Today I picked up a prescription alone. I sat in the car for four, possibly five, glorious minutes and checked Facebook on my phone while I ate a pack of miniature Cadbury Eggs I didn’t have to share.
And then my bucket was full. Well it wasn’t full but it was full as could be at this point in my week.
If you are reading this while carrying an empty bucket don’t worry, you can read on. I promise I will not tell you to take time for yourself or spend a weekend away with the girls because I know how isolating those suggestions can feel when they are not an option even on the best of your best days.
I was the carrier of a bone-dry bucket for many years. Only in the last year or two have I been able to come up for air, the special needs of both of my girls teetering on stable for more days than not. There are still times when the well-meaning advice of taking a break is laughable but I’m far from where life used to hold me.
I remember one of my lowest points. My daughter had recently died, I was parenting two preemies with complicated medical needs and managing a hormonal preteen with autism. I laughed at the thought of a girl’s night out or even that appointment with a therapist I so desperately needed. Filling my own bucket was not an option. My therapist offered phone appointments so I could get a drop of water here and there but other than that I was flying (or dragging along) solo.
On those worst days, I talked to myself. Some might say this sealed my insanity. But I told myself, over the sound of screaming babies and angsty teens things like “this is only temporary” and “the only way out is through.” Either I believed it or talking to the voice in my head was enough to keep me company because I survived.
I know that many of you are carrying buckets that are empty more than they are full. You are a special needs parent or a single mom or have never had the luxury of a babysitter nearby. I know that putting yourself first– filling your own bucket before you shovel everyone else’s full– might not be an option at this time in your life. So I’m not going to tell you to do it. I’m going to tell you I understand. I wish you could have a two hour break or a sunny vacation somewhere but I know that is not realistic and, if you’re like me, I know you’ve come to accept this on some level.
One of these days we’ll look back and clink our glasses that we’ve filled from our overflowing buckets, but not today. For now we’ll connect and share stories in the only way we can, as our cars idle in the parking lot of the pharmacy before someone calls to find out how long it will be before we’re back home again.
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