It would be good to remember where I first heard this expression – which basically means that if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t really take care of others. Which, for a long time, I thought made one (me) selfish. In recent times a few very dear friends have been urging me to take some time out, but I have been loathe to do so without someone in place to look after Dad. My last holiday, at Easter was possible because my gorgeous Uncle, Dad’s brother, flew out from the UK for a visit.
Caring for someone is exhausting, both emotionally and physically, and time to oneself is important to re-charge the batteries. I say that, from a very privileged position knowing that for many people this is just not possible. And yet, as fortunate as I am, I find it hard to do. I have had a gift voucher for a treatment at one of my favourite spas since my birthday in March and have only just managed to make an appointment for July.
But here I am, writing this at the beach, where I have been for two days and will be for another two, with just my husband for company. As much as he loves the beach, and we love him, we even left the dog home with our two boys who were staying home to feed the cats. We had an opportunity to get away for four days so we decided to do it. Just breaking the news to Dad that I would be going away for a few days was hard, as he becomes quite anxious if I am not around.
Whoever first uttered those words in the title to this post is absolutely correct. Two days of relaxation, sun and the sea air, and a swim in the ocean each day, feels like a tonic. No alarm in the morning, no lists to write, things to remember, no washing, cleaning, changing ulcer dressings, cooking for DOD, etc etc etc.
What is has involved is sleeping in (to be fair, a sleep in for me now is 7.30am but that’s a victory), reading the paper in bed and not getting out of bed until 9am (bliss), cups of tea, visits to the beach, experimenting with a stand up paddle board with varied success,
swimming falling off the paddle board into the icy ocean, dolphin spotting, meditating, colouring in, watching the TV, more cups of tea, and a few* glasses of wine. It has been perfect winter weather – warm during the day, cool at night and in the mornings, clear blue skies.
Of course, to get away required the organisation and negotiation skills of a Major General, a spreadsheet, many, many phone calls, meals cooked in advance for DOD, and visitors lined up to check in on him, transport to and from church organised, bins organised to be put out, and two medical appointments made, and all of it typed up in a table for DOD to look at from time to time in case he forgot what had been organised. But even if DOD really doesn’t like to be ‘managed’ I can rest a little easier knowing I have done all I can to make sure he is safe, fed, and looked after.
I am so grateful to my children, and my eldest son in particular who is doing a lot of the driving this weekend, my cousin and his wife who are dropping in, as well as my sister’s friend who is also dropping in. No doubt DOD will have an ample supply of jam drops and chocolate slice after the weekend.
It really does take a village, and I am very grateful for my village for enabling me to fill my cup this weekend.