Friends are chosen family. Of course, my family held me as we navigated this journey. We held each other. My friends also held me, even from a distance.

When life is both and—joy and sorrow, sweet and bitter, fine and fighting for fine, we need a safe space to be with whatever we are holding. For me, it has been and continues to be with my friends.

Caregiving isolates the caregivers too, not just the patient. During my isolation from my friends, my friends continued to be my rock. Make sure you have a rock, a safe place to fall apart… or not fall apart.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.
life swirl

Life Swirls

I started a text to my friends yesterday morning to let them know (warn them?) that I would be in town for a few days.

I’ll be around next week. Let me know if you have time to get together. 90 miles feels like 90 leagues lately. I’m struggling…

Or maybe…

I’ll be in town this weekend. Let’s catch up over some laughs and a little wine…

Or ask?

Get together this Sat or Sun?

Up? Down? Neutral? Yes.

Swimming in Life Swirls

The truth is, “I’m struggling” is true. “I’m doing great.” Also true.

I hover between exhausted and energized, collapsing and leaping, confusion and understanding.

Mom has held us here for a moment, in this place where love and tenderness swirl with sorrow and frustration.

Maybe that’s why she lingers, because we thought we understood the chemistry of joy and sorrow but we don’t.

Joy and sorrow, a swirling landscape of sheer cliffs and flat plains, green valleys and beige deserts. Infinite possibilities take my breath away and the tedium of uncertainty exhausts me.

I wake not knowing where I’ll stand in the mix of it.

I’m falling apart and I’m holding it all together.

I disappear in an ocean of tears and I double over in a field of belly laughs.

Embracing the Swirl

I suppose a therapist would work to push past “I’m fine” to find the truth, but “I’m fine” is not untruth. Being in this space with mom —the sadness of soiled diapers and a hospital bed swirling with the bits of her that bubble up through words, tongue wagging, and victory fists— “I’m fine” AND “I’m falling apart” are accurate.

I’m in both places at once: poised to skydive into understanding and stuck on the flat plains of uncertainty.

Was it always this way? Did something change in this sitting with mom or did the sitting still with her bring me awareness of the eternal swirl of joy and sorrow, great love and great loss, celebration and mourning? Maybe both? Change and awareness?

Back in March, I mentioned in a post that I would immerse myself in some of Kate DiCamillo‘s children’s books. And I have. I’m currently reading Because of Winn-Dixie. Kindle says I’m 80% through it (no spoilers please), but I already have a favorite takeaway: the Littmus Lozenges. One of the character’s great-grandaddy’s local claim to fame and fortune was his candy: the Littmus Lozenge, a deliciously odd swirl of flavors: root beer, strawberry, and a touch of sorrow.

You don’t get to parse out the sweetness and the sorrow. If you want the candy, you have to suck on both.

Swirls of Friends

I finally texted my friends:

I’ll be in town…

Even though it’s only been a few weeks since I saw them, I wrote:

… Feel like I’ve been away for a few years.

I’m still not sure if I need a hand to steady me as I teeter on the edge of infinite possibility and wonder or a hand to hold as I slog through a flat swamp of uncertainty and sorrow. I do know this: when I’m sucking on a Littmus Lozenge and the life swirl dizzies me, returning to friends is the remedy.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022