregiver?
It means always…ALWAYS putting them first.
Would you like to know what it means to be a caregiver?
It means always…ALWAYS putting them first.
Today is the last day of November. It is also the last day to recognize caregivers. November is the designated month to celebrate the caregivers in our lives.
And much like what it can feel like to be a caregiver, the month went by with little recognition. And that is okay.
Most of us don’t do it for the praise, or the pat on the back. We certainly can’t say we do it for the money or the fame. We do this for someone we care about, someone we love.
But, for just a moment, I want to give you a peek inside the life of a caregiver.
• We get interrupted sleep, and we seldom (if ever) sleep a full 8 hours.
• We eat our meals last, or even standing up, in a rush to move onto the next check item on our to-do list
• We juggle so many things at once, we have a hard time focusing.
• We coordinate, organize or rearrange our schedule to take care of everyone else.
• Sometimes, we want to think of ourselves, but then feel guilty for it.
• We worry…all the time.
• We sometimes feel overwhelmed at the responsibility of caring for another.
• We have a rash of emotions that spread over us quickly, and yes, sometimes they might seem irrational. Don’t worry, the feelings dissipate quickly.
• Showers become the only private time we get to ourselves…
• We are the advocate, and the voice and the warrior for the person we care for.
• We have moments of selfishness, of wanting to not to have to think of, or put another person over ourselves all the time.
• We remember how much we love the person we are caring for, and somehow, all those emotions, and the weight of what we do seems less heavy for just a while.
• We often feel alone.
• We cry in the shower because the sound of the water washes our tears and drowns out our anguish.
• We smile through the irritations, or frustrations…and yes, even through the pain.
• We can’t imagine not trying so hard.
• We live with guilt over not being enough…every.single.day.
• We know that this role we play won’t last forever.
• We hate being told it’s not about us….
• We get irritated when others try to give us advice but have no real-life experience with the same situation.
• Seeing our loved one smile can make the frustrations and hardships more bearable.
• We would still make this choice, if it means just one more day with those we love.
Remember, you will either be a caregiver or need a caregiver at some point in your life.
If you know a caregiver, show some empathy and compassion. It’s a tough job.
If you need a caregiver, show some empathy and compassion, it’s a tough job!
The dealer looks to each player at his table. Shuffling, he asks for their ante. The sound of the chips as they bounce in a pile is all the indication the dealer needs. He shuffles…eyeing each player as he slides the cards along the felt table top.
The players duck their heads low. Holding their hands over the top of their cards, they peek at what has been dealt to them.
Some of them silently groan.
Their cards don’t offer much. They will have to discard many of their cards, and hope for something better.
Other players are inwardly giddy. Their hands are set. It won’t take much to win.
Each player discards a portion of their hand. Looking across at each other, some for the first time, they take in what each player is doing. Looking for each other to show emotion, a tick, a nervous twitch, anything to show or tell them what hand the other person has, as the dealer gracefully pulls the discarded pile away, and swiftly thumbs the new cards.
The players shift in their seats.
Some players had poor hands, but the newest cards have given them an advantage.
Some players had a fairly decent hand but would have preferred a better one.
Others, hanging their heads in shame, they throw their cards down with a heavy sigh…not willing to bet, or even try to bluff for a win.
The dealer raises his eyebrows.
Who will raise the stakes? Who will show their “tell” and give it all away by a twinge of their mouth or a tap of a finger?
Most players throw a few chips in.
Not a word is said.
The tension is building. Spectators have crowded around the table. Not brave enough to join in but enthralled with the daring and recklessness that these players have.
It is time for the reveal.
Who will win?
One woman holds a pair of nines.
An older gentleman, he had bet everything he had left…on his straight.
It was the young man though. The one who had been quiet and unobtrusive the entire time. He was holding a Royal Flush, yet to everyone’s surprise, he didn’t gloat. He stood, accepting the round of applause for his strategy and discipline. He then, walked away, leaving all his chips on the table.
A young woman, her eyes bright and sharp, chased after him. She yelled, “Sir, you forgot all the money you won!”
He turned back, and said, “It was never about winning. It was simply for the joy of playing.”
Which player are you?
How are you playing the cards you have been dealt? Sure, you could hand in a few cards and hope for a better hand. But if you can’t find happiness and the thrill of living in what you have, what makes you think you can with an entirely different hand.
