Finding My Footing

My husband Sem recently wrote in a blog post, “I left my native county of Caithness fifty-odd years ago and I never imagined that I would return. Unfortunate circumstances brought me here and it surprises me to find that I am grateful. Caithness fits me like an old, well-worn glove, and I find that unexpectedly comforting.”

I can sense that, in him. He loved our wee village in Sutherland too; after all, he lived there for 20 years. Here, though, he is very much at ease in a way that’s different to how he seemed to me, in the village. He understands these Caithnessians; they are his people and this is his background. It is lovely to see him settle in.

Me? I’m a bit lost.

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I don’t mean “lost” in the sense that I don’t know where I am, though getting around “the toon” can certainly be challenging sometimes. No, I mean that I am sort of all at sea on the inside, here. I miss the familiar sights in our former village, and it is very strange to not see well-known faces everywhere I go. It’s a little bit like when I infrequently went to the mall in my 30s. Having been somewhat of a “mall rat” in my teens, I expected to see school friends around every corner even all that time later. But all of the faces were unknown, fresh generations of teenagers having taken over where I’d left off so long ago.

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I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t manage to make any very close friends in the village, but I am realizing that there is a lot to be said for familiarity. I know this place in a general sense but I don’t know it intimately like I did the village. It is a little bit too big here for me to be able to do that, though I’m getting better at navigating to where we want to be. What takes getting used to is the fact that no matter how many faces I peer at, it will be very seldom that I see any I know, at least for a while.

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My strange sense of being adrift is more than those obvious things, though. Since Sem started dialysis in 2011 I’ve been his only caregiver, solely responsible (well, along with him) for his treatments, ordering of medicines and medical supplies, organization of appointments and the coordination of more specialists than we ever thought we’d see. I was glad to do it, and grateful that I could devote my time to whatever Sem needed. I did vow “for better or worse” and I meant it. For about five years we had things down to a well-honed routine, and that only changed when Sem had to switch from peritoneal dialysis at home to hemodialysis in the renal unit. When that happened my hands-on involvement with his treatments ceased. For the first few weeks I made the 140 mile round trip to spend each day with him at the hospital while he recovered from peritonitis and surgery, and then for the better part of nine months after that, we spent many hours a week traveling to and from dialysis. Then came the move, and all that went with it, and I was busy with unpacking and moving furniture around, plus all the paperwork (project still ongoing!) that is involved with a house-move.

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Things have settled quite a lot by now, and I find myself at loose ends while Sem is at dialysis these days. It used to be that I hung around in the hospital cafeteria during his dialysis, reading books or writing articles and blog entries. The people I got to know there who became our move-to-the-north cheerleaders often said, “It’ll be grand once you move; you’ll be able to go home during Sem’s treatments rather than sitting here!”

They weren’t wrong; it is nice to no longer sit shivering in a freezing hospital cafeteria on uncomfortable chairs, waiting for the time to go by. I have big chunks of time to do with what I will. My plans were (and are) ambitious: start an exercise routine, write for at least an hour each day, be a better housekeeper, and work my way through address changes, to name a few. Now that we’ve been here for two and a half months, all of that should be well in hand, right?

Sem making a new friend in the town.

Sem making a new friend in the town.

You’d think so, but here I am… a little bit lost. Now that the “heavy lifting” of the move is over, I feel heavy-limbed and sluggish, out-of-sorts and woolly-headed. Directionless. Since 2011 my entire focus has been on Sem’s care, but now he is in the very capable and kind hands of his dialysis nurses. I am grateful to them, but it is a strange feeling, not to be needed.

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I must be clear about the fact that none of this is a complaint. What we have now – where we are now – is fine. It will take getting used to, but as towns go, it’s a pretty nice one. It will just take me longer to settle in here, than it did for Sem. He’s never lived in this town but Caithness is his home county, and the places and people are familiar to him in a way that they could never be, for me.

