What can we do as a couple to take care of ourselves, each other, kids, jobs, parents, and other commitments? After I get past my reaction, "Wow, that list makes me tired," I am thinking of all of you dealing with this, too. And yet we are all blithely going about our day, doing the best we can, and when we're asked, "How are you?" we all say, "Fine."
And in certain ways, we are fine. Healthy, loved, working, good kids, living in this beautiful place where we can go to The City or the beach or Tahoe, bordering the Bay . . . Any and every activity we might be interested in is right here. We have a lot to be grateful for.
In other ways, we are running around, trying to keep up with everything, including appearances. It's okay to tell a friend we're having a hard time right now. It gives him/her permission to show up authentically, too.
As a couple, we can be each others' greatest support, encouragement, and refuge to recover at the end of each day. We can be neutral (although I see little of that). Or we can be an additional source of stress to one another by fighting, sniping, trying to be right, etc., or being distant, busy, and unavailable.
I truly hope you are (or decide to be) in this together as you help your aging parent(s). It will be a lot easier, in the midst of a road of unknown turns and duration.
A few tips on self care:
• Exercise (this does not have to be a big production; it can be a walk for 20 min. in your neighborhood).
• Three one-minute relaxation exercises:
o Starting at your toes, tighten them, relax them, tighten your feet, relax them, calves, tighten them, relax them, buttocks, back, hands, arms, shoulders, and so on, all the way up, squeeze your face tight and relax, open your mouth wide and stretch and relax.
o Breathe normally and listen to everything you can hear around you.
o Look around and name (aloud or silently) what you see in great detail (e.g., my otter mug from the Monterey Bay Aquarium with the green handle, a receipt from the car rental in Albuquerque from the summer I know I'm behind on filing a brown and white ceramic spaniel that was Grandma and Grandpa's . . .).
• Go on weekly dates and don't talk about kids or parents.
• Distract yourself with a good (or so-so) book, movie, football game, concert, etc.
• Trade off sleepovers with other families so you can have a break.
• Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum; alcohol is a depressant.
• Get a good night's sleep
At times I wish I had a magic wand. I don't. In the long run, aging and ill parents are going to die. We can only prepare ourselves so much for it.
Part of that is not missing out on the love and care of the people who are right around and with us, right now.