What does “my own schedule” look like?

Since Mom’s death, several people have asked me about my new “freedom” of schedule now that I don’t have all the caretaking duties. From my perspective I just traded one set of time-dictating “musts” for another. And it has me contemplating how we all so often set up our days by the “musts”.

Losing my mother set off an emotional roller coaster of its own and on top of losing her, because of a lot of not very smart decisions she made years ago, instead of inheriting the house in which I’ve lived for 24 years and a sizeable trust fund, materially I’ve inherited nothing from her but a giant hoarder’s mess to clean up and the need to move with great speed to pack up and move to the condo in Florida my dad’s more careful ways left me.

Some of the time I’m pretty angry and put upon. Until I remember the privilege that means I have a condo to move into and enough money to scrape by for a while.

The last months of her life, taken up with hospitals, nursing homes, diapers, wheelchair, etc. were exhausting and the second she died I had to begin the even more tiring task of clearing out her unbelievable piles of crap and trying to separate out and pack up my own stuff for the move. So no, at the moment I don’t feel free.

And Salty apparently decided to help me see it. He’s very old and frail and really upset by all that’s changing around him, from the absence of Mom to furniture and items disappearing and moving around, etc. He climbed on my lap a while ago for a snooze. I had a packing schedule in mind and the snooze was interfering.

I sat for a couple of minutes, tense and worrying about being late already at starting. He gently snoozed, his head tucked under my chin. I tuned in and noted the tenseness and chose to relax into the lovely moment with my fur baby. I’m not sure he’s going to live through all this and I’d rather drink in his sweetness while I can than be sorry later that I was too busy packing to enjoy him.

I’ve also been thinking about how nice it will be once I get to FL and at least largely unpacked. No caretaking. No clearing and sorting after I finish getting the dad/stepmom stuff I don’t want out of the condo and my stuff put in place. Ah, but then I remembered, in order to survive, I have to re-start yoga teaching, figure out doing classes on line, etc. Or get a job. How long can I float and relax, schedule-free, before I must get moving again?

Which then started me thinking about how many days when I have nothing on the schedule like an appointment or a lunch, etc. I still feel I “must” go to the grocery, do a load of laundry, make a new batch of granola or cashew creamer. How free is my schedule ever? And don’t most of us have these daily “musts”? Actual days of floating along, doing nothing are pretty hard to come by unless you have the money to pay someone else to fix your meals, including getting the provisions, or to take spa vacations.

Now I’m contemplating how little activity still leaves me feeling my day is “free” and mine. Much relies on perception and how I choose to feel about what I need to do. My mother resented pretty much all domestic tasks (she grew up in a household with a housekeeper and a cook) and I realized years ago that I internalized that dislike.

I have to actively shift my emotions just to get to neutral. Thanks to how much I love the smell of Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and love a clean floor, I’ve come to enjoy mopping and ignore the twinging back that results, which leads me to believe I can manage to shift the “ugh” feeling about other chores 🙂

I figure the whole schedule thing is mostly a question of staying in tune with how I feel about all the aspects of my day and choosing the feeling tone that leaves me also feeling free. But I’m not sure I’m gonna get there about clearing 30 years of clutter or packing for a move…

Between grief and relief

A number of years ago, when both my parents were into their 80s, a friend asked how I was going to cope when they both died. I thought a second and said, “I think I’ll take the first free breath of my life”. Now I’m there, my dad having died 2 years ago and my mother last month.

Right now, of course, the loss of my mother is fresh and in this case we’d been living in the same house for almost 24 years so I’m also feeling a general loss of companionship. I’m still at the phase of bursting into tears multiple times a day and wishing she could still be here.

But I also feel that sense of relief. The immediate relief is at being set free from the caretaker duties. I was glad to be able to keep my mom well cared for, but it was a lot, especially since my own health issues didn’t disappear just because she needed me. But concerning both parents the story had bigger dimensions.

They each survived a fairly awful childhood and both were clearly emotionally damaged. Besides being physically and emotionally abusive, they also had very vulnerable child-like aspects and I knew from an early age that they both relied on me–their only child–somehow to make up for their troubles, to keep them from breaking, etc.

After having met both my parents and spent some time, one of my friends told me that if I ever operated with a feeling of being watched all the time (I did) I came by it naturally as they were each intensely focused on me and my every move. I felt that pressure most of my life.

So, while I’m also sad to have lost them and sad that their lives held so much unhappiness, I also feel great relief peeking through the grief. I can take a free breath now. Sometimes I feel guilty for that relief. More of the time I feel like it’s only fair to get to live a portion of my life without their needs and expectations hovering over my shoulder.

I’m also really glad I went through the Fisher-Hoffman process long ago and continued to use the process to explore inner feelings, the past, etc. I released huge amounts of anger toward them long ago. With mom that remained a work in progress till we were finally able to just say “I love you” near the end and sit holding hands. With my dad I had actually managed to transform from the place of underlying anger constantly seething, to feeling much more balanced in my dealings with him, even tender as he grew more fragile.

I feel that work with the F-H process is helping me a lot to work through these shifting emotions and also studies with the same facilitator which she called “Emotional Mastery”. Both helped me to just allow emotions to move in, to feel the feelings, to know that I can choose to move to another, etc. Our society doesn’t do enough (anything?) to help people feel their feelings and learn to navigate them.

At a time like this, not only am I grateful for the calm and equanimity 36 years of yoga and meditation have brought me, but so grateful for all I’ve learned about feelings and emotions. Even twenty years ago I’d have fallen apart (and driven my friends crazy with my anxiety) at all I’ve had to cope with in the last 2+ years. I feel like I’m making my way pretty well through volatile emotions while still being able to get done what must be done so much better than I ever could have in the past.