Who in the hell coined the phrase “Sandwich Generation?” That makes this time in life sound substantial or pleasurable or sustaining…like something you’d want to have, right? Don’t most people like sandwiches? What a bunch of garbage.
Sandwich generation my ass. I’d welcome a sandwich. I am about as far from the sandwich life as you could get. Forget sandwiches…I’m not gourmet. I’m not fresh or delicious or nutritious. What AM I now? What is the term for a thing that gets squeezed from all sides, with increasing pressure as time goes by? That’s what I am. Black hole? Nah, that’s not it…I mean I do lose a ton of stuff and anything that goes missing or awry probably was on my event horizon at some point but no…not black hole. Metamorphic rock? Yasssss. That’s it. A bunch of simply formed, ordinary basic rock materials that are just smashed to hell by forces around it and then for good measure probably are superheated at the same time. Crushing pressure and intense heat. Ahhh…just like being a middle-aged woman in South Texas.
I just committed my 11-year old son to a psychiatric facility. For the fifth time. Since Christmas. He and I, we are no strangers to this process. At this point in his short life, he will probably hit 20 cumulative hospitalizations by year end. I watch him cycle through symptoms that could be attributed to any one of 15 different diagnoses he’s had over the years and I wonder if I will ever feel like I understand how to be what he needs. I feel all the feelings or I feel nothing.
On the flip side of this tasty metamorphic rock grilled cheese of life are my parents who are nearing their end and they are not going to go peacefully. They were, by nature, loners who chose to live in the middle of nowhere. And we are in different time zones. So, here we are. Isolation. No public transportation. No technology but a landline and cable tv. The phrase “few and far between” might have been written as a description of the availability of health care providers in their area. Every week is a new fresh hell of falls, confusion, oxygen tanks and plumbing problems – literal and metaphorical. Oh yeah, clinical bullheadedness. Look it up, it’s a thing.
The sound of a phone ringing fills me with dread. Which heart wrenching situation is coming now? I know I’m not the only person who feels this. I mean, my Aunt and I begin texts to each other with “No one is dead” so we can wait for the rest of the message without holding our breath. “No one is dead. How’s retirement?” “No one is dead. Are you going to Vegas for Uncle Pat’s birthday?” “No one is dead. What did the doctor say about your back pain?”
Probably the most difficult part of this stage in life is the isolation I feel. I know I’m not the only metamorphic rock sandwich woman there is. I’m probably not the only one in my office or my circle of acquaintances. But the rocky sandwich life sucks up every spare moment that exists. By nature it’s unpredictable so when I make plans to be human, inevitably I have to back out of them. A true study in classical conditioning, it’s happened enough times to me that now even the thought of making plans makes me anxious and sad. Pavlov would be proud. I miss my life. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss easy laughter. I miss empty moments that I didn’t need to fill with tasks because now even basic activities of daily life need to be scheduled. I miss working with my hands and creating and cooking.
This rocky sandwich season of life has left some lessons with me though. I have done a much better job of focusing on the blessings in the moment. I think I’m a bit better about asking for help. Not great at it but I was horrible at it before so it’s all relative. I am much less likely to bite off more than I can chew, which has been a life-long issue for me. I have begun to pray and seek something outside of myself to help me find center or at least give me something to hold on to when the storms wreck me. I don’t know that the value of these lessons outweighs the pain through which they were gained but I’m not in charge so ….whatever 🙂