As much as we plan, none of us really knows what tomorrow will bring, what an hour from now will bring. We grow up setting goals and planning for our life in the distant future. Planning provides an outline, target to move toward, and a landscape with borders. Creating an outline gives us direction and makes us feel safer, serving a similar purpose as a roadmap on a long trip. Then something life altering comes along. We didn’t plan for it. At first, we don’t quite know what do about it. Could be an illness, loss of a marriage or friendship, or death. The new road may be longer than we anticipated, it may be shorter, and it may have endless hills and cavernous valleys. What I have learned through the struggles with my husband’s cancer and his treatments is that when the goal is clear and the whys compelling, I can usually figure out the how. When I am struggling with a situation, it is usually because my goals are not clear or the whys compelling.
When a loved is newly diagnosed with cancer the goal is very clear. Help find the best doctors and treatment possible. Ask questions, pay attention to the details. Speak up no matter how timid, forsake sleep no matter how tired, keep digging, keep asking, keep questioning. The goal is clear: Find the best treatment. The whys compelling: Keep them alive.
Through the process of intense caregiving, it is not uncommon for the caregiver to lose sight of their personal goals – the very goals that grounded, the very goals that provided the outline for their life. Their personal goals are often parked indefinitely, fading as the new life emerges, forgotten.
I found a piece of paper yesterday, a note I had written to myself prior to my husband’s illness. It included some forgotten goals and plans. I read my former plans with excitement. It was a peak at the forgotten me. I realized in that moment I had stopped planning for me some time ago, and that the seemingly elusive resolutions to my current struggles are in part because I do not have clear goals with compelling reasons. It is time to create a new road map. With that in hand, I know the answers will come.