Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Partnerships, Relationships

Reclaim Your Life

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

I’ve written numerous entries about how your life changes when you become a caregiver/wellness partner. I’ve discussed your roles, your activities, and how your life changes.  I’ve focused on the change and not on the status quo.  You are the status quo.  Your life, your interests, and your ambitions are still yours.  So I guess the real question I’m asking is, “What’s Still Yours”?

They say that possession is nine tenths of the law.  What do you still possess?  How is it that so many caregivers abandon their lives.  I’m not talking about doing for others because I believe that to be magnanimous, and the greatest gift we can offer another human being.  That being said, let’s take a moment for real honesty.  What are you whispering to yourself in private, in the middle or the night, or in your dreams about what you want your life to resemble.

I could rely on cute sayings or use big theories or human motivation, but I want it to hit closer to home for you.  I want you to take a deep breath, get quiet and ask yourself, “what do I want my life to look like”?  It’s not a selfish question; it’s an honest question.  I will use one frequently used phrase, “life is too short so don’t waste it”.  Now I know I’m going to get some e-mails saying that you don’t feel like caregiving is wasting your life.  That’s not what I’m saying by a long shot.  What I am saying is that if it’s all you do then are you hoping for sainthood after your own death.  Personally, I’m the wrong religion and I haven’t performed, as of yet, three miracles so since I’m already out of the running for sainthood I’ll have to settle for living my humanity to its highest level.

We seem to think that caregiving is a black or white discussion.  In order to be a good caregiver it’s essential or mandates that you sacrifice your own needs, desires and wants because there is a greater urgency and force that lures you away from your own life.  I believe on some level that many caregivers, especially those  who have been offering care for a long time have forgotten how to live their life.  I’m opening the dialogue because as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  There you have it, the quintessential catch phrase from one of the worlds greatest thinkers.

The first step to reclaiming your life is examining the life you’re living.  It’s about keeping your inner fire burning through the caregiving process.  Take a cooking class, go paint in the park, read a good book without interuption, go ice skating or dancing, but whatever you do make it yours.  Believe it or not the person you’re caring for will live without you for a couple of hours (yes, you may need to find respite care so the patient isn’t alone).  Our love for another is irreplaceable, but actions we do for another can be done by anyone.

It makes me think of the parent, especially mothers, who make their children their whole lives.  When the children leave home they have to first begin to form an identity.  Can’t we be more than one thing at a time?  As humans don’t we have the capacity to hold two ideas in our consciousness simultaneously?  Aren’t we permitted to be caring and nurturing and selfish all at the same time?  Doesn’t doing one makes the other parts of us stronger?

I’ll keep thinking about this issue because I believe there are a lot of misconceptions tied up with caregiving, sacrifice, duty, expectations and service.  What I’m sharing aren’t anything but questions for you to ask yourself what fits and what doesn’t.  It’s about making the thoughts your having in secret a bit more conscious and real.

Do you want to reclaim your life?  How might you do it?  What steps have you taken along this journey?