Winter Shoes

boots-by-the-fire

On a cloudy, chilly November day in Northern California, when I was in the fifth grade, the school bell rang for recess.  I stood up from my desk, along with my classmates, and headed toward the door as was the routine.  What made this particular day stand out in my memory for over fifty years is something I want to address as it relates to those who are dependent on someone else for care. 

As we made our way to the door the teacher stopped me and pointed out, in front of all the other children, that I was wearing sandals.  My feet, in clean little white socks with the top folded down neatly in white buckled leather sandals were suddenly the focus of all my classmates attention. “Patricia, you need to be wearing Winter shoes,” she said.  “Sandals are not appropriate this time of year.”  It was an order, an instruction, as if it was the homework assignment for the night.  I was ten years old, I didn’t have control over what shoes I could wear.

As is typical of me to this day, when I don’t know how best to react, in order to maintain my dignity, I said nothing and prepared to follow the other children out the door.  However, the feeling of humiliation was deep.  I remember wanting to disappear right on the spot and make it all go away.

I was a shy little girl, considered well behaved. I couldn’t tell my teacher that my family was in a bad financial position just then. That would have embarrassed my mother and father. My father had been in bed for nearly two months healing, after falling on his back from two stories up in the cannery where he worked.  My 27 year old mother (who had a ninth grade education) with four daughters and my dad to take care of, suddenly had to find a full time job and figure out how her family would survive.  She couldn’t afford to buy three of us school shoes that September if we were going to have food on the table.

All that information passed through my mind as I stood in shock.  I never mentioned it to my mother.  There was nothing she could have done.  I understood the need for maintaining dignity in that moment. I, also, understood the lack of AWARENESS and SENSITIVITY my otherwise kind and pleasant teacher was demonstrating. 

As I write this, I can see that many readers may not find my experience all that devastating.  Especially when compared to so much more truly humiliating experiences others have suffered.  That actually may make my point.

We’re all a little different, age, circumstances and other factors influence our individual responses to the actions and insensitivity of others.  The feeling of humiliation is a primary human emotion.  Deepak Chopra, in his excellent book, “REINVENTING THE BODY, RESURRECTING THE SOUL,” states that, “Someone who has been severely humiliated, especially in childhood, will be listless, unresponsive, and withdrawn; the body will feel chronically weak and helpless.”  This will be the extreme, I’m sure.  But, as Caregivers we need to be AWARE and SENSITIVE to the feelings of those whose lives are in our care.  The vulnerable need to feel safe and secure that we’re looking out for their emotional well being along with their physical needs.  We need to protect their privacy both physically and in conversation. We need to be ALERT to changes in mood and behavior and do our best to understand what may have triggered the change instead taking the easy way out and dismissing it.  We need to protect the personal items and belongings of one who cannot protect their own things.

It’s complicated.  Caregiving is a huge, often under appreciated responsibility.  The more we understand the ramifications of other people’s behavior toward the ones in our care, the more COMPASSION we can show our loved ones.  That compassion is LOVE in its purest form. LOVE is everything and comes back to us like a boomerang when we come from the heart.  My COMPASSION for Caregivers is deep and personal.  I wish I had known more when I was caring for my dear friend with Alzheimer’s, my husband and then my dad.  I hope this information helps you be the best Caregiver you can be and makes your life a little lovelier.

Hugs,

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Do You Recognize Your Courage?

courage

If the task you’re performing today is one that’s tough and almost unbearable, do you know that in the future you’re going to be very proud of yourself? You’re going to look back, when your mind is free to reflect and your body has healed from the stress and physical strain, and say to yourself, “Did I really do all that?” “Did I really get up every day and by-the-seat-of-my-pants figure out how to take care of every physical and emotional need of another human being, in some cases for years?” “Where did I get the courage, the fortitude?” I say, you were born to it. You’ve been that way all your life. That’s why you’re the one who finds yourself in this position. That’s why, in the grand design of the Universe, your loved one found you, why you found each other. There’s tremendous growth in it for each of you.

Last night I was watching an episode of DOC MARTIN. A fabulous series, if you don’t know it. Louisa’s friend has a back injury and has fallen on the kitchen floor, on top of a broken glass bottle that jammed into her back. She’s bleeding and unconscious. Martin performs one procedure after another, failing at the first three to bring the woman conscious and suddenly, on the fourth attempt, her body jumps into consciousness. The ambulance arrives just then and the trauma is past. Louisa looks at Martin, who she’s fallen in love with, and says, “You’re a remarkable man.” This character, Martin, is a remarkable person. He does what he believes is the right thing to do, at all times, no matter who he insults with his lack of a bedside manner. He does what he knows he must do because he can’t be any other way.

I speak with Caregivers all the time who are remarkable people doing what they know they must do. They perform tasks they never expected to perform. Usually, trained doctors and nurses, people who anticipated that they would be doing the unspeakable, do these tasks. Most people look away and come back into a room when the tough to do stuff is over. Caregivers figure out how to do it and get the job done.

I’m impressed with the intelligence I see in Caregivers; they’re smart people. They’re the decision makers of the world. They’re often dealing with life and death. There’s a reserve about most of them, they often change the subject when conversation leads to feelings. Sometimes it’s a defense to mask the emotion they’re feeling. Some things are just too private to talk about.

Intelligent, capable people are not likely to tell anyone what they need. They confront their fears and live with the decisions they make. They’re not needy people. They test their courage every day and in doing that they find themselves. I believe that the life we have each chosen for ourselves is not so mysterious. If I’m a Caregiver in this life, there’s a reason. I accept that. It, also, means that I’ve been born with all I need to perform the task.

By accepting the life in which you’ve found yourself today with courage and grace, you will come away from it with pride and a sense of victory. I’m reminded of a native war dance. I want to chant and dance to a rhythm that fits my emotions. How long has it been since you’ve danced? Could you fit it into your daily exercise routine? Courage!

Hugs,

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