Today is my 55th birthday and I have been spending it doing some of my favorite things – shopping at the Farmers’ Market, a beautiful ocean swim with new friends, stocking the freezer with homemade pesto to enjoy when basil season is long gone, a chat with my sister, a short nap, and tonight a dinner by the water with Don.
As is my tradition, I’ve also been reflecting on the year past and what a wild ride of a year it was! On the high side it included a lot of fun and exciting travel (Greece, Puerto Vallarta, Hawaii, the East Coast, Alaska), many visits from far-flung family and friends, completion of several long-awaited home improvements, my foray into open water swimming, and of course my retirement. But it also included the challenges of Don’s cognitive impairment (and likely Alzheimer’s diagnosis) and the stress, anxiety, fear, and grief that has wracked both of us and really affected our relationship. And while I am loving being retired, my schedule still seems way too full, I have commitments that I wish I had not made, and I feel the weight of being a care partner for Don and the burden of responsibility that has brought.
So this year my promise to myself is that as much as I can given Don’s health, I will make this year the year of me, and of us. That means making sure I do the things that bring me joy, making sure Don and I do fun things together, getting enough rest, eating less junk, and letting go of commitments and obligations that get in the way of the above. So –
- No more volunteering unless I can do it without making a commitment that will feel burdensome.
- Just because something (an exercise class, or writing a blog post for example) is on my calendar or to do list it doesn’t mean I have to do it.
- If I want to sleep in and defer the dog’s “long” walk to later in the day, I will.
- When I need time and space to myself I will tell Don, and trust that his feelings will not be hurt.
- I will treat myself – to massages, naps, dark chocolate, beach days, and the occasional doughnut – and not feel guilty about it.
- I will make time to meditate, but not make it just another thing on my to do list.
- I will not be afraid to dip into savings in order to take trips that I have long dreamed about.
- I will invest in counselling to help both Don and me navigate the shoals we find ourselves in.
- I will spend time with people who lift me up, and walk away from those whose negative energy drags me down.
In short, I will give myself the gift of a year, knowing that whatever challenges come up the next twelve months will likely be as good as it gets in terms of Don’s health and abilities and I will do my best not to fritter them away.