Have you ever seen Gone with the Wind? I think I learned everything I know about the Civil War from watching the movie and reading the book - multiple times! There is this one scene that I can really relate to these days. Scarlett, perennial Southern belle of every ball pre-Civil War, is now post-Civil War literally forced to work in the fields from dawn to dusk to put food on the table for her family. It is a harrowing existence - one that leaves her frayed and exhausted at the end of every day. As you might imagine, her physical appearance suffers, but it really doesn’t matter as it is now the last thing on her mind.
But then she comes up with a plan to entrap the prosperous Rhett Butler using her feminine charms and beauty. As she finally - for the first time in a very long time - takes a good hard look at herself in the mirror, she is horrified by what she sees:
She had glanced in the mirror every morning to see that her face was clean and her hair tidy but she had always been too pressed by other things to really see herself. But this stranger! Surely this thin hollow-cheeked woman couldn’t be Scarlett O’Hara!
I can SO relate. For us women of a certain age (wink, wink), caregiving an elderly loved one occurs right about that time when menopause (cue the Psycho music) decides to kick in. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Depressed about your life situation? Blame it on menopause. Not sure why you schlep around with no energy? Blame it on menopause. Not sure exactly how or when the scale decided you weighed 15 more pounds than you think you did? Blame it on menopause. An optimist might say that a “benefit” of caregiving is that you are so overwhelmed by responsibilities that you don’t even know you’re in the throes of menopause.
But then, guess what? Menopause passes, but the depression, lethargy, and weight gain remain. Through my concerted efforts to get a handle on things, the depression has eased, and the energy level has improved somewhat. But there are still those 15 extra pounds.
Now I look in the mirror - really look - and ask myself, How did this happen? Of course, I know the answer - see above - but the reality of seeing it in the flesh (no pun intended) is pretty shocking for someone who never really had to concern herself with weight management. So now it’s back to the gym! Hands off the sugar and back off the Starbucks. Making my word of the year “me” gives me the motivation and inspiration to not give in and not give up.
Honestly, though, this shouldn’t have happened. Yes, there was menopause, and there still is caregiving. But then there is something called “boundaries.” And that’s really where caregiving begins.