I can officially state, for the record, that I’ve actually got my shit together - at least, my physical shit - so that I can start the new year off with some semblance of order in the business of my life.
One benefit to having been thrust into GO! mode, dealing with my dad’s affairs, over the last couple of months is that, once the crisis was finally over, the urge to make my hay while the sun shone hadn’t yet dissipated going into a week off from work. This allowed me to tackle a number of tasks and projects that had been weighing me down for awhile.
Instead of collapsing in a heap of exhaustion and self-pity, I just kept moving and accomplishing. I cleaned - including the disgusting excuse for a refrigerator - this house to a Mom-worthy level of clean, I found frames for all the artwork friends had gifted me over the last few years and got everything framed and hung so that the house is, as Lex likes to call it, “spruced up with interesting bits”, I shopped for and replaced all the clothes of my dad’s that went missing at rehab, I drove up to Loveland to see my dad, I organized my jewelry, I washed my car. I saw a movie...in the theater - something I haven’t done since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released.
As a result, I feel really good about where I am and what’s to come.
While, in many ways, 2015 sucked, it sucked for all the right reasons.
It sucked to have received that come to Jesus call about my health and taking charge of it...or else.
It sucked that my dad declined to the point where I had to intervene and take over.
It sucked that I had to say goodbye to a friend.
It sucked that I had to replace my furnace at a terribly busy, overwhelming, worrisome time.
Yeah, 2015 sucked.
But only because what made it suck were all things that required Major Adulting AND HOW!
Instead of dwelling on the suckage then, let me tell you how the suck changed me and/or my thinking for the better.
It sucked to find myself in urgent care and then the emergency room twice in approximately 2 weeks and to find out I have a heart condition. And yet, I’m also grateful. Because I have super solid, affordable health insurance that allowed me to find out what the hell was going on in order to take charge of my health to the best of my abilities. That same health insurance is helping me manage my condition in whatever way I choose to pursue. I have options. I have options a lot of people in this country still don’t have. I have incredible access to professionals who can help me help myself.
And! I have this health insurance because I have an amazing job I love, working with incredibly talented, intelligent, fun people, by (mostly) contributing to their own well-being and happiness every single day.
Yeah, it sucks that my dad is declining and can’t take care of himself anymore.
His problems have put a major crimp in my self-serving lifestyle (no kids, no spouse...no one but me, Me, ME! to worry about *tongue definitely poking hard in my cheek right now*).
As much as I can’t stand my dad, I also have discovered a deep well of compassion for him. And, yeah, there’s some love there too. He’s a bigoted, misogynistic asshole, to be sure. But he’s also a sad, sorry man who, even though he had all the brains to be someone great, didn’t love himself enough to even try. Instead, he sat around waiting for affirming adoration, without even attempting to apply himself.
Compassion aside, the last few months have been chock full of important lessons for me.
- Plan for the financial future! Even if the future might end tomorrow, it very likely will not be over for quite some time - long after working age and long after your body takes a major crap on you. The elder care game is a lucrative, rape-y kind of game full of well-intentioned people who are overworked, under-paid, and directed to cut costs at every corner for the corporate good. If you don’t have any money, your last years will be spent sitting in shit...your own. And that isn’t anyone’s fault but your own.
- Take care of yourself! As we age, our minds go, our knees go, our balance takes a dive. Take care of yourself now! There are so many many many things we can do now to help ourselves later and the pay off to our self-respect can be HUGE!
- I am not alone. This is the biggest, most important lesson and gift I’ve received. I am not alone in all the heartache, hassle, and sadness associated with caring for my dad. I am so incredibly grateful for all the advice and camaraderie extended to me by my friends and colleagues who are in various stages of this very same dilemma. Every single bit of advice, every hug, every knowing nod helps!
- I am so ridiculously privileged to have the smarts and the education to navigate extremely complicated healthcare and legal systems on the behalf of someone else. I cannot even begin to imagine what this situation would be like if I didn’t have the vocabulary, problem-solving skills, or ability to think of and ask questions and keep track of all the ridiculous details involved in making sound decisions on behalf of my dad. I am so very sorry for those in this same situation who haven’t had the same advantages I’ve had to help me through. This shit’s hard, y’all. Very very hard. Calculus hard. Geometry is a paid vacation compared to this1.
Saying goodbye to a friend is almost always hard. It sucks. Especially when it’s a close friend. There is grief - grief as though the person died instead of just the relationship.
In all fairness, I’ve been grieving for two years.
And yet, I find gratitude that I was able to finally recognize a lost cause when I should and subsequently set a firm boundary. I’m grateful for all the other extraordinary people in my life (who I resolve to see in 2016!) who would never take the opportunity to elicit congratulations for themselves at the expense of someone else’s desperate plea for help. I’m grateful to have known him and relieved I’m not obligated to care for him in a way that should have never been my responsibility to begin with.
Gratitude. Relief. Good things.
Furnaces are expensive. Ridiculously so.
And, it turns out, unless you’re conditioned to spend your life in a fur-lined parka, living it up in an igloo made of snow/ice like an Eskimo, furnaces are a necessity. An evil, evil, heat-producing, flaming necessity.
It sucked, hard, to have to replace mine.
I was cold for four days. And it was expensive. All while I was worried and stressed out about my dad.
Here’s the thing.
I am so lucky!
That furnace I replaced? It was mine. I owned it. Acquired it when I BOUGHT MY HOUSE.
That furnace I replaced? I didn’t have to scrounge up the money for it - or, worse, live without heat for the next six winters while I saved up the money for it - because I have excellent credit and could qualify for six months, no interest financing which allows me plenty of time to sock away enough savings to pay for it.
Grateful that I can pay it off in six months...or less.
That’s what’s good about 2015 that I carry into 2016.
I’m shaking off the bad and embracing the good.
And that is a tremendous amount of good!
So, so good.
Bring it, 2016.
I’m ready for you.
1. Kind of a quote from My So-Called Life.