Finding Joy in Your Life

Caregiving has many rewards.  A sense of being needed, the joy of giving to another, rewarding work, responsibility and often a sense of doing something that is beyond what the average person is privileged to participate in during his/her lifetime. Along with great work in our lives we can all appreciate a sense of joy that comes with connecting to something that is thrilling to us.  Joy in your life on a regular basis, in my opinion, should be considered your birthright, like the air you breathe.

How often do you get to experience joy?  Do you know what gives you joy?  Can you recall the last time you felt the thrill of joy?  If you can answer those questions positively, I know your life is good, no matter what your responsibilities or circumstances.  You know where to find your joy when you need it, when your cup needs refilling. What we focus on, on a regular basis, is what we create more of in our lives.  Creating space for joy will bring more joy, and more space for lovely experiences in your life.

MASTERFUL CARE FOR YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES, the byline of this website, starts with you taking care of yourself first. I hope you give yourself permission to indulge in your joy often.

If you feel a little less than positive about your answers I have a feeling you’re not alone.  How many caregivers find the time to even think about doing something that would be just for their own pleasure?  Please see this as a possibility. The things that give us real pleasure are often so simple.  But we have to make a point of recognizing them.

I recall a sweet friend who, in the midst of my most difficult times right before my husbands passing, offered to come over and sit on the curb outside my house and just be with me for a little while.  There wasn’t a lot of joy just then in my life, but I could always find a little time for two things that will always bring a thrill and joy to my life on a regular basis no matter what shape my daily life takes.

My simple pleasures are having coffee with someone I enjoy and can share life’s experiences with on a personal level (I leave feeling somehow restored) and reading books, especially great works of literature and books that make me grow. It was a great sentence I read this morning that gave me such a thrill I wanted to share it with anyone who might have the patience for it and feel thrilled by it, as I do.  I hope you enjoy it, nineteenth & early twentieth century writers have such a way with words and a sensibility I miss in modern society. Their writing is often a character study and the study of human nature has for me always been a passion. I had to read it several times to get the full measure of it.  Enjoy!:

“Nothing could have been odder than Strether’s sense of himself as at that moment launched in something of which the sense would be quite disconnected from the sense of his past and which was literally beginning there and then.”

– Henry James; The Ambassadors

Please take the time to recognize what gives you joy and find the time to get a little of it each day.  Then…when you know how to find it, you could help the person in your charge find what would bring some joy into their life.

I Wish You the Thrill of Finding Joy and Experiencing It Often,

Hugs,

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Grounded in Nature

Today is one of those days! Good days. As I write this, it’s a full moon and this moon-child is reflecting on the many wonderful gifts she’s been given. I have in mind, especially, two wonderful friends that have each been my dearest of friends since the day we met. Yvette was my next door neighbor when we were twenty-four years old and Cathy since our daughters were in the first grade together. That’s 45 and 37 years ago, respectively.

Only today, after all these years, did it dawn on me that Yvette and Cathy, who hardly know each other, have something very special in common and perhaps it’s what makes each of them such loving and thoughtful women. They are both master gardeners. And, please excuse the pun, they are probably the most grounded people I know. Their connection to the earth, more than even they may realize, appears to have given each a perspective on life that is simple, honest and firm. As an observer, one who is curious about human nature and been studying, in recent years, the connection of all life on our planet, I’m very fortunate to be close to these two remarkable women who are naturally so close to nature.

Yvette does most of her own gardening to this day (even the heavy lifting) and you would not see more beautiful landscaping in Architectural Digest or Better Homes and Gardens magazine. A visit from Yvette means a huge bouquet of a variety of flowers in a lovely vase will be brightening my living room. Her roses and hydrangeas are magnificent as are all her flowers, shrubs and trees. Hummingbirds and butterflies are happiest in her gardens. And so is Yvette. The beauty of nature is her life’s breath.

