UP FOR DISCUSSION … Caregivers face new challenges every day with little warning. Early on we can feel like failures or wonder whether we are cut out for the tasks at hand. How do our mistakes become a path to success? Snoopy knows!

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As books continue to proliferate about how to be a better caregiver, I always find myself going back to the more amazing wisdom of my childhood shared in the comic strip Peanuts.  Who doesn’t remember the sage advice, colorful characters, and the youthful world shared daily by Charlie Brown and his beloved dog Snoopy?  Published for almost 50 years in over 2,600 newspapers worldwide, author Charles M. Schultz made us think, certainly made us laugh, and for sure provided a character or situation that almost anyone could personally identify with.  It was a joy from my childhood that lasted well into my adult years, and even today we see these characters in TV specials, greeting cards, calendars, and the almost 18,000 comic strips that are still syndicated in many newspapers.

But it was the lessons that Charlie Brown and his friends learned along the way that stick most in my memory.  Simple one-line bits of experience that addressed the particular situation and left all of us with a conclusion that was not only true for Charlie, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Marcie, Violet, Pig-Pen, Schroeder, Franklin, Peppermint Patty (my favorite!), and others, but often resonated as true for us too.  And often the lesson at hand was being taught by Snoopy and Woodstock – the “non-humans” of the community!  But the wisdom was always there … in this world where adults were superfluous, and the perspectives of the children were youthfully innocent and pure.

I came across some of that perspective again this week in the meme above, and instantly related to what Snoopy suggests.  As a caregiver I face tough situations almost weekly, as this adventure of caregiving continues with nary a guidepost even though many are trying to fix that.  Even after all of this time, I still long for reassurances that I can do this, that I will be able to figure out the many things I still do not know how to do.  But I am also aware that I am not going to be able to do everything right – at least the first time!  Let me give you a couple thoughts about what I mean.

Over the years, I have come to learn what I am good at and what I am not at all good at.  Both are required when caring for another human being, but I clearly understand where my strengths and weaknesses lie.  I also know how inadequate I feel about these things I call “weaknesses”. But the simple knowledge of seeing – and admitting – them to myself allows me to get a little better educated, ask for help in those areas especially, and bravely tackle these challenges with good intentions but low expectations.  I give myself permission to believe that mediocre results might be okay.  I give myself grace when I don’t beat myself up for accepting mediocrity – even if that sounds flawed.  In the ability to accept less of myself I find a beautiful compromise to the overall purpose of my caregiver role – my loved one’s quality of life. I shine in other areas; in some I am just mediocre.

The wisdom in all of this comes when I realize that even with those things that I am very poor at, repetition actually often yields better results the next time.  We learn more when things go poorly.  We anticipate problems once we have seen negative results play out.  We understand better the challenges our loved one faces when our own expectations are too high.  And we believe that a smiling, confident, purposeful caregiver is far better for our loved one than someone who is stressed out, full of self-doubt, and angry because things did not go perfectly or even as planned.  Maya Angelou said it best, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  I wonder whether Maya Angelou got some of her profound wisdom and views about life from Peanuts?


UP FOR DISCUSSION:  How about you?  Do you recognize that no one can be good at everything?  Do you give yourself grace when things go terribly wrong?  How do you make things better?  Please, share your comments below.


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