Can you play the game simply for the joy of living, or are you still searching for different cards to make you happy?
Something to ponder…
There was conversation. There was camaraderie and a sense of connection. A piece of my day, with no illness to navigate, or arrange, or schedule around.
A meal served as voices were ebbing and flowing like the musical notes floating through the air.
Beautiful glasses of wine, handshakes and hugs.
The banging of kitchen equipment, and a chef making his rounds, as servers carried trays of delicious food, hustling to deliver plates of deliciousness.
And I sat there, absorbing it all.
I had entered through the back door. There were two small steps before I gracefully pulled the door towards me and glided in. This time, there was no scurrying in the rain to the front entrance for handicapped accessibility.
I chose a seat close to the fireplace. In the middle of a long table in fact, with chairs crammed in as close together as possible.
I didn’t have to try to rearrange the seating for a wheelchair to fit. I simply made my way, and sat where I wanted.
How simple…and how easily I forget.
These moments are few, but so very precious.
A chance to reconnect with others, without the sideways glances. A conversation with interruptions of jokes or inquiries of the Thanksgiving gatherings, and laughter.
A napkin in my lap, that wipes only my lips. A glass with no need for a straw.
A quick jaunt to the bathroom, with no worry of space, or who may be in the men’s room. Is there anyone who can be on the lookout? Instead, I push the door that says, “Women” and it is a non-event.
No thoughts of illness…ALS…or caring for someone…
My brain slows. My shoulders are relaxed, and I feel my cheeks smiling, not forced, but a smile born of gratitude for this moment. I feel…..
How silly of me…how selfish to want more of those moments.
Hugs goodbye, I walk back out into the rain.
I take my time. Twinkling lights are everywhere, as I feel drops of moisture on my upturned nose.
Being present, and appreciative for all that I have.
Sad the evening is over, but grateful for the home I get to go to.
Who needs normal anyway!?
He looked like Santa Claus. That’s what I thought the first time I met him. Even Matthew said his blue eyes were twinkling and his cheeks were a little bit rosy. Ironically, he had no children of his own. I bet he has little children following him where ever he goes, wondering if he is the real thing.
That was over six months ago now.
He walked into our home, with his wife following slowly behind.
She was tiny, small-boned and looked as if a strong gust of wind would blow her over at any time. Her clothes were hanging loosely off her frame.
They seemed like one of those couples who were mismatched in every way. She walked slowly in, keeping her head down. Her shoulder length hair dull, and her face looked gaunt. “She looks angry,” I thought to myself. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think it was her idea to come over. He seemed to take up the entire entryway with his broad shoulders and loud voice booming down the hallway. I invite them to sit down for coffee.
They had that deer-in-the-headlight kind of look.
She had been diagnosed with Bulbar-Onset ALS.
That means she was losing her ability to speak. Although she looked perfectly fine, the disease was affecting her facial region. That means, she could walk her massive dogs around the block, and garden all day long if she wanted to. She could still care for herself, brush her own teeth, dress herself or cook a meal, but she was losing the ability to talk. The ability to chew, or swallow foods and liquids. The ability to have facial expressions.
The few times she tried talking to us, her words slurred to an almost incomprehensible moan. The effort to make her mouth form each word was drawn out…so slow… it was obviously irritating to her.
I remember Santa kept leaning in. His eyebrows drawn together, intently focused. He was trying to watch my mouth as I spoke. He was legally deaf. I tried not to groan in despair as he said this to us, a bit louder than normal, which makes sense, since he was reading my lips.
This was an awful combination and would become the biggest challenge for them.
Our ability to communicate was difficult, but we muddled through, and I took down some notes for them to remember for later. Advice about foundations and agencies to contact sooner, rather than later.
They left our home, and I don’t think we were able to lift their spirits or help them feel any better about the situation. Normally, I like to think that either Matthew or I can help one or the other feel a bit less scared. Or at least a bit less alone.
This couple…I don’t think that we helped them at all.
The man with the twinkling eyes has stayed in contact with me, though now it is only through email.
He often writes about his wife, her care and thoughts about future needs. I offer suggestions or contact information for people I think may be willing to help. I don’t think he has bothered with any of it. Hospice is involved now. She has given up. He seems lost.
I am sure she gave up as soon as she was diagnosed with ALS.
