The middle is the part you’re not supposed to talk about while it’s happening. It’s more comforting to the audience and certainly more safe to wait until you know how the story concludes before talking about it. This is definitely not the part you’re supposed to talk about out loud while trying to start a company or find work because this is the part that is messy and not at all heroic. It doesn’t make a good segment on a resume or highlighted skill on LinkedIn. It’s terrifying to write about. Writing at the middle, and worse, sharing it, means no satisfaction for the reader and no rest for the writer, not just because I’m afraid of what you might think but because the days are still occupied by the story unfolding.
When it comes to caregiving, every part that is not the day it starts or the day it ends is the middle. There are no stages in between because nothing unfolds predictably. The beginning can be a surprise or as inevitable as the end, but the middle is a daily reckoning with some new challenge. Barring the certainty of the finale, I don’t know how this is all going to work out. Each day is simply another tone on the Shepherd scale of caregiving.
I spent this past weekend sitting on the couch, my coffee table piled with all the receipts for things we’ve covered the cost of this past year as I read the latest rejection email. They were excited about my work and my future, it just wasn’t going to be in their program. The dwindling of our savings account has paired frighteningly with the dwindling of my professional opportunities. The cushion slowly built up to separate my life now from the one in poverty that I came from is now gone.
The overlap between when my husband and I started our new roles as caregivers to an elderly relative and when I started accumulating rejections to every full time job and fellowship I’ve applied to this past year is both unavoidable in notice and as related and not related as two things can be. (I’m not completely out of work, as I still do consulting and contract projects and I’m forever grateful to the people I get to work with regularly.)