The following was written while I was caring for my father during his declining years. While Dad has since passed away, the experiences and lessons learned are worth sharing.

What in the world am I doing?  What am I waiting for? Putting off taking care of myself is not the answer, however, some days…

During the season of caring for my mom from 2008 to 2010, I found myself sitting and watching her while she slept. I ate everything I could get my hands on, and I didn’t care to engage with others. I was in a bubble of watching and waiting. When it was over, I swore I would never again do that to myself.

Guess what. Here I am living with my dad and although the health circumstances are different, the results are the same: I’m isolating. When Dad sleeps, I sleep, and he sleeps a lot. This is my take on it: With the necessity of being on high alert to deal with the dementia that Dad has, I don’t sleep. And I need to sleep sometime, so…well…you get the picture.

This is what I’ve come to realize: I’ve told myself that I will take care of me after Dad is gone. Okay, whom amongst you out there is stepping into those shoes right now and can relate to this?  I would venture to say that most women—sorry, nothing personal to you men out there—are always taking care of everyone else. Ladies, we are all caregivers in one capacity or another, whether it be caring for children, an elderly family member, a husband or a friend. If you get five or ten minutes to take care of you, you are probably thinking, I should be taking care this or that instead. Am I right?

The reality of this season in my life is that this is truly the most opportune time for me to care for myself emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. To give you a little perspective, here is a breakdown of my time:

7 days a week = 168 hours:

TIME AT HOME TIME AWAY Hours in which I could take timeout for me
Every other week – 163 hours Every other week – 5 hours 163 hours including sleep
Every other week – 161 hours Every other week – 7 hours

161 hours including sleep

Out of 163 or 161 hours a week, there should be NO excuse to not take care of myself, right?

Last night, I did just that. Most Tuesday evenings, my brother comes over, so I may go to church—thank God for my church’s online services—or just get out of the house. I was not feeling well last night, so when he arrived, I excused myself, went to my room, and instead of leaving the door cracked open so I could hear if Dad got up, I shut the door, I set my alarm and I went to sleep. My alarm went off in time to watch our church service.

The service was about loving your neighbor as yourself. Bingo! Have I been loving myself by not taking care of me? Reality check, “No, I haven’t.” I can’t take care of others unless I am able, and I am not able if I don’t take care of myself.

The intention I sat this morning is to eat better, move more, focus, think positively, pray more and, last but not least, ask for more. Do I expect to do this perfectly every day? No. I need grace for myself every day to love me more.

My heart is filled with gratitude for the amazing support system of those that surround me, but, here’s the thing: if your support system is unaware of what is going on with you, their support for you may be limited to less than what you need. Others cannot read your thoughts. One of the miracles is to “Ask for what you want.” You’ll be glad you did, and you will love yourself more.