Only, he hadn’t recognized it right away.
Her anger and bitterness at the thought of dying this way has left him exhausted. It now makes me wonder if his cheery smile was all a façade. A safe place for her to lay her burdens down.
I know it must be draining him.
I meet many couples who are on the same path as Matthew and I. The diagnosis is the same, but the journey itself poses different obstacles for each person.
I find comfort in knowledge.
When I knew Matthew had ALS, I immediately researched anything and everything I could. I read every case study, medical journal and book I could find. I asked questions, sometimes repeatedly. I wanted to be prepared.
Nothing prepared me for the reality. But understanding some of it has been how I have managed to cope as the reality of ALS for us has been more gradually than for others.
Matthew was the opposite of me.
He waited to learn. He did not search for the answers until it was time to know. He was proactive in ordering every device and item needed to make my care for him easier, but he asked nothing about what he would be facing until it was time to face it.
I assume, as with any disease, one must navigate the path that they feel is right for them.
I try hard to respect those decisions.
After all, who am I to judge?
Yet, how can I stand back and witness the decisions people are making, knowing it is going to make their life more stressful. Often, waiting too long can mean the difference in how the patient will respond to every day ups and downs, and it can lead to depression and anger for everyone involved.
Instead of their last months filled with family and memories of being able to say what needs to be said, it turns into a nightmare of one bad decision followed by another, which in turn means one emergency followed by another. It is my worst fear and one that I will do everything to avoid. I can’t make others think this way so instead I try to gently point out better options if I see them struggling.
“Please submit a grant request for a ramp or a bathroom remodel.”
“Have you considered a support group?”
“Please reach out to as many people as possible for help.”
I guess I am trying to help ease a part of their burden, but what do you do when they will not take your advice?
What do you do when you see that they are losing faith, and the will to fight?
They have refused help.
They have refused support.
They have refused the doctor’s advice.
I am angry at the helplessness of how I feel right now….
It is just one more constant reminder of how little control I have in any of this. I am forced to not only be buckled into this ride for the duration, but also to watch helplessly as other victims crash along the way.
I can’t reach the wheel they are steering to move them out of harms way, and I am stuck to sit back in a ride that I can only vaguely remember jumping on.
And all I can do is wonder, “What is the point of all of this?”
I really want to tell you the rest of the week went without any more issues, buuuut I can’t. In fact, I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy against me. If it can go wrong, can be forgotten or needs to be addressed immediately, then it is going to happen to me…ALL AT ONCE!
After the smoke alarm fiasco, the next day was spent just trying to put out fires…figuratively of course.
That evening was spent with a couple of girlfriends, divvying up some pre-made meals, and some much needed conversations and giggling!
Thankfully, one of those friends happens to be taller than I am, and she helped throw several new smoke alarms in so I wouldn’t have to lug a ladder upstairs. And there was also that pesky problem of my plumbing issue that she helped me get taken care of, lickety split! (four hands are better than two when needing to push two pipes together and tighten the connector together all at the same time!)
I am happy to report the following evening, there was only one more smoke alarm that came to the end of its life….at 3 am…and in my stupor of trying to jump out of bed and figure out which one it was, I ran around the house, listening for the…
Only to find the death had actually occurred in my own bedroom.
Hey, don’t laugh! I was sleep deprived! But I ripped it from the ceiling and would mourn its loss at another time. (To date, they are all now dead…I have replaced 5 of them, there are 4 more. The following deaths happened during the daytime and with little to no fanfare!)
However, Friday morning was spent something like this:
Cell phone rings…its 7:30 am..
“Mommy!!! I hit the curb and my tire popped!”
First, the teenager only calls me “mommy” when she needs something. Second, she claims to have been swatting a bug out of her face when she veered over and smacked the edge of the curb. I find this hard to believe. Third, the teenager has zero patience and was in an absolute dramatic tizzy over this…She was two blocks from school.
Okay, well, I can run over, grab a tire and get it replaced. That should only set me back maybe an hour?
I tell her to just leave her car in the parking lot where she had pulled over, and I would run over to get it taken care of as soon as the caregiver arrived.
Friend meets me there and pulls tire off so I can run it to the tire shop.
Tire shop says:
“You have to buy at least 2 tires, because we can’t sell you just one.”
Of course you can’t…I mean, why make this simple, right?
“Ok, I guess I will take two tires.”
