A Caregiver’s Life: Like Water from a Stone
A few weeks ago I ran into a friend at the barn where I keep Annie, my mare. We hadn’t seen each other in a while so we caught up. I told her about my slow, but good, recovery from illness and she told me about caring for her ninety-three year old mother who lives in a nursing home. I said I hoped she, my friend, was taking care of herself as well and she responded that all her friends tell her that but she doesn’t see how that’s possible in some situations.
Even when my friend is dead tired, she works outside the home, still visits her mother, plays cards or bingo with her, makes sure she has what she needs, drives her to appointments. My friend says, the interesting thing is, she IS dead tired after work but when she sits with her mom she doesn’t feel tired. Afterwards, she’s tired again, but there, in that moment, she’s fine. NOT caring for her mother would be more stressful. In visiting her she does what she feels she needs to do for them both and from some unknown place, the energy appears.
In my work I’ve often heard very stressed caregivers say they do what they do because they “have no choice”. The energy is pulled out like water from a stone and yes, it appears to be on that level of miracle. The Universe, God, the Divine Spirit, whatever you care to call it, provides the strength even when they feel there is none left. And that’s Good.
The heroes of this world are quietly putting one foot in front of the other, finding the time and energy to care for a fragile elderly parent, a disabled child, a spouse or sibling diagnosed with cancer. Their stories are of love, hope, passion of heart and richness of spirit. They are all of us, who at some point in our lives find that ‘take care of yourself first’ feels weird because caring for ourselves actually hurts more than just taking care of someone we love who is in need.
If this is you, please remember the story of the man of faith who found himself in the rising waters of a flood. He prayed to God to save him. A raft went by with some people who begged him to join them and he waved them away saying God would save him. A patrol boat came by and the authorities cried out to him to come aboard but again the man told them to go away, God would save him. The waters rose higher and the man was on his roof praying his heart out. A helicopter flew overhead and called out to him through a bullhorn to grab the rope lowered down to him, but the man refused their help, too. Eventually the man succumbed to the flood and he drowned. When he reached heaven he told God that after praying so hard and having so much faith he was disappointed in Him. God said, “I sent you a raft, a boat and a helicopter for crying out loud! What were you expecting? A miracle?”
Accepting a helping hand, small gestures of support and respite can be hard for us to see when we’re in the middle of caregiving. But if we let it, the Universe does give us what we need to keep going. We just need to be open to how help can come in the funniest shapes and sizes – to have the wisdom to embrace it and not send it away. Maybe it’s a neighbor who offers to pick up the kids from school while you go to the nursing home. A spouse who does the grocery shopping or even the cooking. It could be just enough time for a nap in the afternoon because a business meeting got cancelled! Maybe it’s an invitation to lunch, coffee or a 20 minute walk with a friend.
It might even be an hour with your therapist!