When we become caregivers, so much of our life is put on hold. Then when it ends, we realize how profoundly the experience of caregiving changes us. The question I’ve been struggling with lately is how do I want to live my life now? How do I renew my life in a way that honors who I am today? Do I want to take back the pieces I put on hold or try something different?
I am giving myself time to figure it all out, but one thing I have realized with the onset of Spring and the beautiful weather is that I want to reclaim my patio and garden. Because reclaiming them means I am ready to reclaim hosting friends and neighbors for morning coffee or late afternoon cocktails, for dinners or just dessert, on the patio. It was one of my favorite things about my home and I know it can be again.
Before caregiving took over, enjoying my first cup of coffee outside started my day in joy and gratitude. Being able to see the butterflies and birds visit the garden gave me peace. Because we are on the walking path, kids stopped by to pet whatever dog I had, dog owners stopped to say hello and I got a chance to greet my neighbors. But over the last eight years, my garden has gone to hell in a handbasket and the evergreen tree that fell on it when an EF2 tornado swept through our county in late February did not help.
Truthfully, even though I know the joy it can bring me, I’m eight years older, exhausted and the thought of redoing the garden on my own has kept me paralyzed. The exhaustion I feel after eight years of caregiving will, I hope, ease. But it is who I am today, so when the opportunity to work with someone on the garden appeared, I jumped on it.
It’s funny how a random meeting can be the opportunity we didn’t realize we needed. I was walking Tucker and stopped to tell a woman how much I loved what she had done with her garden and how much I admired it. It turns out, she was inspired by my garden of long ago. I admitted that it was a shambles and why and casually said, “I wish I could find someone who could help me with it.” Her response, “I’d love to work with you.”
Less than a week later, we sat outside discussing the changes and additions to make, how our partnership would work and what the cost would be. She left with a retainer and my promise that I would make sure the patio and furniture were cleaned so when she was ready, the outside would be ready.
She suggested an addition and solution to the garden that made me realize reclaiming it was an analogy for reclaiming my life. You see, when the garden first went in, I put shrubs around the perimeter for privacy. They are dying and I thought it was because of neglect. It turns out that these types of shrubs start to get spindly and woody after a number of years. Instead of removing and replacing them, which would be costly, she suggested we plant grasses in between and eventually they would grow enough that the shrubs would not be visible.
I love that idea. Instead of removing those spindly and woody parts of me left over from caregiving, how about planting something new and beautiful next to them? It lets me honor who I am after caregiving has ended and allows me to grow into something new and beautiful. I’ll make sure to take a picture of the garden in full bloom and keep you posted on reclaiming my life.
I’d love for you to let me know in comments how you are reclaiming your life, either during caregiving or after caregiving.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract and “A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.” Your Caregiver Relationship Contract is available in both English and Spanish. It explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems during caregiving. A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers explains how important it is to learn how your person wants to live their live out and how you, the caregiver is the most important person in this relationship, giving you tips and tricks for this journey.
Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract or here for the Spanish version: Su Contrato de relación como cuidador de un ser querido. Click here to learn more about A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call