He says, “I need the other tire, so we can mount them.”
I sort of stare at him blankly for a moment. This may be obvious to some, but I am still trying to process the fact that I am being forced to buy TWO tires against my will. I am a bit aggravated by all of this, so it took me a while to process that he would, indeed, need the other tire. I imagine telling him where he can go mount them, but that would be rude…Instead, I run back, where friend takes the other tire off..Oh, and the spare he had put on…yeah, that went flat in three minutes…
So, I take the other tire PLUS the spare to get fixed.
By the way, that will be an hour wait.
This tire fiasco took an additional four hours out of my life that I will never get back….
And that was the rest of my week in a nut shell. Not to mention I had the honor of teaching the incredibly impatient teenager how to put the tires back ON! After all, it’s her car. She should know how to do these things too!
I won’t go into the fiasco of soccer games all weekend that resulted in mass chaos because of the detrimental effects of having the wrong colored socks, or shorts, or (GASP!) the wrong number on the jersey..but that is a story for another time!
I will say this though…
I keep visualizing a moment… at some point in my life… when I am on a giant stage, with my crown perched a bit crooked on my head, accepting my “Mom of the Year Award” for my patience, and perseverance of handling teenage dramatics, soccer clothing mishaps, smoke alarms that end their lives at the worst times possible, juggling everyone else’s wants and needs,as well as all the ALS trials and tribulations, AS WELL AS all of my own drama. I can see it now…my children all cheering wildly for me, nodding their heads and shouting how awesome it was growing up with me as their mother…
I think I’ll just keep that one to myself…its gonna be a long time before ever happens…
The sound of his heel hitting the metal stopped me. I looked down and noticed it just dangling there.
Every morning, I maneuver a sling around his body. And every morning, I use a machine called a hoyer lift to lift him from the bed to the wheelchair. And every morning, he wiggles and tries to adjusts himself in his chair to make himself more comfortable…
Except this time.
This time, he had to ask me to lift his foot up onto the foot plate. This time, I noticed he couldn’t do it himself.
I suppose in some small way, it doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal, right? I mean, it’s simply me bending down and lifting his foot to sit on a metal plate. I put both feet next to each other, and grab his blanket, and wrap it around his legs..
and I say, “Is your foot gone?”
It felt as if I had asked him if his appendage had died. And I am…that is exactly what I am doing. I am asking him if another part of his body had died..given out..become so weakened that he can no longer move it…And I couldn’t bare to look him in the eye as I asked this. Instead, I fussed with straps and wires, and tucking in and lifting…I kept my eyes down and my hands busy.
“Yeah, I think its a goner!”
I look up and slap a smile on my face and I try to ignore the pain I feel deep in my chest.
And I grieve again.
I grieve for his losses, as well as my own. I grieve every time, and I know its depressing. I know it is hard for others to look,
And I refuse to apologize for it!
Because I think everyone needs to know how strong this man is. I think everyone needs to know how immensely humbled I am to see him live each day, with less and less ability to move, and needing more and more help with each and every task, yet he refuses to complain. He refuses to say, “Why me?” and he refuses to ask for more than he needs.
To the person who posted this response on my Facebook page,
Jesus Theresa, why would you even post this?
If you read my blogs…
My response to you is this:
Because it is breaking my heart to watch this and be so completely helpless…
So I grieve…
He said, “Wow! It’s nice to meet you!”
She said, “hello….”
He said, “We have a mutual friend.”
She said, “She invited me to come listen to the music with her.”
He said, “I am glad you could make it”
She said, “Thank you. I don’t get out often.”
He said, “Can I buy you a drink?”
She said, “no thank you”
He said, “Its been months, how are you?”
She said, “The summer went by too fast”
He said, “Can I buy you a drink this time?”
She said, “Sure, I would love a water!”
He said, “It’s loud in here”.
She said, “WHAT?”
He said, “Do you like live music?”
She said, “Yes, It’s my favorite!”
He said, “You came with her again?”
She said, “I’m her designated driver.”
He said, “Here is your water.”
She said, “Would you dance with me?”
He said, “yes”
She said, “You can DANCE!”
He said, “Wow, so can you!”
He said, “Will I see you again?”
She said, “Maybe…”
He said, “I haven’t seen you in weeks, where have you been?”
She said, “My life is complicated….
