UP FOR DISCUSSION … What do caregivers do when they come to realize they are living in chaos? If we took the time to assess our own situation, I wonder, would we all find we are living in controlled chaos much of the time? What can be done if we are?

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Part of my caregiver practice is to faithfully attend the Senior Well-Being Speaker Series that my church offers on a monthly basis.  I find I always learn something, and some of the topics covered provide ways for me to learn skills that I can put into my tool kit to foster self-soothing as part of my self-care plan.  Such was the class this week as part of a month-long series called Connecting the Arts to Better Health.  The class was about Expressive Arts, and the instructor set the tone early as she appeared in her bright purple artist’s apron and began talking about our use of Intermodal Expressive Arts to connect body, mind, and spirit.  Right up my alley, I could not wait to begin.  I remember thinking this will be a time of escape, creative joy, and total relaxation.

The class turned into much more, however, when after some preliminary lecture and a brief period of deep breathing and freeing our minds from other thoughts, we “entered into the process.”  Each of us sat before a blank piece of white paper.  In the center of our table was a mixture of colors – pencils, crayons, paint pens, and markers – and our instructions were in essence to pick up an instrument and begin to express what we might be thinking, feeling, sensing, experiencing … GO!

The next hour was given to expressing, observing what we had expressed, putting some words around what we saw in our expressions, and then sharing our art – not to be judged, but to “bear witness” for better clarity and perhaps to identify “new possibilities of healing.”  And I have to tell you, the experience took me so much deeper than I had ever expected and did indeed identify for me emotions and a reality that I was up until then not even aware of let alone able to clearly articulate.

I am living in a bit of controlled chaos right now.  Coupled with the challenges of being a full-time caregiver, the opportunities and complexities of participating in a growing ministry, and trying to manage some semblance of self-care that I view as critically important, I am also juggling a huge re-roofing project, a solution needed to ease my loved one’s sudden inability to hear, a car telling me it requires an oil change, cable television that is now only half working, the disassembly and storing of our most recent Christmas decorating, family birthdays and planning for visits from family and friends in the coming weeks!

My expressive piece of art that day told the story better than I ever could have.  The interlocking swirls, the dark scribbles, the flying tentacles off each of the swirls, the eye at the center … all gave witness to the words added in describing what I saw … CHAOS, SHEDDING, SEEKING CENTER, ANCHORS, EMOTION.  I titled my work Emotional Doodling.  I had begun the exercise with the intent to do a little colorful doodling that I would find enjoyable, light, and relaxing.  Instead, this creative time brought me in direct contact with the turmoil I feel inside because of all the demands that are entirely on my shoulders right now.  Heavy, but realistic, and with a mindset that tells me I am not being attentive enough to what my body, mind, and spirit are trying to collectively tell me about my life and well-being.  And, yes, I feel I have the chaos under control; but chaos is just that – chaos!

The good news in all this is that I have been here before and have developed some tools to deal with these feelings.  As I continue on my caregiver journey, I have built a good deal of inner strength to draw upon when chaos appears, and as I focus on taking things one day at a time, my primary objective is usually to remain calm.  I know I will not get everything right and some things will fall off the list or be delayed.  There might even be “clean up in aisle nine” days where rework is required.  And I forgive myself when it happens, as I know perfection is not possible.  But I also know that staying in touch with our emotions is a critical component of any caregiver’s wellness journey.  I am grateful I now have another practice to help me do that!  Indeed!  Using expressive arts is a way to stay connected to my own better health … another tool for my tool bag!

 

Up for Discussion:  How about you?  Do you find yourself living in controlled chaos from time to time?  What tools do you employ to stay in touch with your emotions and deal with the resulting fallout?  Please share your thoughts and ideas below!

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  • It was such a pleasure to share Expressive Arts with you this week. I am grateful to witness your process and know that you received so much from the experience. What a beautiful reflection on your process and your life. I receive wisdom and encouragement from your sharing- thank you!

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