I cannot sleep.
I lie in my bed. Quiet, reasonably comfortable. But sleep, true sleep, does not come.
My thoughts move here and there, from the future to the past, searching for a place to settle. Are my priorities right? Is the way I spend my time important? Time is passing, is slipping by me, second by second. When I look at my hands, they are the hands of an older woman.
How has this happened? How have I slipped into this state of middle age? Have I come here gracefully? Am I living my life as I planned, with the intentions that I valued?
So much of the time, I am so happy. I am busy, moving from one moment to the next, from one task to the next. I am absorbed by the next goal, the next challenge. I make the meals, I clean the messes, I drop off and pick up, living my life by a clock which never stops moving forward. Inch by inch, my days slip by.
Around and in between it all, I work. Grant after grant, story after story. I make progress, and yet, I stand still. I stay right here, always with more around me to be done, always with more to achieve, more to accomplish. Other things that I meant to do with my time as well.
My daughters are aging. They are both taller than me, growing but not yet grown. I cannot yet stop caring for them, and their day to day needs take up much of my attention. That is as it should be. I think.
My parents are aging. No longer can I count on them to support me, to be there for me. Slowly, the roles are shifting. Now I am becoming the one on whom they depend. Soon I will be the one who must helps make their choices, the one who must be available to them for assistance and companionship. I am not sure that I am ready for that.
Over the last year, I have pushed my father towards the doctor. A new responsibility - now I accompany them to their many appointments, taking notes and asking questions. Last week, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
I am not ready. I knew that it was coming; I could see the clear signs. For months and even years now, he has already been slipping away, already losing part of himself into the vague malfunctions of his brain. But the diagnosis was still a shock. It took my breath and brought dry tears up to burn at the backs of my eyes and my throat, tears that I held back throughout the appointment, the meeting with the social worker, through lunch with my parents after, until I was alone in my car, speeding down the freeway and crying at the way that our lives unfold.
I am not ready for more occupation that is not making my own success. And I am not ready to lose him so completely, but over such a long period of time.
And I know that it is all illusion anyway.