People who make a plan and work that plan amaze me. I make plans, and life blows up in my face making those plans unworkable. A couple months ago, I planned that I would end my employment on December 15. That would give the company plenty of time to find a replacement and to get product out for the Christmas rush. I was trying to be thoughtful of my coworkers and to be intentional about transitioning into the next chapter of my life. Good plan.
At least, I thought it was a good plan. Shortly after I gave notice, I was down for a couple weeks with diverticulitis, but took good care of myself and was up and running again. Bonus - I started losing weight and am back on track with my health. A little behind in all that we had planned for the holidays and with the book, but I felt confident I could catch up.
What I didn’t factor in was the virus from hell that was going to take me out the last week of work and beyond. Instead of celebrating with my coworkers, or going to Christmas and Hanukkah parties, I was in bed hacking my lungs out with gunk oozing out of every orifice. It wasn’t and isn’t pretty. I ended my run with a whimper, not a bang.
This was to be my week of new beginnings. Getting Christmas goodies baked, purchased, wrapped and delivered. Formatting slides into digital format for the publisher to consider. Connecting with people and getting the studio up and running. Instead of connecting, I’m in isolation and feeling quite sorry for myself.
But a dear friend made chicken soup for me and delivered it just now. When she saw me, she did her best to hide her dismay but it was clear that I look as sick as I feel. She offered to do some shopping for me and I decided to be clear about what my real needs are. We have plenty in our pantry, and Mike is still healthy. What I really need is human connection. So I asked her to email me every day with something newsy so I don’t feel so isolated. That’s my new plan - to stay connected no matter what.
It made me think back on when I was caring for my mother. As her care overtook my life, friends dropped out of my life. Not intentionally. Everyone has life issues they have to take care of and when I was occupied elsewhere, the spaces I left were filled with other people and other things. Many wanted to help out, but really didn’t know what to do. Some came along side me and actually helped with mom’s care. Visiting her, taking her out, taking her to church, and giving Mike and me a break. But that’s not everyone’s strength or ability and some just drifted away feeling helpless. Supporting someone doesn’t have to be a herculean effort - it can be as small as a weekly card or email to let them know they haven’t been forgotten.
If you know a caregiver, send them a small encouragement. It can be a lifeline. If you are a caregiver, let your friends know that you are in need of connection. Make a plan to keep your community strong.
Painting is just another way of keeping a diary. -Pablo Picasso
Interesting week. Last weekend I was chatting with a new acquaintance and the conversation came around to the book manuscript I’ve written and the fact that it was on it’s second edit at the time. I haven’t said much to people and it’s sort of exciting to tell someone, “I have a book coming out early next year.” Exciting and daunting.
The next day, our computer crashed. Completely died. Tech support couldn’t help me during the two hour call and we had to take it in for service. In the process of reloading the operating system, everything was lost. I did have a backup copy of the manuscript, but I’d lost my journal, my documents, my digital portfolio…everything. Because, of course, I hadn’t backed anything up. Completely my own fault. But I wasn’t worried, because the manuscript was with the publisher, I had a backup copy, and I would just have to let everything else go. I was reminded of my mother-in-law whose condo had been flooded and all her records were lost. She had been the family historian and baptismal records, birth and death records, ordination papers, and photos were all gone. While she was sorry to lose everything, she adopted the philosophy that she was coming out of that flood lean and mean. I am determined to follow her example.
A day later, I got a call from the publisher about book design. He’d like me to submit some photos of my artwork to incorporate into the cover design. I’d given up my art career to take care of Mom, and including a painting would tie the story into the design. I have the perfect painting in mind. It was a watercolor of my Grandmother’s crochet work and the type of roses she used to grow. Grandma raised my mother, and then she raised me. It seemed perfect. I no longer have the painting, but I did have photo documentation of all the paintings I did over a twenty something period of time. I did. Once. Can I find the slides and records? No, I cannot. I’ve lost my written journal and my visual journal.
I haven’t given up the search, but we may have to move to Plan B for cover design. Stay tuned.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.