Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sorry, Not Sorry

I have a friend who is a caregiver to her husband who has Early Onset Mild Cognitive Impairment. G-J is a dynamo! She cares for her husband which involves numerous doctor’s appointments, medications, classes to help brain function as well as many, many other tasks. She teaches at a local senior care home, is a freelance writer, manages to spend time with her college-age son and is a busy volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association. 
Other Brother and I after a wild ride on a roller coaster
in Santa Cruz (2007)

Like I said, she is a dynamo.

She is also one of the authors (with me and three others) of the book 365 Caregiving Tips: Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers (which is on sale now!!).  Our emails to each other regarding this book and our next book project (regarding travel tips for caregivers) or just to say hi sometime start with “I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner.”

She is busy; I am busy; caregivers are just really busy. 

We are busy caregiving, advocating, planning, chauffeuring, managing a crisis or three and trying to maintain friendships, relationships and balance.

We end up saying sorry – a lot.

G-J and I finally decided we did not need to apologize to each other any longer.  I have this agreement with all of my other friends who are caregivers as well.  We might be late in responding to emails, phone messages, self-imposed deadlines or a check-in text.  Now, we may be late in responding but apologizing is no longer a part of the conversation (or at least we are trying to eliminate it from the conversation).

Sorry, but not sorry.

I tend to feel responsible for anything and everything which leads to a great deal of apologizing. No more.

Sorry, not sorry.

(This is hard for me, actually. I want to apologize, I feel the need to apologize but I can’t continue to apologize for things that are many times out of my hands.)

Caregivers are busy but we do not intend to be late in responding. We do not mean to slide in at the last possible moment to a doctor’s waiting room (yes, I had Robert use the bathroom before we left the house but he either needed to use it again once we arrived or had an accident on the way and needs to be changed). I am not intentionally late nor am I so disorganized that I arrive late. I plan ahead and give us plenty of time to get to appointments but there are times when we will be late.

Sorry, not sorry.

(I think maybe this will be easier to say the more I say it.)

Of course that pang of guilt hits me in my gut when I realize I haven’t talked to Other Brother in six weeks or when I am late for a hair appointment because Robert was in the ER all day (and there was no way in hell I was going to miss that hair appointment after that stressful day!). Or when I realize I only wrote one blog post in a month. Ugh!  I do wish I could do everything I intend to at the time I want to but sometimes that just isn’t possible.  

Sorry, not sorry. 

(Oh! But I am sorry but I just can’t continue to feel guilty about the things I am not accomplishing right now.)

Caregiving is certainly not an 8 to 5 job.  It is unpredictable, stressful, relentless and exhausting. Add to that a passion for advocacy to help other caregivers, a passion (and need) to write and then squeeze those in between caregiving tasks and working full-time.  Other caregivers understand this so know that no apology is needed when an email sits unanswered or a project deadline passes or our tone gets a little terse.

“Sorry” is not needed. 

I will certainly do my darndest to make it appointments on time, answer emails and keep my projects on track. I will do my best to be sure my frustrations don’t leak out in the form of snippy comments. I will even be mindful of the promises I make to myself whether it is regarding writing or self-care. 

If I slip, know that it is not intentional. Know that my “Sorry, not sorry” is about me giving myself the grace to slip.  Know that I might be saying I am not sorry but we both know I am. 

At the risk of making more promises I can’t keep, I think I will at least promise Other Brother a phone call.  Well, at least a text.  A text I can do.  Just in case that doesn’t happen, let me just take care of that now:

“Hey, bro! How are you? I miss you!”

See?  No sorry needed. 

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