Thoughts on Caregiving

My husband works long hours. So often, days will pass, days where I am always with my children, when not a single fight or incident between the boys occurs, nor a single break where I am only dancing to the beat of a single drum, my own. When there is easy laughter, grand games of make-believe, no trauma, no heart break, no real battles, there are still matters to be dealt with. Bodies need food, clean clothes, adequate rest. Our kitchen needs to be used, then cleaned. For peace we enjoy to be the norm, my children need to be heard, conversed with, guided, appreciated, given an environment to thrive in. Without a break, I fill up on this richness and empty of inner resources to maintain it.
If I fail to step away and into mental quiet where I am only paying attention to my own limbs, if only for an hour every few days, I begin to tilt, answer questions that have not been asked, address issues that only exist in my sideways perception. Often this results in my children feeling rightly misunderstood – not good for any of us.
Two and a half years ago, when my dad was recovering from a quadruple bypass, my family essentially lived in two homes. I ran extra errands making up for missed details lost in mental confusion. I cooked extra meals, served three unable to completely care for themselves. Fortunately, at the time, we lived one block from my parents. If I’d had to cross town several times a day, I would have given up too soon. We watched a lot of PBSkids in his living room. No one could take a break. Need was only a matter to be considered for children’s well being and the man healing in his recliner, the man whose breast had been split, whose spirit now sagged beneath the weight of realizing what he had lived through and a necessarily slow recovery. We only maintained this pace for six weeks. I know so many who spend years caring for an elder parent or a sick spouse.
Compared to some, my ongoing care giver tasks are light. Compared to others, I carry a heavy load. Comparisons are irrelevant. I once heard a phrase that lodged itself in my thinking and saves me often. “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” I agree. Comparing this moment to a “better” one a year ago is even dangerous. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Earlier today, I came across this passage from “Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight In Our Busy Lives” by Wayne Muller (p.49). I immediately thought of all the people I know who are care givers – not just for loved ones who are ill, but parents of young children as well.
“Shortly before Jesus was killed, he was sharing a meal with his followers at the home of Simon, a leper. A woman arrived, bearing an alabaster flask containing expensive ointment. She broke open the exquisite flask and anointed Jesus’ head with the precious oil. His disciples were very very angry with Jesus, saying: Why this waste? This ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor. But Jesus responded, Why do you trouble this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
What is Jesus saying – not to worry about the poor? Of course not; his entire ministry is about service and kindness for those in need. He is saying that a life of compassion must include compassion for all beings, including the giver.
Our reluctance to rest – our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer – is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for every purpose under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.”
May we all find balance in order to enjoy both our time of rest and the company of those we care for.

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One Response to Thoughts on Caregiving

  1. Amy says:

    This is great, Heidi. Jesus was also telling his disciples that He did not have long to live. They didn’t understand what a threat he was to the Jewish clergy.

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