In the same blog post I quoted above Sem went on to say, “Now I’m revisiting places I last saw as a child, and finding them unaltered. In a rapidly changing world that provides a welcome stability.”

Keiss Castle.

Keiss Castle.

I think that’s a large part of why Sem has fit in to our new life up here so quickly and so well. I’m glad for that, for him, because the changes in his life over this last year have been enormous in every possible way, and not always for the better. Knowing that he feels at ease here, and that he enjoys being in Caithness more than he expected to makes me very happy indeed.

For me, though, nothing feels very stable right now as I find my footing in not just a new place, but in a very different life than the one we had before it all changed. These first ten weeks have been hard, I won’t lie. Having so much time to myself has not been a good thing, I think, but I’m slowly coming out of a somewhat dark mindset. I’ve stopped playing Solitaire for hours and reading mindless articles on Reddit. I’ve started doing the odd push-up or three, and composing articles and stories in my mind, if not yet committing them to screen. I am hopeful that I’m not quite such a big pain in the behind to Sem, as I find my way out of the mire.

I’m trying – I’ve been trying all along – to adjust to so many changes, in very stressful times, and what I’m working hard on now is finding my way under a new sub-title. For so long I’ve been Deb: Wife, Companion, and Caregiver. I’m still Deb, and I’m still a wife and companion, and even in some ways still a caregiver, but no longer with a capital-C. So what am I, now? I’m not sure yet, but I know that whatever it is, it really can be almost anything I want it to be.

I just have to find my way there.

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Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on anewscafe.com. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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41 Responses

  1. cheyenne says:

    I left Redding area, after 40 years, ten years ago.  Getting used to Cheyenne, other than the blizzards and minus wind chill, was difficult at first.  We, my wife and I, have settled in with new friends and new activities.  Instead of working I now scour auctions and garage sales, I have turned into an American Picker.  But, today we travel to Loveland for my wife to see a lung specialist, a few weeks ago I took her to the clinic and she has been on 24/7 oxygen since.  At 6,000 feet Cheyenne may not be feasible to live in anymore and that would mean moving to Phoenix.  Our grandkids are there so that is a plus but starting over with new friends, new doctors, new activities seems daunting.  I just found a good auto repairmen and now I have to start over.  Deb,to say I have followed your stories with interest is a little of an understatement as I am finding myself in a similar situation as you.

    • Deb says:

      I’m right here with you, Cheyenne.  I am sorry that your wife is having lung problems – my husband does, as well, and breathing problems have their whole own set of anxieties and worries.  I hope that the specialist will be able to help her, and that if you do move to Phoenix, it will be a good move for both of you.  Starting over is hard, especially when we think we’re finally finished with being the new guy.

      On a lighter note, we often watch the TV show ‘American Pickers’ and I am enchanted.  You must meet so many interesting people when you go on your rounds, and hopefully the occasional treasure, too 🙂

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    I’m still Deb, and I’m still a wife and companion, and even in some ways still a caregiver, but no longer with a capital-C. So what am I, now?”  What you are is Wonderful Deb, the Deb whose stories and photos are looked forward to by dozens – hundreds? – of  News Cafe readers who are – and have been – in you cheering section since learning of your Sem’s situation.  Change is always difficult and seldom desired, but you will find your footing.  Since you mentioned exercise, perhaps you can find the Caithness version of Align and – like Doni – become part of a workout family.

    As always, I look forward to your next installment.

    • Deb says:

      Wonderful Deb!  I like the sound of that, Beverly 🙂  Thank you – and thank you for being our cheerleader and interested reader and, dare I say, friend.

      Not sure if our ‘wee toon’ has a place like Align, wouldn’t that be great, though?  But until finances stabilize after all the moving expenses, I will start out with good old push-ups and stretches and leg-lifts and crunches, and see how I do 🙂

  3. Karen Calanchini says:

    Deb, I do not know how things work in the country you are in, but was thinking you might enjoy  getting out for a few hours a week for volunteer work. Perhaps at a hospital, school, police department? Some of my fondest memories  are the years I volunteered.

