Gifts from the Frontlines...
For those who show up...however they can for love
Like a clueless Dorothy in the land of Oz, I found myself caregiving...
I was stuck there, having misplaced any wizard who might have gotten me back to my old life in San Francisco. I didn't like it; it was not part of my plans.
In that stuckness, I also chose to show up for my infirm loved one.
I argued with gravity for several years. I didn't win...
I tried to do them both—caregiving and the job. Like 44 million of us out there (in the USA alone), multi-tasking two lives. I didn't do either particularly well.
Secretariat Dreams—not mine.
I was going to be a software mogul...and do a coming from behind victory—like Secretariat. Nothing fancy...just your run-of-the-mill rags to riches, American dreaming story. It was a good story, too...but it was not my story. You know—the one that fits my talents, my longings and the one I came onto the planet to live...(i.e my purpose, my joy etc, etc and blah, blah, blah).
Superpowers in the Trenches of Love
Your superpowers, used wisely, will power you in the trenches and relieve a good deal of your own self-generated stress. As a daughter who showed up, I walked with my mother to a good end and as a hospice chaplain who supports others daily in that grueling, wonderful, life process of showing up, I know these two things well. These two things are what-I-know-for-sure about Caregiving Superpower No.1.
These two things are constants (like gravity) in our garden of givens:
Gravity versus Gardening
While a common human pastime, fighting with gravity (or the seasons of our lives) is a rigged knockout bout. The fight is fixed. I finally got this about five years into my eleven of caregiving that I was only responsible for a very small subset of what happened—to my people and to me. Being prairie-born, I am naturally hard headed, but, hey, I was taught that I could be in control, if I just worked harder...and more.
The Stanford School of Design calls these 'Gravity Forces'. They recommend that you don't argue with them in Designing Your Life Ted-X 2017.
It was a gift to me that the stress, abuse, challenges and blessings of caregiving did the heavy lifting for me. It tempered me. Tempered (or toughened) glass is processed by heat to increase its strength. The process puts the outer surfaces into compression and the inner ones into tension to the point that it remakes us.
Sound like caregiving to you—pressure and tension?
Resilient Caregiving teaches us to live and love well...or better.
You can survive this...and be better for it. Caregiving asks for so much more of us; it might ask that we do less and accept more...in the cycles of our lives--asking us to Wait Here (Field Guide Gift No. 1), and to Bounce Well (Gift No. 10), among other things. The stillness and the bouncing helps us to live well and love better than we ever have to date.
Sound like a paradox? Welcome to my world.
Caregiver Superpower No. 1 is Noticing the Billboard
That flashing billboard in front of us is 'What is'. It's that stuff, which is not in our control—like mortality, and the choices of others as to what is best for them. All brands of denial—both generic denial and oh so clever ones with designer labels—inhibit our ripeness to see clearly what is in front of us. Once we see it, we can begin the (long) road to accepting what we cannot change. It is a confusing and iterated journey—not a straight line.
The next superpower is to be gentle with your Western brain that says otherwise. Listen instead to the wiser within you.
Grounded—Not Magical Thinking...
The heart is the boss of us. Its light guides us in our own life cycles and the seasons of our beloved others. Eventual or even partial acceptance of 'What is' begins to ripen more clarity in us both to the caregiving situation and what we hope it to be. When we see both in parallel, it is not magical thinking but the faith in providence, and respect for the longings of our wise hearts.
We will also see more clearly how we might plant more seeds that we don't need to weed (Gift No. 26) in our next season.
Because it is our season, too and always has been.
Caregiving changed me...It's wasn't easy, but it temper me to a stronger kind of kindness. It can change you, too, and, in turn, that changes the planet.