Q: I am taking care of both of my parents. I have two daughters, one in college and one a senior in high school. I feel like I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I often make plans only to have them dissolve due to my caretaking responsibilities. I would love to be able to travel and have a part-time job, let alone have some time to do quilting and relax. I find that I can't shut my mind off when I lay down to sleep. I constantly wake up thinking about all the day-to-day stuff. I would love to find peace and serenity and happiness! The other concern I have is the lack of energy I have for my husband. I often fall into bed exhausted. I would love to find my roadblocks, and I look for any way to find pure joy and happiness!
— Eileen, age 53
A: Eileen, you are doing noble work in taking care of so many who depend on you. It's one of the most important things that any of us can do. And it may seem to you that devoting yourself to your family has caused you to do too much. But I would argue that you're actually doing too little. Too little, that is, of what gives you strength. You drop some hints about what your strengthening activities may be—traveling, quilting, working at a part-time job. Take the time to really examine what you love to do and what gives you energy. When you know what your strong-moments are, then you can start planning how to experience more of them.
Of course, when you have so many responsibilities, it can be hard to make time for yourself. But know that if you don't make that time, if you don't have portions of every day and every week that invigorate you and give you energy, you are going to end up shortchanging the very people you're dedicated to helping. Because when you are depleted, exhausted and drained, you can't give the best of yourself to anyone. Be willing to ask for help and to get creative in how you use your time. You mention needing more time with your husband. Having him help you care for your parents might give you that time together even as you meet your responsibilities. Or, since your daughters are grown, enlisting their help for even an hour or two would give you time to pursue other interests while allowing them to become closer to their grandparents. However you approach your situation, know that you simply have to make time for doing what you love. That's not selfish; it's giving yourself the strength you need to continue helping those to whom you're most dedicated.