Cathy owned a large organic vegetable/produce farm for much of her young life. She can manage a crew of workers, haggle with buyers and sweep you off your feet with her earthy, witty, sense of humor. Organic produce wasn’t in all the markets in the 80’s. Most of us know now that the most beautiful produce is probably genetically modified to resist bugs, etc., or waxed to look picture perfect. I remember her telling me, “Don’t worry about a few flaws in the lettuce, if it’s good enough for the bugs, it’s good enough for you!” Today Cathy is in high demand by people who know her by reputation for her expert advice whether they’re starting a new garden, putting in new landscaping, or just wanting their gardens to thrive. She manages to help them all with a smile and her sage Mother Earth advice.

Being grounded is a physical thing as much as an expression of a mental state. We don’t need to get into quantum mechanics to observe nature and notice that everything in life is connected and, therefore, precious. Looking out my window I see the blue sky, the sun and passing clouds that nourish life in all its forms. I see birds that connect from the sky to the trees. Trees and plants that are rooted in the earth and home to the birds and other life forms. The trees and plants give us oxygen and we, along with animals, give them Carbon dioxide so we can all live together. Underground and in our lakes, rivers and oceans the life is tremendous. When you look at the grass or the street or the floor in your home, the fabulous life underground is not obvious. It’s actually one miracle after another if we use our imagination and visualize what’s happening under there 24/7. It’s all connected to us, we humans who are fortunate to be able to recognize the beauty of it all.

Stop and smell the roses is just a beginning. Consider how that rose is connected to you and the beauty of it all. Makes you feel beautiful, doesn’t it?

You don’t have to be a master gardener to get grounded. You just need to take a few minutes, everyday if you can, and be still. Be quiet. Listen to the silence. If you can’t take a walk in nature, think of a tree. There’s silence there even when the wind is blowing, the birds are nesting and the earth it grows from is teaming with active life. The tree is silent. The tree is peaceful. You will feel peaceful thinking of the peace in the tree. That’s being grounded. Life is easier when you’re grounded. Makes you want to hug a tree! Can’t believe I said that.

Caregivers need to be grounded and peaceful.

I wish you peace and beautiful walks in nature.

Hugs,

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A People Pleasing Non Conformist

Life is a tightrope for Caregivers!

Taking great care of our loved ones is so much more than just showing up each day. Great care means we have to use our hearts, minds and intuition when making decisions which are critical to the well being of those in our care. We’re taking responsibility for another persons life and the attention we give that responsibility is a testament to our own character. When all is said and done, will you be able to honestly say to yourself, “I think I did a good job because I did what I thought was right at the time”?

If it helps, there really is no “right”. There’s only the best decision that could be made with the information and circumstances you had at a given time. Isn’t that true for all of life?

Whoso would be a man must be a non conformist.
He who would gather immortals palms must not be hindered
by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Self-Reliance

Perhaps you look back and second guess yourself often. We all do when we’re in the throws of playing Doctor, Lawyer, Merchant, Chief and, also, for years after when we’ve had time to reflect. But it’s our tendency to look outside ourselves for approval that keeps the second guessing rolling in our minds. We hope for the approval of family, friends, doctors, society and our loved ones. There’s a lot of pleasing to do. They’re going to have “opinions”.

It’s natural to be easy to get along with when things are going well. It’s often hard but necessary to be a non conformist when a situation warrants. Especially if your loved one is suffering. Its really okay if you’re not liked by everyone. Even by doctors or administrators. We’ve been beaten into submission by society to think that we have to take a no when we need a yes. If you do your best to put your point across as nicely as possible, if doggedly, I’m sure you’ll get respect eventually even if you’re an inconvenience at the time. If not, who cares? You’ll have done your best.

My husband passed away in March seven years ago. I’m remembering the very irritated look on his doctor’s face when I showed up at his office without an appointment, my husband in his transfer chair in tow. I was getting no where over the phone and I needed help now. My husband was blind, deaf, suffering from congestive heart failure and had extreme anxiety. The anxiety and the various medications all his doctors had him on manifested into a frightening schizophrenic behavior that showed up each evening at sundown. If you’re not familiar with Sundowning Syndrome you can read a previous blog post here (click the following links to read Sundowning Part I, Sundowning Part II). His visions of men in trench coats with machine guns pointed at us were now showing up in the day time. This unwelcome office visit got the ball rolling and it took a couple of weeks to get insurance approvals, but we finally received the care needed. The doctor is a fine man, he was just too busy to really get involved in each individual case. It wasn’t personal, there was just no other way I could get what we needed without pushing as hard as I did. Upon my husband’s passing, he was the only doctor who called with condolences.