He said, “What do you do?”
She said, “I go to school”
He said, “would you like to go dancing?”
She said, “ok”
He said, “Are you seeing anyone?”
She said, “No…and I want to keep it that way!”
He said, “Why?”
She said, “I am recently separated.”
He said, “I was married for a long time too”
She said, “I have children”
He said, “I bet they are great!”
She said, “You aren’t my type”
He said, “I know, but can we keep dancing?”
She said, “Yes, I would like that…”
He said, “We have been dancing every month for almost a year now!”
She said, “I just want to be friends…”
He said, “I know…”
She said, “I’m not ready for a relationship.”
He said, “I understand. I am happy just being your friend.”
She said, “Thank you for being such a great friend to me”
He said, “Who are you here with?
She said, “I am here on a date tonight”
He said, “Do you like him?
She said, “I don’t know yet”
He said, “That guy shouldn’t be flirting with your friends”
She said, “I guess he wasn’t that into me”
He said, “He’s an idiot”
She said, “Thank you”
He said, “You deserve better!”
She said, “I agree..”
He said, “I like spending time with you”
She said, “I need to take things really slow”
He said, “Of course”
She said, “I think you are looking for more than I am ready to give.”
He said, “I have all the time in the world.”
She said, “What’s wrong with your fingers?”
He said, “Nothing, I am sure it’s nothing”
She said, “I am not ready”
He said, “I’ll wait.”
She said, “Please go to the doctor.”
He said, “Go to Cabo with me!”
She said, “I am a single mother, I can’t go to Mexico!”
He said, “It would mean so much to me!”
She said, “Will you go to the doctor?”
He said, “Of course, as soon as we get back!”
She said, “Its beautiful here!”
He said, “Thank you for coming with me.”
She said, “What did the doctor say?”
He said, “He wants to run some tests…”
She said, “It is going to be alright…”
He said, “I have ALS”
She said, “I know”
He said, “I’m scared.”
She said, “Me too”
He said, “Maybe you should leave?”
She said, “I promise I will stay”
He said, “Will you spend the rest of my life with me?”
She said, “Yes”
He said, “My legs are getting weaker…”
She said, “We need to find a new home”
He said, “I want to marry you and dance with you on our wedding day.”
She said, “There isn’t much time.”
He said, “I am sorry we are rushing things.”
She said, “I am sorry that the last time we danced was on our wedding day…”
He said, “I don’t want to use the wheelchair.”
She said, “It’s there when you are ready…”
He said, “I can’t lift my arms anymore.”
She said, “It’s okay, I am right here…”
He said, “Don’t worry, we are going to be alright…”
She said, “I don’t know how to ask for help”
He said, “Neither do I”
She said, “I don’t know if I can do this alone.”
He said, “I feel like a burden.”
She said, “You are not a burden.”
He said, “Happy Anniversary!”
She said, “It’s been 3 years?”
He said, “Its going by too fast”
She said, “I feel so alone”
He said, “So do I…“
She said, “I never get to go out or do anything anymore”
He said, “Neither do I”
She said, “I didn’t think it would be this hard”
He said, “Neither did I”
She said, “I miss being held.”
He said, “I miss touching you.”
She said, “Where did everybody go?
He said, “I don’t think they can handle this.”
She said, “I am so angry.”
He said, “I know.”
She said, “I had different expectations.”
He said, “I think it’s just you and I.”
She said, “You are my person.”
He said, “Thank God I have you.”
She said, “We still have so much to be thankful for…”
I wonder how they do it?
I wonder how doctors can look people in the eye, and tell them that they are going to die…
The doctor sits down and explains to the patient that they have ALS….and then what?
I know in the ALS community, there are teams of doctors and specialists and therapists who rotate into each room, greeting the newly diagnosed patient and their family member. Every doctor, specialist and therapist have a small window of time to discuss and answer questions, as well as take various measurements with various tools and devices.
These are referred to as an ALS Clinic.
These people are sent into the room to determine how much a patient has progressed.
These clinics are all over the country, the world in fact. And each one does exactly the same thing.
They diagnose…and then they chart the progression of the deadly disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
How do they cope with this loss repeatedly?
They meet a family, they get to know them, and they watch, helplessly from the side lines.
How do they find the strength to keep watching?