    You will find your nitch. As always, I  love to read another chapter in your life.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Karen.  Volunteering is a good thought – what holds me back a bit is never knowing when we might be spending days/weeks at the hospital, if Sem takes a bad turn, as they say here.  Even though it’s volunteering, people do still depend on each other to show up and not be unavailable at short notice, and I’m sensitive to that – not wanting to let people down.  I’ll find my way – it will just take a while.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article – thank you for the encouragement and the support!

  4. Thank you for the beautiful photos – and the honest reflections. We moved to Shasta County (where we didn’t know a soul) twenty years ago and it was a long time before this place felt like home. Enjoy digging in and finding your footing on the journey.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Erin!  I’m glad you did eventually make Shasta County feel like home.  I’m glad to finally be at a point where I’m not just resisting everything internally while putting a good face on things, but instead being able to look around and see opportunities rather than obstacles.  I know it will take a while, but hopefully like you, I’ll get there.

  5. Eleanor says:

    Dear Deb

    How happy I was to see you here this morning!  I have been thinking about you.   After your last note to us all, I felt unable to adequately express how touched I was by your grace and your openness.   I feel the same way now!   But I have some small understanding of your ‘displaced’ feeling.  Being ‘needed’ is so important, and of course you are, just differently and therefore with more time for you.   Do the gym thing, for yourself!   ( I find I have to go to the gym, cannot be trusted to do all those pushups at home), and think of being needed by Deb (and Sem)to be the healthiest, fittest you can be.   Plus, it’s supposedly good for the endorphins (or something, whatever they are).

    You have so many admirers here!  Please keep us up to date on your progress!

    • Deb says:

      Hi Eleanor!  Thank you for telling me you’ve been thinking of me/us – that is lovely to know!

      This:  …and think of being needed by Deb (and Sem)to be the healthiest, fittest you can be… is an interesting viewpoint.  I like it.  I do normally focus wholly on Sem but you’re right – I need me, too.

      Right now I am doing mental LA LA LA LAs about not getting down on the floor and doing push-ups – you caught me!  But for the short term, joining a gym isn’t an option.  Having read about Doni’s success at Align does make me want to get some guidance, though, so it’s something I am considering for the future!

  6. Karen C says:

     The gym idea is great, and again, not sure how things work over there.  I just completed a round of physical therapy and was told that now I should go to the gym two to three days a week.  It was very hard for me to even get myself to PT as I am such a home body.  It is just not my thing to go out every day.  I gave myself a week to think about it.  This morning as I was lying in bed and reading your story, I hit upon this idea.  Most of my PT work was done on a large table, using weights, and bands.  This morning, the fresh air was drifting into my bedroom, the birds were tweeting, and I was listening to the news.  Aha!  I rolled back the blankets, and began my normal PT exercises, in bed!  It worked.  The time flew by, and I did what I was supposed to do.  I have a very firm Temperpedic mattress, and that worked too.  Now, I must purchase a band or two to complete my routine.  Whatever works, right?
     As I said in my earlier post, I have no doubt, that you will find your nitch, it will take a bit of pondering but it will happen.  The familiar faces will come along and so will the friendships as you go along your path.  It just takes a bit of time.  I wish you the best of what is soon to come.

  7. A. Jacoby says:

    BRAVE . . . . and don’t forget brave. In more ways that I could possibly count.

    I remarked to my daughter one time that one of the things I most admired about her was her willingness to “give it  shot,” “make the gamble.” To which she answered, “But Mom, I was scared every time!” To me that’s the definition of bravery . . . and lady, you have it in spades . . . maybe hearts and clubs too!!

    And the ultimate act of bravery is your willingness to share these steps with the rest of us. To commit these steps and experiences to paper for the rest of us to share . . . . and yes, from which we all can glean encouragement and understanding . . . nd strength.

