Posted in after the diagnosis

Be the Best You!

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

I have to tell you that since last Friday I have been thinking about the idea of reclaiming your life.  Remember that caregiving is what you do, but it’s not who you are.  This got me to thinking about the caregiving paradigm.  A lot of the literature on caregiving revolves around sacrifice, duty and strife.  I will agree that caregiving is taxing, but more importantly the paradigm doesn’t address the humanity in caregiving. It doesn’t deal with the questions I hope you’re asking yourself as a caregiver/wellness partner.

I’m going to make a bold statement and I hope you’ll sit with it before you react, or if you like take the gut reaction and make a comment…here it goes:

“Being the best you will make you the best caregiver; being the best caregiver will NOT make you the best you”.

There, I’ve said it out loud and it feels good.  If you strive to be the best caregiver and allow the best you to become a vague memory you’re headed for martyrdom and a total loss of self.  All the things that make you the best you is what promotes your ability to care beyond the realm of everyday loving, caring and nurturing.  There’s a saying “pain is inevitable, misery is optional”.  Think about that statement as if it were tattooed to the palm of your hand and ask on a scale of 1 to 10 where are you on the misery scale.

For years I worked for an agency that served those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  It was during the early to mid 1990’s when we didn’t have all the advances in medication and treatments we have today.  There was rarely a week when in our staff meeting we didn’t take time to honor the life of one of our clients that had died.  I spoke to a lot of mothers who were taking care of their adult sons and daughters.  The mothers whose children had died created a support network for the mothers whose children were nearing the end of their lives.  The mothers in the group would provide respite care to the mothers caregiving for their adult children.  They would cook meals for the families who were taking care of their adult children who had entered hospice care.

I’m telling you about this group of women because they had cultivated an inner strength that was hidden for many years.  During their time of caregiving they nurtured their inner power to make it through the difficult times.  They learned that feeding the body physically, emotionally and spiritually made them able to continue their caregiving mission.   They remained connected to their pre-caregiving world and strengthened those connections.  They committed themselves to being more involved citizens in their community.

I can’t tell you what will make you the best you.  I know that for me staying in a place of continuous questioning gives me the encouragement and tenacity to keep on going.  Last night someone asked me an important question that I’d like to pass on, “with your current beliefs, where will you be in two years, five years, ten years?”  If you limit yourself now, how will you break open your life of possibility down the road?

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but that’s what I do.  I want to create a dialogue because it’s how I learn and I believe it’s how we all learn.  As a caregiver it’s easy to get caught up in the fear and that leaves you feeling powerless.  What would happen if you broke things down into problems, and we know as a caregiver you’re an outstanding problem solver…would that shift your fear?  It would certainly foster the best you to emerge.

Let me know how you are developing your best you!

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