And they do this over and over with each patient they see. They may not know when, but they know, just like a freight train that is headed straight towards them, and there is no way to jump out of the way, that death is headed for each of these patients.
Today, Matthew and I learned that we have lost another friend.
And just like that, he is gone.
I can picture his face perfectly. His eyes, and how they twinkled. His smile, and the way he grinned like a little boy with such a mischievous look in them. I knew he loved his family. I knew he was a proud man, with an iron will and a stubborn streak t least a mile long.
I knew that he had progressed considerably since the last time I saw him.
I hadn’t seen him in months, but I knew.
Of course, I knew.
It was clear that he was struggling when I had seen him last. His shoulders were rising with each breath. He hated the chair he was sitting in. He visibly looked uncomfortable. He hated being sick…
And from the short time I knew him, it was clear he was stubborn and would handle this disease his way. I could relate to the frustration his wife felt about this. It is hard to let someone else take the reins of their own life and yet , as the caregiver, be somewhat responsible for their health and welfare.
Matthew drinks Coke. A lot of Coke..
He still chews tobacco…although now he has moved onto Copenhagen pouches to avoid the choking hazard of the tobacco grains going down the wrong way and causing pneumonia. But he still chews…
He eats too much fast food, and junk food, and he doesn’t care because he knows one day soon, there is a possibility that he will not be able to eat. So, my stubborn husband does as much as he wants to do, and I let him.
The man who passed was stubborn too…
He hated anything that made him weak, and he especially hated all the machines he relied on, and the medicines…and how weak he was becoming.
I am taking a huge liberty writing this, as I hadn’t gone over to visit him in so long.
I will forever feel sorry about that, and yet I hope they understood.
Matthew and I are on our own path of this destructive train wreck waiting to happen. I know it’s coming, and so does he. Yet, we are still able to find happy moments and to experience joy and laughter. I need to keep my own happy for as long as possible. I am grasping with everything I have on some days…
The years keep going by, and the people we meet have come into our lives, and many have passed. Sometimes suddenly, and others, not so surprisingly.
And I am detaching from it all…
This doesn’t feel intentional, it’s a sort of survival mechanism for my heart.
I meet these families, and I fall in love with them. And then I watch powerlessly as they struggle to find their new normal, and I am helpless to stop what is happening to them. And I become a bit angrier at each loss.
There are more people who have been diagnosed in our area recently.
Some have reached out to me, and this time, my wall is built. I am a little less willing to rush into their worlds and learn all about them. I am a little less willing to fall in love with their families, and then witness their anguish. I hide behind the walls of our foundation. I stick to the facts. I offer advice, but I pause before opening myself more.
Matthew is much the same.
This afternoon, he hid behind his screen. He hid behind whatever would take his mind off what is happening.
The freight train is coming…
We can hear it.
We can’t see it yet. We still have time. But the dread of what is coming is always there. It never quite goes away…It is dark and heavy, and we can do nothing but accept the path that we are on, and the journey we have been led to walk.
I wish his family peace.
I hope they find comfort in their memories of their time together…
And I hope they understand why I pulled away. Not because I wanted to, but because I needed to.
I am not always as strong as I like to think I am.
We are all cowards from time to time…
It was breezy. The smell of the salty air teased her nose, as the wind moved through the hair that kept escaping from her clip, whipping her hair in disarray. She kept trying to secure her hair away from her face. Ready to give up on any hope of getting her hair under control, she quickly grasped her hair atop her head, pinning it on top. With one last pat, she began observing her clothes.
A black t-shirt and shorts that were ragged and well worn is all she had. Still, she wiped her hands over her shirt, as if to iron out the wrinkles that the moisture from the sea had created.
She glanced down at her toes, wiggling in the sand. She lifted her toes upwards, trying to allow the cool water to rush in under them. When she lifted her feet up, the sand filled in, only to squish outward when she rooted her feet deeper into the earth. The foam from the ocean lapped around her ankles as each wave slowly rocked in around her. She noticed how deep the sand felt. It was coarse, and she could feel a tug from the ocean as one wave retreated, before steeling herself against the small waves that were edging first close, then slowly retreating back where they had came from.
Her head turned, looking over her shoulders. Each direction, she could see people standing along the beach. The sun was in her eyes, and she had to squint to see even those who were closest to her, standing along the sandy shoreline. They were all individuals, standing solitarily along the shore. She wanted to ask why but noticed that she herself was all alone. Her gaze lengthened further along the beach, noticing friends and family she recognized.
