A Caregiving Comfort: Birthday


A Caregiving Comfort: Birthday

I turned 54 yesterday.

On Monday, a fellow swimmer at the community pool said to me, "You are a good swimmer." I was so shocked that I blubbered about something until finally saying, "Okay, see you next time."

And, then I floated out of the locker room to my car.

I am a good swimmer. I am what I've wanted to be for a long time: A good swimmer.

I took swimming during high school for a gym class and loved doing the laps. Over the next 30-plus years, I tried to swim laps again without much success. Those laps I swam in high school seemed like a mistaken accomplishment, a feat never to be repeated. In the summer of 2015, I tried again but one stroke left me gasping for air. That summer, caregiving swallowed me up which made me drown.

This summer, during my first dip in that oasis known as the outdoor community pool, I thought, "What the heck? Why not try a lap? To my utter amazement, one lap became two became more and more. Having learned to breathe while drowning during caregiving, I now could swim laps. So, I continued to practice my laps over the summer and then again this fall, now in the community center's indoor pool. Each time in the pool I practiced my stroke, hoping to become, well, a swimmer.

And, so for my birthday, I got what I wanted.

Birthdays can feel like New Year's Eve all over, which are two days I usually am just simply over. New Year's Eve feels like an awkward and loud attempt to show everyone we have peace about where our life is. Then, the next day, we commit to do what we think we already should be doing.

My perspective about birthdays shifted this year. Birthdays can sometimes turn into marking the time left in our life. I now look at birthdays as our time for quiet acceptance. I accept where I am right now and celebrate it. I stand still for a moment to feel proud of the work I've done to get where I am. Although I'm not where I want to arrive, I am at peace with my place in this moment.

We work hard every day to get to better. Our daily hard work often doesn't involve one large leap. Usually, we take small steps, even tiny steps. During the awful, difficult days, the step we take may just be an acknowledgement that we'll give ourselves another chance tomorrow. It can be about just getting to the next day rather than doing what we really want to do -- give up -- when it feels too tough. We get to tomorrow with gut and grit which actually gets us to better.

I think it's great to take one day a year to give thanks for getting through, to take one day to say, "I am better than I was. Next year, I will be even better."

I am. You are, too.

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