I don’t think anyone has written—or could ever write—a book entitled “Caregiving Can Be Fun!” It’s damned hard work, that’s both emotionally draining and rewarding. The best some of us can hope for is a person who’s good tempered and appreciative of your efforts.
That said, the days of your life as a caregiver can be made easier and bring you joy if you live in the moment—or be “mindful.” Now I know that phrase is being bandied about a lot these days and there are more how-to books on Amazon and in bookstores telling us how to “be in the now” than we could ever possibly find time to read.
I’m going to give you a few things here that can easily be incorporated into your daily life, and they only ask you to take a few moments for yourself, here and there, to commit to making your life easier and happier.
1. Close your eyes and visualize a clear blue sky. Remember that even when clouds gather, the sky behind them remains blue. You can envision puffy white clouds drifting by and even play with identifying the shapes. Or, you can just meditate on turning a grey sky blue.
2. Use some quiet time—like when you’re going to sleep at night—to summon up the dearest people in your life and engage them in an imaginary conversation about anything you want. Have a fantasy dinner party and invite anyone you choose. It’s a great tool to use when you’re feeling isolated.
3. If you find yourself sitting and waiting (as caregivers so often do), try to become hyper-aware of your surroundings. Notice everything and anything you can. You’ll be surprised at how many details—that make life interesting— can be seen when you really look closely. When I’m at a restaurant, for example, I often study people seated at other tables and actually make notes about them—their shoelaces, the buttons on their jacket, their companion/s, their manners and of course, what they’re eating. I’ve done this in waiting rooms as well, and when I look at my notes, I’m generally surprised and tickled at just how much I saw. It’s a great “be in the moment” exercise.
4. The book “14,000 things to be happy about.” by Barbara Ann Kipfer is a great example of how many simple pleasures there are to be enjoyed in life. Learning from her example, carry a little note pad and make a stream of consciousness list of little things that make you happy—as you see them or from memory—since these things are very personal. Some of mine are: old black and white movies, picking blueberries, jigsaw and crossword puzzles, French belle epoch posters and mint chocolate chip ice cream. This exercise is really great because you just keep adding to it every time something makes you happy.
5. One thing that kept me going through caregiving was taking time to learn something new every day. I would just pick up a dictionary and randomly find a new word to learn, or go online to find a site with quotations I found uplifting. Some people just read the newspaper. Others read non-fiction. There are so many resources at our disposal thanks to the internet, that in just a few minutes time, a world of knowledge is at our fingertips.
One thing I want to stress here is that these exercises should be about YOU. Sure, there’s a lot of information online about this or that illness or symptom, but that’s time spent in your caregiver role. In order for you to feel refreshed, enlightened and happy, the time I’m talking about must be spent on yourself—whether it’s five minutes or an hour.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s work forever brings me joy. In this quote, she captures precisely what I’ve been trying to say: “One can get just as much exultation in losing oneself in a little thing as in a big thing. It is nice to think how one can be so recklessly lost in a daisy!”
Photo credit: Shelley Webb