Have you ever been horrified at your own pettiness?  I am!

We just returned from a trip that took us first to visit with dear friends in Grove, Oklahoma, at their home on Grand Lake.  What a beautiful spot!  Then we spent three nights and the days at Lookout Point Lakeside Inn Bed and Breakfast in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We finished the trip at Eureka Springs, Arkansas and returned home last night, after a detour to Emporia, Kansas to have a Sundae at Braum’s.  Arkansas is overwhelmingly beautiful at this time of the year.  Dogwoods were blooming throughout the tens of thousands of acres of woods through which the roads wound.  Everywhere we looked it appeared as if there was a layer of pure white snow hanging above the floor of the forest.

As I reported in my last post, after a challenging first night at the B&B on account of some middle of the night issues with Mary Ann, and a physically draining, beautiful visually but draining day, we returned to our room.  The one handicapped parking space that allowed us to enter the B&B on the same level as our room was taken by a vehicle without a Handicapped Plate or sticker. Gratefully, there was a second space in that same area.  It was available.

We relish the handicapped parking spaces since we need room to bring the wheel chair to the passenger side of the car so that Mary Ann can easily move into it.  When she is mobile (which is most of the time) she can walk to the back of the car to get into the chair.  There was enough room to get the chair between the cars.  There was actually no real inconvenience to us.

It is true that I was concerned that the folks who had been using that lower non-handicapped spot would be annoyed that I took their spot.  It is true I was concerned that if we left in the car someone else might take that non-handicapped parking spot, leaving us the only other option of parking in an upper lot with a very steep incline to the lower door.  Upper doors led only to stairs stairs inside, not negotiable in a wheelchair.

Yes, I had reason to be annoyed.  I assumed that the person who used the spot was just another one who ignores any efforts to make life easier for those of us who have special needs.  It is always a struggle to find a way into any public place, stores, restaurants, museums, especially those in older buildings or small venues without the resources to make major modifications to their place for easy access to wheelchairs.  But we had no real problem getting to our room.  It was fine!

I couldn’t let it go.  I complained to the Innkeeper at the desk.  I saw a group meeting in the dining room and assumed someone there was the culprit.  The vehicle had indication of an organization on the door.  It seemed logical to me that the group meeitng was for folks in that organization.  I was right.

I kept checking to see if someone went out to move the vehicle.  I just couldn’t let it go!  Even though we were fine, I stewed about it.  The group met for hours.  It was not until they broke up for a late supper that I saw some of them head down the hall toward the lower parking spots.  I went out to move our van into the handicapped spot when they left.  I couldn’t keep from asking the driver if she realized she had parked in a handicapped spot.  She said yes.  She added that they (the B&B Staff) told her it was all right.  I went on to tell her about our need with the wheel chair.  I spoke with attitude, and she was not apologetic.

Caregivers sweat the small stuff.  We had not actually been inconvenienced.  The driver had been told she could park there.  The Staff person who gave permission made an error in judgment, but she did not intend to cause us a problem.  It was small stuff!  Not to me!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how small I had become.  We were in the midst of flowers and birds and serenity and wonderful lake views and sunsets and gourmet meals and afternoon wine and cheese and good people.  We had time to be together as we saw an impressive garden.  We got to dig through mud in search of quartz crystals.  We got to see mountains and wonderfully contrasting colors of conifers sprinkled among the freshly leaved deciduous trees.  How could something of no actual consequence grow to a size that interfered with the celebration of life we were free to enjoy in that remarkable place.

My world has gotten too small.  The realization settled in that I had allowed something to grow out of proportion to its importance.  That problem is mine.  The more I think about it, the more I suspect that those of us who are full time Caregivers are especially susceptible to sweating the small stuff.  Our world is shrinking.  Many of us are virtually house bound.  When confined to a small space, little things look bigger by comparison to the space in which we find them.  When our view of the world is filled by one central task, mostly done at our house, everything we encounter is magnified in our eyes.

It seems to me that the problem of sweating the small stuff is not confined to Caregivers.  In the past, I have noticed that older folks (whatever that means when said by a sixty-six year old) sometimes seem to be so particular.  If the restaurant doesn’t have the sweetener they use, it is to them a big deal.  Older folks seem to be grumpy about little things of no real importance.  I am horrified to discover that I have caught the virus.  I knew I was letting something grow out of proportion to its real importance.  I couldn’t stop.  Nothing I did cured that particular expression of sweating the small stuff.

That particular outbreak of the virus finally subsided.  I talked with the owner of the B&B who explained that they often did give permission for people to use that spot if is was not needed.  She apologized that the permission had been given in light of our need.  I made a point of connecting with the driver I had scolded to apologize for my tone with her.  She had just done what she had been told was all right to do.  She had a back problem that made the stairs very difficult to negotiate, so she had asked about using the spot. She felt badly that it happened.  She valued the importance of honoring that accommodation to the needs of those with physical limitations.

As with most viral infections (metaphorically speaking), there is no cure.  Our world, and, I suspect, the world of most Caregivers, is growing smaller as the Parkinson’s progresses.  To find meaning in our lives even as the space within which we live them grows smaller, we have to work at keeping things in perspective.  It helped me to think about what was happening as I let something small grow out of proportion to its actual size.  I couldn’t stop myself from letting it grow, but by thinking about it and watching it, realizing I didn’t want it to be happening, finally it settled back into its proper place.

Caregivers sweat the small stuff.  I hope that the time and effort spent processing this outbreak of pettiness will help me find the way to better perspective sooner next time a bit of small stuff starts to grow.

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