Episode 90: How Many Smiles do you Miss?
As I sit here looking out my window watching the snow fall I feel a shift.
First, it puts me more in the mood to celebrate the holidays.
The snow is a signal that it’s time to shift into a winter mode full of leaving earlier to get to where I’m going, making meals that take longer to cook and spending more time doing things slow.
Slow mornings, savoring coffee and enjoying a quiet house.
Slow yoga practice. Slow meals. Slow to make decisions.
I try to suspend time in order to be able to enjoy it just a little bit longer.
As a caregiver I know that time is not guaranteed.
I also know it’s hard for you to be present in the moment at any given time. There is so much that you are worried about. So much for you to do. You just don’t have the time to sit.
Have you noticed that sitting and enjoying time with the person you care for often feels like it’s taking you away from the things you need to be doing?
Is watching a movie, putting together a puzzle or listening to them tell you the story about getting that red ball as a present 60 years ago for what feels like the hundredth time actually a waste of time?
Does the thought of having to take a half hour to get your loved one out the door just to take a drive or walk around the block make you give up on even getting out of the house with them?
Does it frustrate you when they try to explain something but it takes just a moment too long and does that frustration allow you to miss how emotional it makes them to have lost the ability to communicate as well as they used to?
How hard is it for you to slow down so you don’t miss the small moments you will most likely remember for forever?
I know it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when you are overwhelmed with caregiving. How simple it is to tell yourself you’ll be better at things once the house is finally clean or after the surgery coming up. I understand how frustrating it is to feel like you can’t give anymore of yourself but what you do give is not enough. I know that you feel you’re caregiving on your own and how angry that makes you.
However, the things that are on that todo list that need to be crossed off for you to feel like you accomplished something are mostly meaningless in the end. Yes, it’s difficult to slow down and spend quality time with the person you care for and I understand how emotionally exhausting it can be.
However, when you aren’t a caregiver anymore you won’t look back and feel good about the quality of the dinners you served or all the doctors appointments you scheduled. You’ll look back at the times you spent with the person you care for.
You won’t have pictures to put in those memory books that document all the clothes you washed, all the diapers you changed and all the wounds you dressed. Although, quiet frankly you should.
You’ll remember that walk you went on when you laughed so hard with them you could hardly breathe but you won’t really remember how frustrating it was to get them out the door that day.
Your memories will be of the simple moments of having that good laugh, the hug that lasted a bit longer than usual, the trip that allowed both of you to have fun and forget how difficult life was.
You’ll remember the time you spend with them, hold, comfort and encourage them. The emotional connections both good and bad are what you’ll hold on to. The ebb and flow of your relationship over time will be the soundtrack of your story.
So I ask you…what memories have you made this week? This month? This year? What space have you created to sit with them and focus on interacting with them? Can you turn off the noise in your head for small moments of time so you can enjoy the person you love and care for?
Or…Is it easier to list out the miles you’ve driven to medical centers or all the time you’ve had to devote to a task you hate doing? It is easier to avoid their gaze so you don’t feel bad about not checking in to see if there is something they need hoping they don’t ask for you to do something with them? Is it easier to spend time on your phone instead of simply watching their favorite show even if they’ve watched it dozens of times?
Is it harder to be the person who loves them than it is the person who cares for them?
Spending time with them should be something you do when and if you have the time. It is a necessity for both of you. They benefit from your care and attention just as much as you do.
So take some time today to remember why you are a caregiver and how much you love the person you care for. Set an intention to make quality time with them the most important thing you put on your list.
Enjoy time with them and slow down while in a season when everyone seems to need to move fast to check all the holiday boxes.
This is a time to savor the end of the year. It might have been the crappiest year of your life but if you’re still a caregiver there is at least one important reason to be thankful.
Don’t let the ability to experience life slip by while you are busy trying to live it.
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