The relatives have all gone home, the tree is down, the wreaths are off the front door and windows and we’ve mostly survived the crazy, wonderful, exhausting, inspiring holiday season. And as I sit here, on a cool day for Jacksonville, sipping my tea, I’m struck by two, diametrically opposed, yet equally compelling feelings:
1) Drats! It’s January and nothing goes on in January. It is so boring and such a letdown after the past several months;
2) Wow! It’s a new year, even better, a new decade (although technically the new decade does not start until January 1, 2021) and the possibilities are endless.
It is the proverbial, glass half-empty vs. glass half-full scenario, positive outlook vs. pessimistic outlook, hope vs. despair. And it dawned on me, this state of opposing, yet equally compelling truths is a perfect analogy of what caregiving is all about. And perhaps a small reason why caregivers are eternally exhausted, if not physically, then emotionally. We have this internal push and pull in all we do…and in how we encapsulate ourselves.
Should I tell my loved one to stand straight, walk carefully, eat slowly, do their exercises for their balance/hands/swallowing or should I allow them to make their own decisions without the constant pressure? Should I anticipate their needs or wait for them to ask for assistance? Should I tell the doctor about all the changes going on which my loved one just forgot to mention even though they are sitting right there? Does that make me the caregiver who treats their loved one like a child? And why do I berate myself for thinking, for one tiny moment, that my loved one won’t ever get better than today? I’m trying to be positive for him/her, and for me, but I can’t be positive 24/7. So why do I expect so much when I’m already trying so hard? I want to be that ray of perfect sunshine for my loved one, but sometimes I just don’t feel sunny. You know, I’m scared sometimes too!
For me, I am able to refill my half-empty glass when I have the opportunity to talk to other caregivers. It is liberating to remind ourselves we are not alone, there are others on this journey of caregiving with us. I also am able to refill my half-empty glass by writing this blog. I imagine I am having a conversation with each of you. None of us needs to be a caregiver alone. We all need each other to recharge, to share, to compare notes, to refill our glasses. Linda Edgar is a retired nursing professor who wrote a great book titled, A New Look at Caregiving: Two Halves of a Whole. One of the quotes from her book is a favorite of mine and apropos for this blog,
“After enlightenment, the laundry.” Budda
So, go, refill your glass, reach out to each other, find enlightenment—the laundry will still be there.