to separate into distinct parts, categories, or compartments (per The Free Dictionary.com)
Denny has advised me for years to do more of this (compartmentalize) but I believe it's far easier for men than for women. Instead of life fitting easily into a variety of boxes with subject labels, life for me is more of a blurred boundary, one space leaking into the next and into the next and omnipresent, just below the surface of my "now". Nonetheless, I think he's right particularly when it comes to the emotional burden of elderly, frail, and mentally impaired parents who could break my heart in pieces daily if I allowed the pain to percolate through my every moment.
I'm starting to compartmentalize in my personal life. In my professional life compartmentalizing is crucial so the skills exist.
With my parents, I remind myself that they live in a safe place and their physical needs are met. Although they (seem to) rely on the local daughter to supply much of their emotional needs, when I get in my car and drive off after a visit, I'm learning to let-it-go. I used to cry on the way home or conversely fret and stew but lately, I just drive and keep on with my day. When I'm at work, I rarely think about them (substitute the word worry and it says the same). When I'm at play, I rarely think about them. When I awaken in the night, I rarely think of them. When time passes the tug of their needs returns to my consciousness, whispering louder and louder that I MUST GO FOR THE NEXT VISIT. And I do. And then I leave and try to put the experience back in a box at the back of my brain.
I'm certain they would understand if they were of a mind to know how the last four years has affected all of us who love them and who witness what the steadily marching wave of aging does to the vibrant people they once were.
Compartmentalize. To do so takes skill without succumbing to numbness.