Sometimes we try to find a place of balance in our lives; the middle way. It’s a place of not too much, not too little. It encompasses a philosophy that encourages us to find the middle way in behaviour and action, habits, thought and choices in life.
I sometimes think I was born to find the Middle Way in my own life. Living most of my life as a middle child positioned me for this role and a whole lot of years later, here I am in Southern California (the land of my people, that I left behind 25 years ago) being the mediator in my mother and sisters’ drama.
Now anyone who has had to deal with aging parents and the sifting family dynamic will instantly be on the same page with me. If you haven’t had the privilege of walking with your parents down this road, let me tell you it ranges from feeling like you are walking through a mine field to balancing on a razor’s edge… Either way is guaranteed to cause injury. Somewhat like Survivor, someone is about to get voted off the island!
This whole adventure down the rabbit hole leaves me with plenty to say about the level of government help that is available (and mostly NOT available) for the down and out among us. They need is so great, and those in need are many. But for now, I really want to focus on care for the caregivers. In my case its my younger sister who is bouncing from working all day, to helping my mother, who, post-stroke, needs more help than ever, to dealing with our sick and nearly destitute older sister. Caring for our own, whether aging parent, or any other family member who is mentally or physically sick, disabled or challenged in some way, is without a doubt the hardest thing you will ever endure, or certainly in the top five! And who is talking care of the millions of care-taking heroes out there, let alone acknowledging the Sisyphean tasks that they must perform for their loved ones? No one is, so if you find yourself in this middle place of trying to find balance while talking care of others, here’s some possibilities to consider.
* Take time for yourself: I know, this often seems either cliched or impossible, but “time” can be 5 minutes of locking yourself in the bathroom to scream, to taking ten minutes to breathe, to taking an hour to walk in nature. Without taking the time to restore your energy you will run short and run down quickly.
* Ask for help: I’m in California not because I’m a great caretaker but I came to help in whatever limited way that I can, and ease the burden for my sister. People rarely volunteer to help those who have long-term patients in the family but as caretakers we can find our voice and state what we need. Put your misplaced guilt on the back burner. Asking for help doesn’t make you a bad or uncaring person.
*Detach: This may seem a strange thing to do with loved ones, but it doesn’t mean we stop loving them. It means we detach from the buttons that our family can push when under stress. Detachment means that you will be less reactive and able to help from a clear, non-hooked place. I’ve seen so many hawks while here, and every time I see them, they serve as my reminder to soar up high and circle from a higher perspective. Sometimes I can actually do it!
* Forgive: You can’t always fix things for your loved ones. Forgive yourself for not being able to fix, control or improve their situation. I’m not my mothers primary caretaker, but long-distance caring can be just as challenging, albeit differently so. Whatever your role in care-taking for a loved one, forgive yourself for not being where you expect yourself to be. Open your heart, keep it open-tho it will hurt- and give yourself the love you are already giving to loved ones.
* Listen to your dreams: It’s so easy to get pulled off that razor-thin path you are traveling just now, but the simple act of recording your dreams every day, serves to recalibrate your system and brings you back to your Self. Then, taking a moment to extract the message from the dream keeps you connected to your heart and your soul.
That’s all I can offer so far…. I’m thinking about reenacting that classic scene from Fried Green Tomatoes with Kathy Bates in the parking lot. (Don’t worry about me though. I won’t do it. Insurance costs too much and I’m driving my sister’s car!) So this brings me to one more point: Don’t lose your sense of humor! Let’s all go out and have a good belly laugh daily. Now THAT’S self care!