“So what does the caregiver do for self-care,” Kristine asked me, and I was stumped. All my possible answers sounded stupid. Watch episodes of Disney’s Obi-Wan and Marvel’s What If. Write posts for this platform. Bake bread and cakes and cookies (and eating them). Check Facebook and WordPress and Instagram and Gmail. But her question is one that begged to be asked, and one I would do well to search carefully for answers. I know I have several built-in barometers that warn me of high-pressure storm systems in the forecast, of high winds and flash floods and booming lightning and sinkholes. The first is the profanity barometer. Not that I am a profane or indecent person, and not that I cuss at people or the world or God. Rather, I have discovered a direct correlation between by levels of emotional distress and my swearing under my breath at any little inconvenience, like dropping a paper clip at work or spilling on my favorite shirt. The second is the compulsive eating barometer. I doubt that one ever conquers hunger, but I have made real inroads: I lost 40 pounds through fasting, portion control, soda abstinence, and sweet avoidance. I have discovered a direct correlation between levels of emotional distress and my compulsive eating, usually of chocolate covered almonds or Jordan almonds or lemon yogurt almost (what is it with almonds?)—but muffins and cookies and breads and other sweets will do in a pinch. But sometimes fasting seems like a sugar-free marathon. I feel disgusted with myself for such a lack of discipline and for having put back on ten of the old pounds. Much of my distress comes from the perpetual pressures of caregiving, some from adding long work days to caregiving, some from adding a long commute to long work days. And, no doubt, significant distress has come from having signed up for that dating app and corresponding with several women at once and the labor of making new friends and the terror of dating and that most exhausting of questions What next? “So how does Roger care for Roger?” she asked. Well, I am not sure, but I am writing this entry (does that count?), and I will arise at 6:00 a.m. to ride the stationary bike and read N.T. Wright’s Simply Jesus and leave for work without eating and listen to the birthing pains of the Civil Rights movement and respond to other people’s emergencies all day and drive home at rush hour and ask Mom and Dad about their day and cook another dinner and wash the dishes and search for hidden chocolate covered almonds and watch another episode of What If? and get to bed too late only to start it all over again tomorrow. Whatever. In any event, I feel too tired to worry about self-care tonight.
(Photo is of cherry chocolate chip bread baked yesterday.)