    Thank you.

    • Deb says:

      I’ve never felt particularly brave but I understand and agree with the definition of bravery being “when you’re scared and do it anyway” 🙂  I’m so glad that you enjoy my writing, and that it contributes to people in some good way!  We’re all in this ol’ life together, after all.  The more support, the better!

  8. Ginny says:

    When my husband and I moved to Redding in August 1999, we knew four people, and we had no idea by October he would be diagnosed with cancer.  Made it through that one then the second hit a couple years later.  I found once I was no longer his caregiver, I stopped living in the real world for a time.

    Oh, I painted rooms, changed furniture around, and the yard improved, but did I remained a question.  One day I noticed I hadn’t talked to anyone in person or on the phone in a week.  Well, my cats and dog heard me, but they just don’t talk English!  (smiling)

    Within a few months, I had begun Chuck’s Hats for Chemo to make and donate free hats for chemo patients.  It kept me busy, still I was not communicating with others, except on the computer.  So I forced myself to get involved with others by volunteering.  But, those things have to come in “Your Time”, not anyone else’s time.  You will know, maybe tomorrow or a month from now when “Your Time” has arrived.

    Time changes many things. Some for the good and some not so good.  But, I have every confidence in you that you will be taken into others hearts in your new life’s circumstances.

     
    Blessing, my dear………..

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for sharing a bit more of your story, Ginny.  You have been through so much!

      You’re right about finding the right time.  Hopefully it will come soon, and I’ll find a path that brings me joy. x

  9. sue k says:

    I love your ‘true sharing’.  So giving to the rest of us.  Thank you.

    I’m sure it must be very hard to now make ‘you’ a top priority  – or at least a BIGGER priority than you have been able to do.  How to give generously to yourself as you have been doing for Sem.  I trust you will figure into the equation – you are remarkable, conscious, Being.

    Sweet, sweet blessings.

    PS – I adore your photos!!!!!!!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Sue!  I’m glad you enjoy the sharing, and the photos too.

      I will try to figure out how to be my own caregiver, too, as I find my way in this new life here.

  10. Matt Grigsby says:

    Your honesty about this new chapter of your life is enlightening, and your soul-searching will yield results I think.  You’re not deluding yourself about what’s going on in your life, and you’re facing it with the same bravery you’ve faced these many other challenges.  I know I’m not alone when I say there are so many of us out here whispering to the screen “You can do this Deb!”, nor will I be alone when I cheer out loud for what you accomplish next.

    Considering the mountains you’ve already conquered, you might actually take over the world now that you’ve got a little more help with Sem’s care and have extra time on your hands.  I for one welcome our new Overlord Deb.

    • Deb says:

      ‘Overlord Deb’ made me snortle 🙂  Love it!  And thank you, Matt.  I am glad for so much support across the miles, and I’ll do my best to deserve it. x

  11. name says:

    What is the population of your community there?  From the photo of the harbor, it appears to be of somewhat decent size…

    At any rate – interesting story/blog.  I ma usually always interested in what is going on at the local levels in places outside of the USA (even if there is nothing going on).  Thank you for sharing.

    • Deb says:

      I would guess around nine or ten thousand, but couldn’t find any recent population statistics.  It covers a large area.

      Glad you enjoyed the article!

  12. Carrie says:

    SO happy to see your letter today! Trust me, you will ALWAYS be needed!

  13. Sally says:

    Though I do not know you at all Deb, but reading what you wrote in this piece to be read by so many, makes me believe you are an extraordinary individual.  Anyone who can call you a “friend” is truly blessed.  The old saying “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today the present” should include “Treat it as a gift!

