It’s been a year since I stared at the blank pages of a notebook, alone on the deck at the family lake house. For decades, handwritten journals were as distant from my life as I had been from my mother.
I missed writing. I needed to write.
My writing roots go back nearly a century; both grandparents were authors. At age eight, I had set up a studio in the garage, a barnboard desk resting on sawhorses. My earliest tale, “Matt the Flying Dog,” quickly evolved to mystery stories, a stack of Nancy Drews for inspiration.
I’ve filled a dozen notebooks this past year. Daily writing is non-negotiable. I lay down the tracks of my life like a composer with music. Writing is both fun and terrible. And the days I don’t want to write make me realize I must.
Is my passion caregiving? Is my life purpose caregiving?
If you’d asked me a year ago, my answer would be a resounding, capital-letters-spell-it-out “N-O!”
I’ve spent my retirement immersed in the world of Alzheimer’s caregiving, a labyrinth in which all roads seemed to lead to frustration, anger and impatience. But gradually, it’s become more of a road trip, with an unexpected side effect: purpose.
My life journey has gone off-road.
Caring for my mother for the past three years, actually living with her for the first time since my reckless departure at age thirteen teaches me compassion. For my mother, for others, for myself.
I express compassion through writing and volunteering. Taking care of shelter animals. Helping hikers navigate local trails. Blogging about dementia caregiving.
My passions are transformed into purpose through compassion. And my answer is now “yes.”
This week, I’m helping a young woman find a sober living home so she can begin a new life. Her recovery has been a rocky path of false starts, broken promises. Her journey was my journey twenty years ago.
In recovery, we learn our true purpose is helping others, so I took her under my wing. “You can want it; you can need it,” I told her. “But you have to do it.”
And, finally, she did.
Embracing the steps of sobriety, she infuses me with inspiration. Her journey has a serendipitous effect on both of us: true humility.
I’m also helping find another new home, this time for my mother. It’s difficult to call it a new beginning, easier to believe it is yet another of life’s harsh ironies. But being humble helps me accept this circle of life.