A Healthy Stepmother . . . shakes and sighs.

I drove my 75-year-old father to the eye doctor yesterday. He struggles with diabetes and the health complications that go along with it. He was also head-injured as a young man so there are no simple conversations. Every interaction is fraught with emotion and debate. As a child, I learned the strategies to work with him when he was unpredictable but since then I’ve spent decades unraveling those strategies as quickly as I could to give myself a fighting chance to have a healthy life of my own.

I’m hooked less and less these days by his inflammatory statements and dramatic way of sharing his concerns. After dropping him off at his house, I could not miss that my sighs were huge, and I don’t remember sighing so freely before.

A sigh is familiar, in fact my dogs sigh constantly. They lie down and heave a big sigh. Ten minutes later, there’s another sigh. It’s as if all the stuff they are thinking goes out the window and they lie quietly and in the next moment they are sleeping.

I let my next sigh grow bigger. It felt good. As if all the excess tension of keeping good boundaries and not over-reacting was released in a positive way. I sighed again.

My little dog shakes a lot when she is nervous, even when it seems there was a positive event. She might receive a very nice back rub or a good belly scratch from someone and when she walks away from that person, she shakes and her whole body joins in with a wiggle that shakes her from her head to her tail.

I’ve always been jealous of that shake. I’m convinced a shake like that could let humans shed their excess worry and tension. Maybe we wouldn’t have to take so many medications. And for sure, our spines would be more supple.

For me, I’m working my way away from is carrying around a frustrated mind. I’m working on letting things be the way they are without feeling like I’m the person designated to fix everything. You know what I’m talking about, whether it’s your parents or the worry you have for your stepkids, you cannot be the end-all, be-all, solver-all.

So what do you do in the years of witnessing, when life isn’t all pretty and nice and everyone gets along? I think you have to keep sighing and shaking. Copy my dogs or your dogs, they have it right. When there is too much stimulation and life is overwhelming, take a good shake. Or, wander to one of your favorite coffee shops to pause and sit down with a big, huge sigh.

Copy, as copying was meant to be.

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