IMG_0957There’s nothing that can drain away a person’s enthusiasm and zest for life much quicker than illness and/or pain. It can consume both the person with the condition and his/her caregiver. It can dominate our thinking and our activities to the point of taking over our lives. I’ve come to think of Alex’s pain as an emotional vacuum cleaner, because as hard as he tries to stay positive, there are times when his condition sucks all of the energy right out of the room.

I have always been a high-energy, project oriented person. I wake up early every morning looking forward to completing the tasks on my “To Do List” for that day.

Yesterday I stayed in bed until almost 7:00. I was tired when I woke up. My arms and legs felt heavy, and I bumbled around going from one thing to the next without getting much accomplished. I found myself procrastinating on a number of tasks that I normally would have tackled with enthusiasm, and I wasted a considerable amount of time doing nothing in particular.

Years ago I heard a motivational speaker say, “If you have to eat a toad sometime during the day, you might as well do it first thing in the morning and get it over with.” I always liked that philosophy. Rather than taking a bite at a time and dragging it out over a long stretch of time, it makes sense to minimize the misery and do it all at once.

Around 4:00 o’clock I gave myself a mental kick in the rear. I am the healthy one right now, and if I spend all of my energy focusing on Alex’s pain, we will both get down and nothing will get done. I made a list of four things I had avoided doing all day, and I knocked them out before 5:00. (I ate my toad.)

These weren’t big things. They were small, nagging, irritating jobs that I don’t like to do, but once I got them finished I felt good about the day.

So if you have a toad you need to eat sometime today, I’d like to encourage you to do it now. Procrastinating will only make it bigger, fatter and uglier. As caregivers we can’t control how our loved one’s feel. We can’t control their actions or attitudes, but we can control our own. I hope, like me, you will find that scratching a few unpleasant tasks off your list will increase your enthusiasm and energy and lighten your emotional load.