Why Waiting Until Is A Bad Idea

Almost daily a working daughter shares with me that she wants her life back. I get it; I used to feel the same way. When sorting pills, wrestling with insurance claims, and taking my parents to several medical appointments a month replaced exceling at work, writing my next book, and relaxing on the weekends with my kids and husband, I too lamented a life interrupted.

But life, I have since learned, isn’t what it was yesterday, or last month, or last year, or even what you had hoped it would be by now. Your life is whatever you woke up to today. It may not be what you dreamed or planned – or ever wanted, but this is your life. And if you can accept that, you can start living again. Acceptance is what make us stronger. It moves us forward. It is how we find daily joy no matter what is happening.

One of the saddest things we can do in life – as a caregiver, or in any situation – is wait until…wait until things get better, until someone heals, until we get the promotion, until work slows down, until we get thinner, until we find the perfect partner, until the pandemic ends. Our lives are now, not when some event happens, or some event ends. And as challenging as it may be, we can learn to live, not just exist, in and through whatever we are facing. Even terrible times can be filled with good days. Likewise, bad days can be filled with joyous moments.

At the beginning of 2014, my life was good – where I wanted it to be. I had just published my first book and I had a new job I was excited about. And then my parents got sick and were both diagnosed with terminal illnesses on the same day. By the end of that year I had buried my mother, I was struggling at work, arguing with my husband, and stressed out. This was not the life I planned.

Because I saw no other choice, I kept showing up. I showed up at work even after two clients fired me because I had been distracted by caregiving, even after a I was pushed aside by the new hot shot who had been hired that year. I kept showing up at home even though I was an imperfect wife and mother. I kept showing up for my book promotions – even when my front tooth broke off before a speech I was giving because I had been grinding my teeth in my sleep from stress. And I kept showing up for my writing because I knew somehow and someway, I had to write another book; I had to help other working daughters.

In 2015 life settled down for me and I started writing that book and looking for an agent. But I got rejection letter after rejection letter. They all said the same thing: no one will buy a book on this topic. This was not the writing life I had envisioned. But I kept trying and I wrote for this site while I waited for the book deal. In 2016 I signed with an agent and then my Dad’s dementia kicked into high gear and all of a sudden life was once again about doctor’s appointments and trips to the emergency department and moving him into a nursing home. After he died the following year, I felt like I could really start living. I was no longer a caregiver and I could focus on my family, my career, and my book. And that’s what I did — for a few months.

Just seven months after my father passed away, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. If ever there was a time to put life on hold, this was it. But life doesn’t come with a pause button. I still had to go to work so we could pay the bills. And we still had to parent. When my agent called and said there was interest in my book, I was sitting in the hospital. That’s where I signed with my publisher and that’s where I finished writing the book – on the ninth floor of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital – the cancer treatment floor. That’s also the place my husband and I continued to make great memories. “Chemo days are the new date nights,” we told his nurses. Life wasn’t on hold; life was just something we never, ever imagined. Sometimes it was scary and sad. Sometimes it was joyful. Every day it was messy and challenging.

But you already know this about life, don’t you? I’m sure of it. You’ve been caregiving through a pandemic. Some of you have lost friends, family, jobs, security – any sense of normalcy. Maybe you did in fact put some aspects of your life on hold – but your life kept going anyway, didn’t it?

Here’s the thing, you have a choice: wake up every day and wait, or wake up every day and live. The life you woke up to today, is your life. It may be different than you planned, it may be altered, it may be really, really hard, but there’s no waiting until this passes.

My hope for you is that you find a way to live within the parameters that exist for you now. Look for that job. Call those friends. Pursue that passion. You may not make much progress. You may have to cancel or put things on hold…again. You may actually start seeing results and smiling and building toward the future. And trust me, when things shift, and they will, you’ll be better for it. That saying – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Turns out it’s true. I have proof.

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30 comments on “Why Waiting Until Is A Bad Idea”

  1. Sandy Compton Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this. It must have been difficult to recall all of these tradigies. It does show that time heals and life goes on, sometimes even better. Thank you for being you!

  2. RS Reply

    I lost my job this past year and spent it as caretaker for my husband who was very ill, battling alcoholism and in and out of the hospital all while being the primary parent for my daughters.
    I feel lost and alone mixed with an urgency to figure out what comes next for me and the thought that I’m not making headway
    quick enough.
    You just reminded me that life doesn’t go as planned and trying and showing up imperfectly
    Is still progress. Thank you for sharing such an important message. It literally brought me down from an emotional spiral I was having today.

    • admin Reply

      Thanks for your message. I understand that “urgency to figure out what comes next.” But life doesn’t work that way.

  3. Barbara Heffner Reply

    This essay is a gift. I’m in my next round of caregiving – my brother, throat cancer. This post is such a good reminder that life changes shape when we least expect it and we need to try to meet it with grace. I have the following quote taped to my computer and I re-read it in times of stress. But I’m bookmarking this post, to add to my arsenal when I need a mental reset. Big hug to you Liz.