  14. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Hi Deb, I’m older than you by a bit, but what I’ve learned about myself is that every move or major life change  (even a move to a better situation) is going to throw me off balance.  I knew, and found it to be true that retiring from a job I loved would throw me off.  It’s just a fact of my life.  One thing  I believe is necessity for any balanced human being is finding a community of people who share the same interests.  It could be a community of readers, writers, artists, care givers, or people at the gym or weekly yoga class.  If you’re like me, you have to have a purpose in life to find balance and finding other people with the same purpose  strengthens that sense of purpose.  I grew up thinking I was the “lone ranger”.  I’m not.  I’m a person, and people need community.  Thank you for this great article.  You are in my thoughts!

    • Deb says:

      Thanks, Joanne!  I haven’t had much of a sense of community – even in my former wee village, there wasn’t a lot of common ground, but I suspect that here where there are more people and more activities, I might find more community.  Time will tell!

  15. Cate says:

    Just want you to know I like hearing from you. You took a huge risk, and i admire that. You’re hanging on, and I admire that. Adjusting is hard stuff, and you’re doing it

  16. The Old Pretender says:

    Thanks for this, Deb.  You’ve done a marvelous job, and I know keeping spirits up can be rough.  Enjoy the cuppa every day.

    Take up the pipes, good for your lungs and stamina, and a challenge to the mind, more so than solitaire!.  🙂

  17. Deb, how ironic! I was just thinking about you  and Sem the other day, wondering how things were getting on. Then, while I was working on Dori’s monthly newsletter,  this blog post popped up! So glad to know that you are settled, if only somewhat, and hope that Sem is doing better. Those last months of PD were scary for me just reading about it, so I can only imagine how you two must have felt. At any rate, I hope you will let me post this over on HDU, and HDC.  Nieltje

    • Deb says:

      Hi Nieltje!  How on earth did this blog post pop up in connection with Dori’s newsletter?  I can’t figure out the connection.  In any case, it’s nice to “see” you here 🙂

      PD was great up until peritonitis ruined things.  So really it was starting hemo that was the difficult/scary time!  But we’re a year into it now, and Sem said recently he feels the best he has felt since starting dialysis in any form.  So that’s good!  As usual it has taken some “tweaking” but he is doing well for the most part, and is much brighter and more active than he has been able to be for years.

      You are very welcome to post this to HDU and HDC if you wish, if you think people will be interested 🙂  I have other articles here too, some of which touch upon dialysis – if you click on my name at the top of the article it should, I believe, link you to all of the articles I’ve written here for ANC 🙂

      Take care!

  18. Terry says:

    Deb, I just want to “second” all the wonderful posts other readers have made.  You have such strength and courage, even if you don’t feel it right this minute.  What you have done is so amazing, caring for your dear Sem, and completely upending yourself to provide him the best care possible.  You deserve some mental downtime after being on full alert for so long.  I appreciate you sharing yourself so honestly, too.  I look forward to your posts, and not just because of my Scottish heritage.  You are inspiring to us all.  Thank you!  And I agree – your photos are so beautiful, and wonderfully catch the spirit of your new home.  Sending you good thoughts and support.  Terry

    • Deb says:

      Thank you very much, Terry!  You and all of the ANC readers have been wonderfully supportive and kind!

  19. Peggy Elwood says:

    I believe you would be A News Cafe readers most favorite person to meet or visit or have dinner with!

    For sure mine!

  20. Mary Adamson says:

    Deb, I just love your articles. This one, in particular, hit close to home I also switched from peritoneal dialysis to hemodialysis. It is always good to hear it from the caregivers’ perspective It makes me appreciate my husband even more. Now is the time to slowly figure out what you’d really like to do with this new found “free time”. You’ll do it and I hope it is something you really enjoy. Keep writing these articles. The photos of the Highlands are also wonderful.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Mary!  I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the photo.  Today I spent some of that “free time” photographing fountain pens for the sales website, so it was a good and productive use of time!

  21. Morty says:

    Lovely article, Deb. And the pictures are wonderful, too. 🙂

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