I got home to Da’Burgh late Thursday night, but as familiar as life is here, I am not the same person who flew to Minnesota July 18. I’ve spent the last three days trying to figure out what’s different, and what I’ve concluded so far is that it’s crucial I take care of myself as much as I take care of others, no matter how against the grain it feels. Because when we allow others to take care of us and show their love and concern – when we are truly open to absorbing it and feeling it in our bones – only then can we understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of those we love and care for.
|Marty, me, Matthew; March 2011|
My trip home began when my brother Matthew picked me up at brother Marty’s. Matthew made a wise crack about the weight of my suitcase. Marty laughed and said something about how I’d redecorated his bathroom with all my stuff for two weeks.
“Hey,” I reminded him. “Your bathroom never smelled so good!”
Then came my tears and the “I’ll miss you/I love you/I’ll call you/I’ll be back if you need me”s. He hugged me and shed a few tears, too, then Matthew poured me in his truck and told Marty, “Don’t worry. She’ll be back. Her and her big suitcase.”
|Colton and me; a few weeks ago|
I texted my friend Colton, who was picking me up at the airport: “I don’t like your weather out there. Are you meeting me at baggage claim or picking me up curbside?” Colton: “It’s a bit crazy at the moment, but will be gone when you are near. Get on that plane, babe. I’ll meet you as you come out of security.”
Sure enough, I got off the train from the gates and Colton was there holding a sign with my name on it. I laughed and threw my arms around him and cried. I’d missed him. I’d missed my kids. I’d missed my grandkids. I’d missed my life. I didn’t realize how much until I saw Colton’s sign and the big grin on his face. I didn’t have a lot of time for introspection while I was in Minnesota, you know?
When I arrived in Pittsburgh, I was wiped out, tired, worried, and needed someone to take care of me. That hardly ever happens. I mean, I can take care of myself no matter what, right? But you know what? Sometimes surrender is the best option.
Colton took my computer bag and we went to baggage claim. He grabbed my suitcase off the carousel with only a small “Ugh” and we walked out of the airport and to the parking lot. He opened the car door, handed me flowers and chocolate, gave me a kiss, and said, “Welcome home.”
When I got home, this was on my front door:
Cassie had taped drawings from the kids all over my apartment, and she left me a note:
Except for condiments, my refrigerator was bare. Cassie knew I’d need something to eat for breakfast, so she brought me 3 eggs, a half a bag of spinach and an apple. My plan had been almonds and canned carrots, but her breakfast was much better.
The next day I went to see the grandbabies. They are young – 3½, 2 and 5 months – so I worried they’d forgotten me or wouldn’t be excited to see me again. I walked in the door, expecting them to look at me like, “Um…I know you from somewhere,” but no. Luca yelled, “Grammy!” as always. I picked him up and kissed his mass of blond hair and he giggled his Luca giggle.
Claire walked up to me in her shy way and looked up at me. Her big brown eyes were so full of love. I put my hands under her arms and told her to jump. She wrapped her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck and she whispered, “I missed you, Grammy. I love you so much.” Oh…you KNOW I cried.
Miss Mae was in her seat attached to her play table and she gave me a smile as wide as the Allegheny River. Yes, I know she smiles at darn near everyone, but I like to think she remembered her old Grammy just fine.
If we all loved ourselves the way the people closest to us love us – if we treated ourselves with the same kind of innate care that others express through flowers, chocolate, notes and great big hugs – imagine how much easier it would be to make our own health goals a priority?
I’ve not been the best Weight Watcher or exerciser the last two weeks. OK…months. I’ve put myself on the back burner and my body is paying the price. No more. After such a perfect homecoming, I know I need to get back to giving my body the same kind of love and attention I did when I started this journey 6½ years ago.
It’s easy to lose ourselves when we’re caring for our families and jobs. We put ourselves on hold, saying “one day” we’ll have the time to make ourselves a priority. Marty told me that he had a hard time accepting help when he first had his seizure. Then he realized he had to allow others the same kind of joy he experienced when he helped people. He also said this experience has shown him humility.
“Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”
We’re not so important that we can’t find a way to take care of ourselves as much as we take care of ers. When I put myself on the back burner, I can’t give my best attention to the people I love. It seems counterintuitive, I know, but taking care of ourselves is the best way we can take care of others. Like MizFit reminded me, you have to first put on your own oxygen mask on the plane before you can help others.
I’ve got my oxygen mask on. Do you?