I Signed Up For This

I signed up for this. That is the refrain that moves through my mind almost daily now. This is the thing that I moved back to Kentucky to be close enough to do, this caring for my grandfather, this pitching in. The thing about it is that I don’t know if I actually believed that I would be called upon to pitch in, not for real. Not like this.

Maybe I thought I would move back to Kentucky and drive to Pikeville a couple of times a month and that would assuage my conscience. I wouldn’t feel that ache in my chest any longer every time I thought of my family and what I was missing by being so far away, not the way that I did while I lived in Florida.

The first month or two in Lexington were wonderful. Harry and I driving home to do the stuff that I wanted to, watching my nephew play ball, seeing my sister. Staying in Lexington otherwise to get settled in, stopping by to see Pap when I was in town, but doing none of the heavy lifting myself. Hell, rarely even seeing what the heavy lifting looked like.

It’s not that caring for my grandfather requires a lot. In reality, he is a low maintenance patient. He watches CNN for the majority of his day. He likes coffee in the morning with a bite of breakfast, doesn’t eat lunch, and then has his dinner around 7. Due to the Lewy Bodies symptoms, he needs help with walking, getting changed, personal issues, and into bed, but those are simple enough.

You would think so. Until you’re packing a bag at the beginning of every week to make the two and a half hour drive to the land of no phone service and 72 hours of putting your life on hold.

This undertaking is the hardest thing that I have ever done. Harder than graduating college, harder than moving across the country alone, and harder than getting sober. It is difficult in so many ways, ways that I never even considered when my uncle contacted me to say that they needed my help.

It is hard to leave the life that I am building with Harry in Lexington every single week. Our house is closer and closer to being done. Boxes unpacked, artwork on the walls, finally our home, and I want to enjoy it. Yet every Sunday or Monday I head to central Appalachia.

Watching the man that you thought was invincible deteriorate before your eyes is hard, especially when there are times when he doesn’t know who you are. Moving a 190-pound man takes a lot out of you. By the time that I get in the car to return I am emotionally and sometimes physically spent. It isn’t just the leaving that is difficult. It is the returning as well.

All that I want to do is curl up in bed for a day, maybe two, and ignore the world. I want to see my boyfriend and my dog, do my laundry to erase the smell of stale smoke and tend to the errands that have been neglected while I have been in Pikeville, like the grocery shopping and the meal prep, hopefully hitting the gym. This gets me to the weekend, where I start thinking about packing up my bag and heading back again. I have little energy left for friends and socializing. I simply want to sit on my couch with my tiny family.

Some weekends this desire wins out and I sink into Netflix and a warm fuzzy blanket, doing the absolute minimum that I can while still feeling like I’m not avoiding my responsibilities. Other weekends I do a little better and balance time spent with friends with my chill time at home. All of the time though, I wish that I had more of it, time that it is: more time to spend developing relationships in Lexington, more time to devote to my relationship with Harry, more time for self-care, just more time. Time is finite though, so I pack my bag and hit the Mountain Parkway again.

I signed up for this. This woman who shows up regardless of how badly she’d rather run, of how heavy her heart is, of how troubling her family can be. She is whom I have decided that I want to be. I am strong when I would rather crumble. I keep showing up. I do my best to be helpful. I try to do the things that no one else thinks to do and be useful in ways that are uniquely me. I keep my Grandmother’s spirit in all that I do. Then I return home and occasionally I fall apart. I hide in a serious Netflix binge or a flurry of reading. I accomplish what I can. I do my best to take care of my relationships and myself. I take small steps towards my future. And then I pack another bag because…

I signed up for this.

 

Mindfully in the Moment

Sitting here on my friend’s porch, post yoga, in the Florida humidity, I am grateful. I have been realizing over the last two weeks that I haven’t been present in my own life in a long while. I have had short periods over the last year of being in the moment, landing in a new city to do some exploring has a way of forcing you to be present, but if I am honest even then my mind has been elsewhere. When I am home I am usually playing catch up with schoolwork and housework, and trying to get my shit together for the next jaunt. I am planning the next trip, counting down the days until departure, or wishing I were already gone. This has made my life at home seem like one obligation after another. When you cram all of your responsibilities into four days, so that you can leave every weekend, life can seem a little hectic!

