I hear from so many people who feel so depleted and don't have time to replenish themselves: too much to do and other priorities. I am not suggesting you take two weeks off and go to the Bahamas. (Though I admit that sounds amazing, it's not always feasible.) It is the smallest of things that you can do for yourself that can make the most significant impact.
I know journaling is not for everyone. I also know finding time to journal as a caregiver can be daunting. That being said, I am still going to point out the joys of journaling.
Do you believe in magic? I do. The holiday and New Year seasons are lovely reminders of its importance; you can feel it in the air if you are still enough. Small acts of kindness, random gestures, or simple adventures can fill your heart and that of others with magic. Hope. Peace.
Hanukkah. Solstice. Yule. Christmas. All these powerful celebrations coincide this week, and while all have different themes and belong to different faiths, they all share one commonality: they celebrate the return of light and hope into a dark world. For caregivers, the holidays can be extremely stressful as we try to balance the needs of others with the needs of ourselves. It can be especially difficult when the people in our care are no longer able to enjoy the holidays they once loved.
I ask you to pause and think about this statement: The weight of responsibility that we place on ourselves and the forgiveness we don’t give. We all fumble at times in our lives. We've had words that flew out of our mouths under duress because we've exhausted ourselves. We've experienced anger, impatience, fear - all big emotions that can overwhelm our sanity - it happens to all of us. Those words/thoughts can be directed toward others as well as us.
In this second part we’ll look at the In-Between stage. For caregivers it is the space between what was and what will be. Suzanne Braun Levine calls this space the Fertile Void and describes it as, “the long, slow, deep breath -the gathering in of strength - that precedes a daring leap into the unknown.”
Balmy summer afternoons seem made for these quieter pursuits, a twist on the traditional siesta of the Latin world. I have strong memories of sharing the front porch with my grandmother on summer days, each of us with a glass of iced tea and a book, magazine, or crossword puzzle. I remember the feel of the condensation cooling my hand when I gripped my glass, and I remember the soft background noises that were ever present: cicadas, lawn sprinklers, small children playing, the occasional barking dog.
In the United States, more than nine million people – about one in five - fall into the category of 'caregiver,' yet many neglect to raise their hands and acknowledge that they are. As roles change in our lives, whether temporarily helping a loved one or going in for the long haul, the guidebooks are unclear and far too long.
All of this can chip away at your emotions over time. The emotional outcome might be feelings of failure, worthlessness, hopelessness, or any other emotion. Perhaps your head ends up filled with thoughts like, "I'll never be able to…" or "If only I had…." It's understandable. All of it. And the things your mind keeps chattering at you only serve to distract and exhaust you.
It is of utmost importance to give yourself the time and space to become aware of what’s happening with your emotions and not shut yourself down. Your feelings are valid, and it is essential to acknowledge them. Shutting down is the worst thing that you can do.