too many strands

Today, I treated myself to an outing. My mother’s attendant is back and re-established into a stable routine with my mother, and that means I can leave them with each other for a few hours at a time without fear that I’ll be yanked back because of (yet another) communication gap, so I decided to give myself a break.

For such short breaks, I often go to a cafe that is around a 45-minute walk from my apartment. After spending the daily ‘play time’ with my mother, and handing over lunch and medicine, I packed my bag for the outing. Such packing is usually ambitious–the number of things I pack being disproportional to the duration of the outing which is rarely more than 3.5 to 4 hours, most of which is spent walking to and fro. The point is, I don’t want to feel I should have brought something else to read when I am luxuriously parked at the cafe, chocolate icecream on hand.

Today, for example, what went into my backpack included two non-fiction books (Personal Development for Smart People, and Finding Flow) and one fiction book (Gilead), some stories I wanted to work on, a pad with some other ideas I am pondering about, lots of paper and pens, and of course, my reading glasses and my wallet.

As I walked, I kept admiring the sheer freedom of being able to leave my apartment and feeling the sun on me, and the breeze (and the dust and traffic sounds, but then walking is a package deal). Also, though, was the feeling that this outing had not been possible for almost two weeks because of caregiving stuff, and that all it would take for my getting pulled back into 24/7 was another problem my mother faced, or the attendant having to leave again, or any of the other uncertainties of life. While these thoughts made my freedom to walk precious, they also reduced the pleasure. Part of me enjoyed every step, while the other part of me was caught up in the fear/ what if/ unpleasant anticipation cycle. Before I knew it, I had reached the cafe.

The first hour at the cafe was undiluted fun. I did a bit of this, a bit of that. But after an hour, when i realized I had only one more hour to go, the same old restlessness took over.

Make the most of the outing, my mind told me sternly. You don’t know when you’ll get it next. Squeeze as much out of it as you can.

And after that, my switching between activities, my grasping at joy became a bit like a drowning person gasping for breath. What should have been relaxed became like the hurried stuffing of food by someone long starved, and with very little of the savoring. After an hour of this thrashing around, I started my walk back, and quite a bit of the way I was getting upset with myself for not having relaxed as much as I could have. The result? I missed out much of the fun of the walk back🙂

Looking back, I would rate the equivalent outing time of the 4 hours I spent as around 2 hours. The rest was lost in futile mental wanderings, greed to squeeze in too much pleasure, and regrets. What a waste!

The theory is simple. Live in the present moment. Don’t waste time fretting over the past, or doing what-ifs about the future. Don’t confuse plans of the future with unnecessary dread/ mental cycling.

Why is it so difficult to implement?

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

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