I am beginning to see that I have been running since May of last year. I haven’t been necessarily running away from anything so much as running towards something, that something being an understanding of myself, what I want, and what I need in this life. I have learned what I like in a city, that I can do anything alone, and that I still use all kinds of weird tools to escape from life, and that long-distance dating is really not great for me. The traveling has been very beneficial and so much fun, but I am looking forward to spending more time at home, to a slower pace, and maybe even some structure!

I am spending the next couple of months at home, except for one short trip, and I am looking forward to it. I had forgotten about how wonderful my life can be when I am an active participant in it. I have great people in my life from all over, but I have been sadly neglecting those close to home. I have been living selfishly. I fully believe that it was something that I had to do, but it is time for it to come to an end. I have spent the last two weeks being mindful of staying present. Life already looks remarkably different, in part because of my change of perception and in part because I am present to take an active role in what is happening around me. There are so many amazing things to see and experience in life, but only when you are present to do so!

Now is for New York

 

Last night I was lying in a bed in Brooklyn, wishing that I were home in Florida. What a difference a couple of weeks can make. All that I have thought about for months is escaping Florida and diving into the city. Now I cannot wait to fly home on Sunday and spend Memorial Day at the beach.

 

All of this may have a little something to do with the new man in my life, although new is kind of misleading. Truth be told, I was starting to question my decision to make the move come August even before he reappeared in my life. I had spent so much time on the road over the last year, that I had forgotten how much I really do enjoy my life in Florida, that is when I actually allow myself the time to enjoy it.

 

I consciously decided to spend my summer in Florida, other than this one trip to the city, to focus on some things that I have been neglecting. Within two full weeks of staying in one place, I really began to enjoy being home. I began to reconsider relocating; at least putting it off until after graduation and once I had found a job. I had even started to think that I should at least consider places other than New York City.

 

I had somehow convinced myself that what I am looking for could not possibly exist in Florida, since I had yet to find it. So I stopped looking in Florida. I looked elsewhere though. New York, Baton Rouge, even Long Island. Each of these searches ended with me disappointed and in tears. Tears of frustration mainly, as it was clear to me that I was setting myself up for this kind of let down. I decided to give up this search and focus on my life, where it is right now. I decided to firmly plant my feet in the present moment instead of somewhere off in the future or some other place.

It is amazing how quickly things can change when you allow yourself to actually be where you are. In reality, nothing changed, only my perception. My friends are no longer an obligation that I have to fit into the crammed 4 days that I spend at home getting ready for the next trip, they are a joy and a blessing. My house is no longer a war zone of travel bottles and dirty laundry waiting to be washed and repacked, but a welcoming home. All of a sudden I have the time to enjoy where I live because I am not cramming all of my responsibilities into too few days. Once I slowed down beautiful and amazing things started to unfold around me.

These things that are unfolding are both wonderful and a little scary. They are unfamiliar. Being in the present is still a challenge for me. I have to constantly pull myself out of the pretend worlds that I create in my mind. The payoff, I am finding, is more than I could have imagined. Things have happened that I would never have dreamed possible Being present has given me the opportunity to be available to receive the gifts that come along. It has allowed me to make conscientious decisions based on the reality of situations and not on what I would like them to be. It doesn’t mean that everything is smooth sailing; just that I can be present and breathe through whatever comes. And in this current moment, I am reminded that I am in my favorite city in the world with one of my favorite people. I have a full day left to enjoy and explore. Two more opportunities to start my day with a fresh bagel and a long walk with my adoptive dog. I have one and a half more days to eat like calories are a myth and it is Saturday in Brooklyn so Smorgasburg is on the agenda! Sunday evening and coming home to his smiling face will come soon enough. Now is for this moment. Now is for New York. ❤

 

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