Have you ever watched someone juggle balls that were different sizes and different weights? Maybe they even add a knife or an orange or a volleyball to the mix. I feel like that sometimes. I was already trying to keep a lot of balls suspended in the air when another one, a much heavier one, got thrown my way: the Caregiving ball.
Some people seem proud of their multi-tasking chops, but to me, it never made sense. Who can do several things simultaneously and do any of them well? If you try to type an email to your boss while you talk on the phone to your doctor (or drive and text), it’ll likely end in disaster. Some things require your full attention.
Juggling, on the other hand, is an art. It requires skill that comes with practice. When you juggle, you balance competing things by focusing on one ball at a time, without letting the others drop. It’s a skill I certainly haven’t mastered. You build balance by setting up a kind of rhythm. You don’t neglect any of the balls, but as you prioritize, some can be put aside for a short time as you concentrate on another one.
I already felt like I was juggling enough. It requires either insanity or a divine calling to work on three novels in various stages at the same time. (I like to go with the latter choice.) The ball marked Novel #1 soared, hopefulness about a possible publishing home for it as light as hydrogen. I kept the ball for Novel #2 aloft, waiting for my favorite professor’s editorial comments on the second draft. But I laid Novel #3 down for a few days, the first draft finished, to catch my breath before I start on the revision.
If a medical emergency had to happen, the timing couldn’t have been better. I’m grateful the Lord gave my husband and me a refreshing afternoon in the mountains to celebrate a big task completed. The very next day, my Mom fell. And the next week, my tutoring job resumed.
Mom broke not only her tibial plateau but also the long-held family record of No Broken Bones. Ever.
Mom has been my Dad’s caregiver, and now she’s become a patient, too. Suddenly, there are two octogenarians to tend to. I’ve found that caregiving brings out the best and worst in people, but I’m afraid most of the time it’s the worst—my impatience—that you see in me.
My husband, my long-distance brother, and I are trying to establish a rhythm like synchronized swimmers. We’re trying to bring balance to the chaos as we divide up tasks and share the burdens. Many others help out in various ways: their church, their pastor, relatives, friends. We are beyond grateful.
Each step in Mom’s recovery comes with such struggle. Struggle with the medical profession, slow to act and expensive when they do. Struggle from my parents, who–like most elderly people–are afraid of losing their independence and control.
I’m such a lightweight. It’s only been four weeks and already, I’m worn down. A new chapter has begun, and I don’t just mean a new chapter in my writing. I can’t look ahead to see how many pages are in this chapter or how many chapters will follow. All I know is that I’m getting close to the end of the book.
For now, I continue to juggle the balls God has placed in my life. That’s what makes all the difference: believing that God is in this and that he will give each of us the strength and grace we need. But this ball feels the heaviest.