I test-drove a used car earlier in the day. I had been dreading the experience for weeks but could no longer put it off. To be fair, it wasn't that bad. The salesman left me alone and I didn't have to fill out any paperwork to get in the car. The best part of all: I was able to drive the car alone.
It was late afternoon when I got home. After a quick shower, it suddenly hit me--it's only Saturday. For the next hour or so, I had this huge grin on my face. I have nothing against Sunday evenings. I long to stretch my weekends just as much as most people do, but I rarely have apprehension about returning to work Monday morning. No, I was smiling because I'd have another chance to sleep in on Sunday.
This wasn't always the case, but after my dad's Alzheimer's diagnosis and my caregiving journey, I realized how important sleep is to my brain and overall health. The final years of caring for my dad were exhausting. We had breakfast together every morning and sometimes when I would arrive, around 8:00 a.m., he'd be napping on his bed. Dressed and ready, waiting for someone to tell him what to do next. Often, I would quietly lie down next to him and close my eyes; occasionally I drifted off to sleep too.
Even when I wasn't with him, the stress, worry, and fear were. There was no such thing as a good night's sleep, either. There were far too many things on my brain to allow it to fall into a deep sleep.
Other than a brief half hour in the evening to refill his medications for the coming week, Sunday was my one "day off" from seeing my dad. I didn't take Sundays off because I wanted to, I took them off because I needed to. I had to recharge my batteries, be present for my family, and give myself some resemblance to a normal life.
After his passing, I was making the final push toward publishing Ten Days With Dad. When the book came out, I was working crazy hours on my day job and promoting the book. Six months after the book's launch, I was invited to co-author The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing. So yes, I treasure my Sunday sleep-ins and don't feel an ounce of guilt for it.
My brother-in-law keeps a chart of the projected number of weeks remaining in his life. I presume this helps remind him that our time here on earth is limited and inspires him to make the most out of every available week. I like his thinking, but for me, I don't want to count weeks or months or years. I don't want to count days, either.
Nobody knows how many weeks we have left and I don't want to put something off, say weeks or years ahead, believing that I have the luxury of waiting until that designated time in my life. Whether it's a vacation to Hawaii with my family, launching a podcast, or writing a screenplay, I make it my business to work on those goals now, and in the present. If I plan them out on a calendar, they will never get accomplished.
None of this is to say my way is better--it's just different--and one shaped by my years of serving as my dad's caregiver. I could have let the experience drag me down; it could have emptied the tank beyond repair like it does for many. Instead, I used it as an opportunity to reset my priorities, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I became a better person because of my dad's sickness and our time together.
And for that, I am grateful.