    “Spirituality lies not in the power to heal others, to perform miracles, or to astound the world with our wisdom, but in the ability to endure with right attitude whatever crosses we have to face in our daily lives, and thus to rise above them.” ~ Sri Daya Mata

  4. Peter Gordon Reply

    Thank you for a wonderful post. Life’s journey is not a straight path. We go up, we go down. The key is to keep going. And, as you wrote “One of the saddest things we can do in life – as a caregiver, or in any situation – is wait”. My journey was quite different than yours, and as a man, not as rigorous. However, I did find that when my parents were ill I experienced the most joy when I was helping them. Just sitting and talking to my mom, who had dementia and was bed-bound, provided me many moments of serenity. And often that is all I needed.
    I have since taken these experiences and transitioned careers to become a Daily Money Manager, working mostly with seniors as part of a team that helps them age with dignity. It turns out that caring for my parents led me to my life’s calling.

    • admin Reply

      Caregiving often leads us to who and what we are meant to be. Thanks for reaching out.

  5. Joanne Reply

    Thank you, I need to read this. God bless you for your article, helps others to reflect on what life is all about

  6. Kim Reply

    Thank you for your wisdom. I’ve spent much of the past five years walking the halls of hospitals, struggling to decipher cryptic or non-committal diagnoses from doctors all while working full time, living in a multi-generational home and hoping, just hoping, to finish my novel. Earlier this week, I was thrown a new challenge when my husband had a stroke. The past few days have found me at my lowest, ready to give up and allow this life to drag me by my throat down into some new hellhole. Thankfully, a guardian angel sent your message my way along with a healthy dose of encouragement. Thank you for sharing your journey. Right now, though, I think it’s time to get back to that novel…and take whatever else comes as it comes. 🙂

  7. Shelly Reply

    Thank you , The timing of this coming to me was perfect. You touched on everything I have been feeling and going though. I had this in my thoughts but this morning while going for a walk had been thinking about this very thing .. and I decided to thank God as I was walking for giving me the strength needed to continue this life paths .. It has truly been hard my mother died 4 years ago and I found out my Step dad had dementia his only son died 9 years ago and his brother lives out of state . My two brothers told me no we can’t help they have had thing in their lives that they can’t do anymore .. so here I am .. This time with him I got to know him as a person not just my moms husband .. as he slowly goes into the abyss he knows he is not alone I am here .. He is in memory care .. this last year has been hard with little visiting except for outdoor . I struggle with many things as you have said .. and have thought I’m sick of putting my life on hold . Thank you, thank you , thank you

  8. Bonnie Reply

    Thank you. I’m going to print this so I can read it again and again. My experiences have been similar, and the encouragement to go ahead and live life is much needed. Life has become fearful and resigned, all thoughts pushed aside by “what next?” All my worry, fear, disappointment, and resentment won’t change a thing. I’ll still get tired and frustrated, and mourn the life I had planned, but. the only normal is what I wake up to today.

    • admin Reply

      It takes work to chose different feelings – but we can! Hang in there and thanks for reaching out.

  9. Cathy Buday Reply

    Thank you for this piece. I took care of my mom for 5 1/2 years. I loved her so much but found there were limits to what I was mentally able to do. With the support of my husband and siblings we put mom in assisted living, where she spent a very happy year (closer to our other relatives, who visited frequently) before she passed away. Sometimes realizing you need your life back, and taking action, is the hardest thing; harder on the caregiver than the elderly loved one. It look me a while to realize I wasn’t “giving up,” that she would be safer and happier in a new place.

  10. Karen Saunders Reply

    Thank you so much for this. This is exactly how I feel lately and I just stay in denial. Some days very far and few between, I’m better…I’m going with the flow, being positive. Being grateful and mindful of the present. But then something bad or sad happens that sends me falling through a dark hole again. People on facebook, my friends, relatives, their lives seem to be going on as if nothing ever interrupts them. All around me people are continuing with their lives, going on vacations, getting promotions, children getting married, etc. My life just seems to be on hold and I resent it when I compare my life to others. I know this is wrong and sounds awful but it is honestly how I feel.

    • admin Reply

      Our feelings are never wrong. And it takes work to chose different feelings – but we can! Hang in there!

  11. Kathy Reply

    It is because of your book that I found you on fb, and that led to emails and this site. I’m so sorry you had to go through all these devastating losses to get to where you are now. Your book was so well-written…and I’m surprised that you received all those rejections before being accepted. Do publishers not have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in everyday lives? I thank you for continuing to help caregivers with practical, real, honest advice, resources and encouragement.

  12. Lynn Billing Reply

    Oh my, I really needed to see this today! I’ve been wallowing… having pity parties, staying stuck in the “if only”s!
    Life is short- there is so much to enjoy, and be thankful for.
    thanks for the kick in the butt! Really!!!

  13. Jean Reply

    Thank you for writing this. My Mom has had a number of health issues over the past 4 years ( dementia is not one of them) and juggling medical appointments with work has drained me. Your essay reminds me to stop, take a breather, acknowledge where I am at and continue to move towards where I need to be, regardless of the pace.

  14. Elizabeth Reply

    Oh dear, I have been waiting, just existing, how did I not see that? Going on 1.5 years of putting my world on hold, missing my privacy, my home, my work contract ended and I know working full time (even remotely) will not be possible while living with my mom. Dealing with feelings of guilt that I am not doing enough and worrying about my own health as the pandemic has added its own stress to everyday living.
    Thank you for your article and helping me identify what should have been evident but you can’t see what is in front of you if you don’t look up!
    Here’s to tomorrow and finding my inner strength.

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