Right after the accident, my life was sort of glamorous in a weird, morbid way. Everyone stopped what they were doing to rally around and pitch in. We’re young, none of our friends had experienced this before, and we were lucky enough to have friends who went all out. It was so tragic — the last time some people had seen us was at our wedding, cue the tears. It felt like our life was a movie, only in the end he didn’t make a miraculous recovery.
After that, things stopped being a tragic love story and started to be a grind. People stopped dropping off meals and checking in all the time. Everyone else went back to their normal lives. I spent 2016 feeling like I was slipping further and further away from myself. From the life I’d planned for us. From the husband I’d just married.
But my husband is still here. I’m still here. And this is our lives. I can’t just float along from one day to another forever. So I’m making a New Years Resolution — or three — to take my life back.
Choose to do this every day
If you asked me if I would ever choose to be a caregiver, I’d tell you no. It doesn’t feel like I made a choice. It feels like something that happened to me.
I know that’s not really true. The accident happened to my husband, which happened to me. But that doesn’t mean rearranging the rest of my entire life to take care of him was the only option. Yes, all of the options were terrible, but they were still options. Leaving him didn’t occur to me as a choice because I would never do that to someone I love so much, but I could have and I still could. Every moment of every day is me continually choosing to stay with him, ’til death do us part.
In a weird way, thinking about all of the things I could do instead of caring for him makes each day easier. Because for me any of those options would be harder.
My life felt like it was spiraling out of control. Remembering that I am choosing to do this — every moment, good or bad — makes me feel like it’s my life. My life isn’t on hold or being sacrificed or taken away from me, this is the life I’m choosing for myself.
I’m going to remember that this is what I want to do.
Do one thing for myself every day
It doesn’t take long to lose yourself as a caregiver. Everything is about my husband. Or, really, not about him but his needs. He’s not a spoiled child; he’s not getting any of the things he wants, either. I spend more time doing things for the hospital than doing things that are actually for my husband, like the cute, thoughtful things we used to do for each other.
At this point, I don’t even know what I want anymore. The things I used to enjoy seem completely irrelevant to me now. Or plain out impossible. I’ve changed so much and I want to get to know this new version of myself.
Maybe I’m going to get back to doing 5-minute sketches in the mornings. Or occasionally putting on makeup, just because. We can’t really go out, so maybe it’d be fun to make a nice dinner at home. Maybe it’s just giving myself permission to daydream, even though there’s always a chore to be done.
I’m going to get creative and think of things that aren’t expensive. Self-care doesn’t require a life coach or a credit card. It’s just listening to my own needs.
The one thing I might spend money on myself for is my own health. I used to think getting sick wasn’t an option with work. Ha! Now I want to be healthy for myself and my husband more than ever before. I’m going to make sure I get a checkup, go to the ob-gyn for an annual, do all the recommended screenings for my age group, and eat a little healthier. Hopefully coordinating to be able to do those things will mean more time for us together in the future.
I’m going to get to know this new version of myself.
First, let’s admit that I don’t really understand Snapchat. Luckily for me, it seems like no one over the age of 17 does and all of my friends are over 17, so we’re good. None of us know what the heck we’re doing or how those filters get added or what it means. This is why I had it installed on my phone for a really long time (in smartphone years) before I started using it.
But then one of my friends called me out for never viewing his snaps. When I told him I didn’t have anything exciting to send him, he told me I was missing the point. The point is hey, I’m thinking of you and I want you to be in my life. And he started sending me a barrage of the most boring snaps you can imagine. Waiting for his car to warm up in the morning. The silent elevator ride. The coffee cup on his desk in his cubicle. You get the idea. It was actually pretty fun and I had a whole new perspective on what it’s like to be him. And I started sending back boring snaps. He loved them.
Once I was checking Snapchat every day, friends I hadn’t heard from in ages started sending me snaps and I started sending them back.
When I was getting nonstop snaps from holiday parties I couldn’t go to, it was pretty hard. But let’s be honest that I was going to feel lonely and awful to be missing out no matter what. Instead of feeling forgotten, like all of my friends’ lives had moved on without me, here they were lighting up my phone every 20 minutes with silly little packets of hey, we love you and we miss you and we wish you were here.
I’m not going to make the holiday party next year, either. Being a social butterfly isn’t an option. But there are still ways to stay connected to my friends.
My goal for 2017 is to keep space for my friends in my life.