It’s amazing how quickly a day can go pear-shaped, as what I’d hope to achieve evaporates in the face of unplanned events.
It can happen to anyone, of course. The baby that keeps you up all night teething. The train that gets inexplicably cancelled. The colleague that calls in sick. The coffee cup that spills all over your white shirt just before you go into an important meeting (yes, that was me). We aren’t as in control of life as we’d like to think.
But disrupted plans and frustrated expectations seem to happen to me more as a carer than they ever did before. Days are easily hijacked by unexpected demands when you look after someone who has multiple health issues and is increasingly frail.
I don’t know when I’ll be up all night with Dad, when the carer needs a hand, when Dad will be unwell and it will be all hands on deck.
I used to be a punctual person, hating to be late for an appointment or dashing for a train at the last minute. Now there are days when simply making it out of the house vaguely on time, looking like I haven’t been dragged through a hedge backwards, is a personal triumph.
I’m not a perfectionist, but I do like to be organised. I hate clutter and not being able to find things. When there’s stuff that needs doing I like to get on and do it. After many frustrated sighs and muttered curses I’m trying to learn a different approach.
Trying not to have too many expectations of what I can achieve in any given day. I know, I know. Lowering your expectations to avoid disappointment is a little negative. But I prefer to think of it as survival. Or perspective. Or plain bloody common sense.
I think we carers can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want the best for the loved ones we care for. We want them to be as content and comfortable, as stimulated and pain-free as possible. We want to be loving and kind and patient. On the good days we are. But life doesn’t dish out good days all the time.
I want the best for my Dad but that doesn’t mean that I have to be Wonder Woman (I don’t have the hair for a start). Every carer I know does his or her best, but some days our best is limited by lack of time or energy or money or opportunity.
That doesn’t make us bad carers. It makes us human.
Sometimes when things are piling up, we need to focus purely on the essential stuff (like remembering to breathe). If I get into bed at the end of a bad day and we all have the same number of limbs that we had at breakfast, and no one’s died of malnutrition, then I count the day a success.
Sometimes good enough really is good enough.