Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Writing, Caregiving, & Detours
"If you’re not currently involved with caring for your parents on some level, chances are you will be in the future." --Author Candy Arrington, on her book When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, releasing today.
In a guest post, Candy tells us of her journey and writing. What makes a writer and lover of fiction turn to nonfiction? And what truths has she learned about writing amid crisis?
My first brush with caregiving came when my father received a cancer diagnosis. Over the next five months, I quickly learned the intricacies of role reversal as I watch my strong, capable father wither and weaken. I helped with his personal care, yet tried to allow him to maintain independence in some form, when possible. Daddy had always been the person I turned to for wisdom and support. Suddenly, he was looking to me to for help with everyday activities and decisions he’d previously made with skill and decisiveness. On the day Daddy died, I climbed up on the bed with him, held his hand, and said good-bye. This caregiving journey was short; the grieving process longer.
My current caregiving role has been a slow ascent up the ladder to the high wire that is my current balancing act. Four years ago, Mama called and asked me to take her to the grocery store. I was surprised because until then she’d been totally independent. She never drove again after that day, and my new caregiving journey began.
Last year, Mama fell and fractured a vertebra. I was teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference when I got the message to come home. Over the next five months, Mama had surgery, almost died, and was in and out of the hospital and rehab. My life as a caregiver moved into a different and more complicated phase.
At the time, I was in the process of writing When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life, although the working title at that time was Balancing Act. I’m thankful for my coauthor, Kim Atchley, because caregiving so overwhelmed my life at that point I’m not sure I could have met the deadline on my own. My editor jokingly said I got to “field test” the topic. Indeed, I added content to the book during revisions and again with final edits based on additional situations I encountered and things I learned during the months after the manuscript deadline.
I tell you all this to stress two things about the writing life:
1. You can write even during crisis situations. I wrote several chapters sitting by Mama’s hospital bed that I don’t even remember writing.
2. God never wastes difficult circumstances. You may not be able to discern at the time, but once the crisis is over nuggets rise to the surface.
Caring for my mother has changed the direction I had in mind for my writing. Now, at 89, Mama depends on me for everything from finances to meals to help with bathing. I had plans to write a novel, and I still have that goal, but for this season of my writing life God has me tackling some tough topics via nonfiction. I could be frustrated, but I know from the interest I’ve already received for When Your Aging Parent Needs Care that this book has a huge audience. The book provides support, encouragement, spiritual nourishment, and practical answers to aid those navigating this stage of life.
If you’re dealing with a life issue that slows your writing plans, make notes on your current circumstances. See what the Lord reveals to you. And if you’re writing fiction, you may find God takes you down a nonfiction path for a season.
Enjoy the journey!
-- Candy Arrington
Order When Your Aging Parent Needs Care from Amazon.