Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Necessary Breaks

I haven't checked in here in a couple days because it was time to focus on family. Time to take long, nature walks, cook big breakfasts, play games, set up a watercolors party in the kitchen, paint spooky spiders on little cheeks, and laugh at the squealing mass of little costumed bodies running from door to door. I may have been in a mommy role, but the kid in me was giddy with excitement. Happy Halloween everybody. :)


When I first decided to go full time, I didn't allow myself any spare time. I felt guilty if I wasn't painting, planning or working online. I was envious of the 9-5ers that could clock out and leave their jobs at the office. I didn't feel like I could do the same thing without feeling guilt, and I knew to make a real go of this took 200% of what I had to give. As it turned out, right around the time I started to feel comfortable without a "real" job, I was called into action by a family emergency. I know it was all meant to be. If I was still working when my mom had her stroke, I probably would have quit my job on the spot, and then I'd probably lose my house soon after. Seeing her suffer kicked me into high gear, and I did it all for her. She had been my lifetime supporter, and she had seen me struggle for many years, wanting to be a real artist, but too scared to give my all to it. She's the reason I was able to study art, and I was desperate to show her it was all for something. I wouldn't let her down.

I was destroyed inside, but I functioned like a machine for a few months. Every day returning from the hospital, and diving into painting and marketing full steam, not quitting until the sun came up. It was my own survival technique. Eventually, the terror of losing her started to be chipped away(first because they determined that what they thought was an aneurysm, was not. If it was, that would have been very bad news. Second, because she started making progress that gave me hope. Third-most important, I always had faith - I had to.). When her situation shifted gears into recovery/rehab mode, I found that my own health was suffering from my coping mechanisms. I needed to get out of a bad cycle to be there for her, my father, and my soon-to-be husband, and step children. Then, another horrible blow struck our family last fall, and I was back to my old ways, more intense then ever, overwhelmed by loss.

In the first few months of 2006, I was spending a lot of time with my parents, helping them in my mother's recovery. I spent a month total, in two separate trips, down in Florida with them at the Ocean Hyperbaric Neurological Center (if you or a loved one has had a stroke and would like to talk to me about our experiences with alternative therapies, *P*L*E*A*S*E* do not hesitate to write to me!! If you have heard the expression "window of opportunity" and feel the weight of that statement, know that there is hope. And please contact me.) Then, after a few years of going back and forth on when/how/what for a wedding, Rob and I just wanted to be married as soon as possible, so we literally threw a wedding together in a few months! Our friends and family weren't surprised by our last minute antics, and the celebration was a great time for all. Since I was our wedding planner, I had a lot of work to do in that crunch time, and once the big day came, I was off the clock for the next couple weeks of honeymoon bliss.....ahhhhh....

The whole time all of that was happening, I was also a painting, showing, etc.

Fast forward to today, and my beautiful, wonderful mom is a shining figure of light, and she gets stronger every day. For someone who was basically paralyzed for about three months, it's amazing to see her walking around with her walker, balancing at the sink without it, and getting in and out of bed on her own. Our new little family has wonderful times in our way too small house, and I'm working on finding my center again. Not running from emotion because it's all too painful, but welcoming the joys and blessings that are in my life, our lives.

I've found that there is a reason to allow yourself a break, a moment's rest, a siesta. You need it to refuel. You need guilt free "me" time, you need laughter with family, and long conversations with old friends. It's the heart of life, and what is it all for without that? What on earth would I have to paint, if I never allowed myself to live?

If you're like me, and you've got a slave driver in your mind, do yourself a favor and buy that jerk a one way ticket out of your soul.

Take a break, for safety sake.


Anonymous said...

thanks jess.

andrea said...

How did you get insdie my head?:)

I'm a Type A painter-person, too, can easily get obsessive, but the main reason I quit my teaching job was to create more balance not just in my life but in the lives of my husband and two kids, too. We were always in crisis mode. So when I switched from teaching to painting I had to work really hard to not get back into that rut, to create that balance, to stop painting when other things needed my attention, to make time for dinner, exercise, playing. Relaxing is still tough, but I've come a long way in the balance game. It's always work achieving it for me, and for you, as a classic sandwich-generation caregiver and overachiever, I can see that it will always be somehting you need to be conscious of, too. I'm right behind you! :)

Anonymous said...

Perfect post! I tried commenting yesterday, but blogger wouldn't let me. I dropped out of grad school last fall after being in manic mode, living on 4 hours of sleep a night and neglecting my family. Not good. The breaking point is when my daughter told me "mom, you are always too busy for me, and never listen!" I thought uh-oh, time to take a reality check. It was a weird transition to full steam to slow down.

I'm glad to hear your mom is recovering and how wonderful that you were able to help her.

Deep Breath...

Meghan Henley said...

Thank you Jessica for sharing your story with us! I am so glad to hear your mom is doing so much better. You deserve only happiness from here on out! You are such a beautiful spirit.