Her arm raised, waving frantically, as she smiled and called out to them. Faster, her arm, outstretched, pumped from side to side. Still, no one glanced her way. She cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted. Laughing, she bent over, her arms wrapping around her waist, giggling that she was alone, yet could see so many she knew and loved, but they could neither see nor hear her.
The smile on her face froze, as she realized that although there were so many she recognized and knew, some she even loved, she was all alone on this small area of beach and sand. Her head still turning from one shoulder, towards the other, she saw individuals, much like herself, standing and bracing against the waves. Some were standing back up after having been knocked down by waves. Others appeared to be bracing for waves that seemed to engulf them. She stood with bated breath, wondering how these waves were not hitting them all along the shoreline.
“Strange, I don’t see any waves near me.”
Again, the woman glanced out towards the horizon. The darkening clouds were billowing and building upon each other. She looked down at her feet, as another wave rocked against her legs. This one forced her to take a step back, as she hadn’t been braced or ready for it. She was still standing, and for that she was thankful.
She turned to walk away, but her legs wouldn’t carry her. Her heart raced. She realized that there was no turning away. With some sort of invisible guidance, her body was held tightly facing forward.
She tried lifting her legs against the heavy sand, but each step only pulled her feet deeper and deeper into the wet, rough beach. She saw the water pull away, and as her eyes raised in question, the wave hit her, knocking her to the ground.
Surprised at its strength and intensity, she looked for others to come help, but no one seemed to notice. She stood up, this time, bruised and bit battered at the strength of the wave.
Again, she tried calling out to those around her for help. Why couldn’t they see her struggling? Why did they leave her all alone?
Each person seemed to be fighting their own waves, some higher and some more gentle, only lapping at their ankles. Again, she glanced out towards the horizon.
If a wave was going to come towards her again, this time she would be prepared.
She bent her knees, leaning heavily on her right leg, as she stepped her left foot backwards. She would be ready this time. Chin raised, shoulders back, she was ready for the water as it pulled further away, adding height to an already powerful wave coming towards her.
The sun forcing her to squint, she tried leaning in, as the wave came roaring towards her. Her focus was intent, looking solely at what lay before her and this time, she refused to look beside her. She knew she needed to brace against what was headed her way.
The wind in her face, blowing tendrils of hair across her forehead, stilled for just a moment. The mist moistened her face and arms, as she had closed her eyes, too scared to see what was coming towards her.
It was shocking how hard it hit. The air from her lungs was forced out on impact. The wave forcing her backwards. The water, now over her head swirled above her, and she kicked, lungs burning, as she tried to reach the surface for air.
She was sure her lungs would burst from the pressure building, and still she kicked harder and harder, hoping the surface was found just above her fingertips.
When she thought she could no longer hold on, the wave subsided, and she found herself once again, standing…toes wiggling in the sand.
Again, she glanced up. The sun, that had just warmed her skin only moments before was over shadowed by dark clouds that were moving in.
Her eyes perused the horizon. The clouds moved slowly towards her, ominously warning her. She wanted to run away, but she knew it was futile. This storm was meant for her, and only her, and it was headed directly for her.
She watched the speed of the clouds moving. She tried to gauge how fast it was approaching, and she was also trying to prepare. She knew there would be no one to help her, she had long stopped expecting to find someone to lean on. She had no choice but to face what was coming, alone.
She could dig her heels in. She could brace herself as best as possible, and plan for whatever may come…but in the end, it was up to her to decide if she would find the strength to beat this storm.
I would like to take just a moment and explain this short story. This story has many metaphors, and I hoped they were easily discovered. The inability to run away. The waves are problems that we must all face alone on our journey through life. Often, when we think we have support and help, when we look around, we find that, we are all alone.
This story is not necessarily a story about my hopes and dreams, it is something that I struggle with more and more as time marches on. I know what is in my future. I know it looks bleak and sometimes terrifying. I also am fully aware that this journey is mine, and mine alone.
I can only hope to make it through to the other side, without drowning from the sorrow of what life has chosen to throw in my path. Maybe, although I cannot turn away from my path set before me, or the storm that is clearly coming my way, I can at least prepare for it, brace for it. Really, that is all any of us can do on this journey called “life.”