Three weeks ago, on an otherwise beautiful Sunday autumn morning, I received some of the most jarring news I had ever heard: my dear mother had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital. My father, who had driven her to the emergency room in the middle of the night, quickly assured me, over the phone, that she would be fine but that the doctors wanted to keep her overnight for observation.
I’m not sure how that conversation with my father ended. I don’t remember putting down the phone. I only remember the complete and utter shock I felt as I tried to wrap my mind around the situation. I had yet to live through either of my parents having a major illness, and frankly, I did not know how I was supposed to react.
My mind eventually settled on taking care of immediate practical issues. I cooked, cleaned and dusted. I talked to my sister and arranged times for us to take turns watching my brother, who has autism. I went grocery shopping, and on the way home picked up a big bouquet of flowers that I hoped would bring a smile to my mother’s face when she got home the next day.
Unfortunately, she didn’t end up coming home the next day. What was initially supposed to be 24-48 hours of observation, turned into a week in the hospital and another week in an in-patient rehabilitation center. Although I saw her getting stronger and more upbeat every day, the stress of balancing full-time work with care of my brother, maintenance of the house and most importantly, making sure my mother was cared for, began to wear on me, physically and emotionally. And apparently, it showed.
One afternoon, as I sat by my mother’s side, she gently encouraged me to start going to yoga classes again – something I had put on hiatus while she was recovering. Before I could even object to the suggestion she assured me that she would be okay and that my brother would be taken care of.
Even though I was too afraid to admit it at the time, I desperately needed a break and a release. Once I actually took the time for yoga, prayer and meditation, I realized that my need for respite was not a sign of weakness but instead a way to build mental and spiritual strength. This need to recharge, was not, as I previously felt, a reflection of selfish tendencies or an attempt to shirk my responsbilities, but my body and soul’s natural response to stress and exhaustion. Once I allowed myself the chance to breathe and relax, I became stronger and more resilient. I was not only better at helping my mother in her recovery but also in mine.
Affirmation: My holistic well-being is important. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s okay to need a break.
Call to Action: Take time to stop and smell the flowers, both literally and figuratively.
Thank you to our guest contributor for the post and picture!