First Aid Kit vs To Do List
I am supremely lucky in that I’m not a live-in carer and I have a really supportive, empathic partner who can take up some of the slack. So it’s a bit easier for me than for some to be able to get away from caring responsibilities every so often and just take a break. It’s not just a luxury – it’s my first aid kit.
So I’m just back from a couple of days off, seeing friends and extended family on the south coast. Walking on the beach, dipping my toes in the icy sea, picking up heart shaped pebbles. Hot soup at the beach café wrapped in blankets, sandy toes and windy hair. And talking and laughing and drinking wine late into the night at my friend’s kitchen table and the next morning seeing her beautiful paintings and getting inspired.
A lot of driving – but that is a pleasure in itself, the freedom of the open road, meandering through exquisitely cute Suffolk villages in the pink afternoon light, listening to the radio, singing loudly along to CDs that no-one else but me chooses, unaccountable and free. Knowing Nick back home was happy and cared for and safe.
It also felt wonderful to be home, after a last leg of the journey that went on a couple of hours too long, crawling through miles of roadworks in the dark and then nearly getting squished by a lorry on the M1 pulling out suddenly into the lane behind me.
But along with the comfort of home and a bath and a cup of tea, there’s the pile of post on my desk – after just two days! – and the To-Do List.
The to-do list stretches across two pages and my heart sinks to see it. All those things that need to be dealt with (and they actually do need to be dealt with: organising a phone line for the new flat which, amazingly, doesn’t have one; ringing the council to find out when Nick can sign the papers and get a moving in date; appointments at the doctor’s and the dentist’s; paying bills, which will involve yet another transfer from Nick’s savings because until the revised ESA and the housing benefit kick in (chasing these up, two more things on the list) he simply doesn’t have the means to cover two lots of rent, a monthly maintenance and a mortgage payment. My heart sinks but at the same time I’m revived and refreshed and empowered and I’m itching to get on with it. And I’ve still got this morning’s sand between my toes. It feels like being caught between two worlds.
It’s the Yin and Yang of caring – you need the outings and the friends and the jollies in order to restore some perspective and recharge your batteries. You need time for yourself to just think about something else. Be someone else. But you still come home to the to-do list, and the fact that there is a dependent person relying on you who can’t get out and do those things themselves.
Thanks to my counsellor, I’m feeling a lot less guilty about that these days; it doesn’t help Nick if I feel bad about enjoying myself away from him. It does help if I’m relaxed and recharged and can come back to him with good humour and a certain serenity. It’s probably the best possible state of mind to tackle the enormity of the situation and the endless to-do list.