THE PARADOX OF CAREGIVING … ESPECIALLY ON THE 4th OF JULY!

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All weekend I have been getting pictures and short messages on my phone from loved ones who are leveraging their ability to finally travel in this post-pandemic world. Everyone seems to be together with family and I so appreciate their thinking of us and sending word of the celebrations underway with details of their fun and varied activities. And with each message the reason for my latest funk becomes more evident – I want so badly to be out there with them celebrating – well, anything! While I believe we have so much to be thankful for and know I have always taken personal delight in celebrating life’s adventures, there is NO sense of celebrating here today and that feeling is missed and mourned deeply.

But perhaps a different perspective is needed, and for much of my day I have tossed it about in my head. What I mourn so deeply is the loss of family on holidays, but my husband is still here and for the most part stable. We suffer no significant hardships in our ability to meet our current challenges. And Lord knows as I slog through the daily chores of caregiving and add to it the current requirement to clean the lanai while trying to rid it of a growing lizard population (how did my husband ever manage it for so many years without me even noticing?), I certainly feel like a slave to a myriad of masters I wish I did not have to serve. Have I lost my freedom? Clearly dwelling on what I do not have while reluctantly serving those I do; I am slowly devouring my own soul. My optimism, my hope for a better tomorrow, my prayers for a return to something positive are being swallowed up by my own self-pity.

So, I will continue with the day as I had previously planned, but perhaps with a better attitude. I will drive to our local favorite restaurant to pick up a couple of steaks and together we will celebrate our wedding anniversary with a nice dinner here. Tonight, I will try to accommodate his needs related to selecting television entertainment, and I will tuck him into bed at the appointed hour, hug and kiss him and tell him I love him. But perhaps I can also find a way to do so with a loving smile, thinking about all we have shared together in the past rather than all we lack today, giving less thought to what will never be again. I am much too selfish an individual to ever become a totally selfless caregiver, but if ever a situation demands a different attitude, this one does. I am free – and part of that is the freedom to choose. I have chosen to stand by my loved one through this illness. That demands some doing, but maybe it would not be quite so difficult if I could stop being consumed by what I have lost in the process, and instead focus on what I still have!

UP FOR DISCUSSION:
Celebrating both our wedding anniversary and our country’s freedom on the same day, the 4th of July has always been a special time for us. Do holidays and special occasions make the role of caregiver more difficult for you? What are some of the ways you face those challenges, and do you have tricks to short-circuit the negative feelings of loss before they completely take over your mood and behaviors?

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