As a people pleaser most of my life, I credit my years of Caregiving with the lessons necessary to toughen me up. All my life I had been proud of the fact that I could get along with most anyone. As a child I was praised for being a pleasure in the classroom in school and at home for being easy to raise, I’m the oldest of four girls. We generally live up to what we’re praised for. But life has a way of rolling over us if we don’t find a balance.

I want to encourage all Caregivers to be who they are and expect to be respected for it. Those around you who matter will recognize your truth. And those in your care will be best cared for. Keep pursuing what you need to have the best life for yourself and those you love.

I wish you love and the courage of a non conformist.

 

Hugs!

 

 

 

As always, please email me with questions or comments at: patricia@caregivingcornerstone.com. I’ll get back to you promptly.

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You Can Fit Two People into the Bathroom on an Airplane!

  “You gotta laugh at some of the things we go through as Caregivers or you could end up crying much of the time.”

About nine months before my husband passed away in early 2010, we received an invitation to my nieces wedding in Sacramento, CA, my hometown.  She’s my only niece and there hadn’t been too many opportunities for the family to gather in many years. One of my three sisters, who I hadn’t seen in 15 years was coming with her husband from Oregon.  I didn’t have to say anything.  Ed knew that I really wanted to go to the wedding and see all my family.  It was, approximately, a two hour plane trip from San Diego. 

“Book the flight and hotel room, we’re going,” he said.  I was thrilled, but then had second thoughts.  Ed was totally blind by then and about 100 pounds.  He could stand on his own but needed guidance and support when walking or using the bathroom.  This would be a tough trip for him.  “Are you sure you feel up to this?” I asked.  “Absolutely,” was his answer.

You can see where this is going. There was no way we could get through a two hour flight without needing a bathroom.  The flight attendants stored the transfer chair safely, just within my reach where they seated us in the front row of coach. When the time came, I said, “Okay, we can do this.”  We had a special way of his getting out of a seat by putting his hands on my shoulders, me with bent knees lifting him up and walking backward so he walked forward.  Once in, getting the door closed behind me was a bit tricky.  But, it can be done.  So don’t miss out on life because of the bathroom problem.

The wedding and family reunion were wonderful.  I didn’t know until months later that Ed didn’t really know if he could get through it.  But, he knew how much I would want to see my family so he was determined.  He always said, “Love finds a way.”

I’d like to say a couple things about walking with someone who is blind and unable to walk on their own.  Caregivers often learn things the hard way.  When Ed’s eyesight first went totally, it was sudden.  Dry macular degeneration with peripheral vision only for several years.  One case in a hundred, one afternoon blood broke through the macula and started flooding one eyes vision and several days later the second.  Total blindness.  After about a year and a half enough blood had dissipated in one eye that there was a little light coming through.  The retina specialist suggested cataract surgery, which was successful. Now there was enough light showing through that he could see shadows and how many fingers I was holding up.  This doesn’t seem like much but it’s huge.  He could tell up from down and had his balance again.

At first we walked with him holding onto my shoulders facing my back. It seemed to work fine.  But he kept getting weaker.  One day we walked out the front door and I stepped down the one porch step to the walkway.  He lost balance and pulled me back on top of him as his back hit the wall and he slid down to the ground. I had caught myself so didn’t crush him. Thankfully, I had just that day,  moved very large pots with trees away from that wall.  His back would have hit the pots and been broken. “We got away in a coach!”  Another of Ed’s sayings. 

From then on, I walked backward with him facing me with his hands on my shoulders.  It worked well.  We even got a little fun out of it.  I would sing as we marched (and I do not have a good voice!), “When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, hurrah…” Or, “I’m march’in to New Orleans, she used to be my honey, till she stole all my money…”  You gotta laugh, it helps get you through.

Hugs,

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Sleep Deprivation

sleep deprivation

In late June 2008 my husband’s doctors still couldn’t find a way to get his anxiety level down to a point where he could sleep at night. I’m not sure he ever slept during that time. I know some will think I’m stretching the truth, but I rarely got more than twenty minutes sleep at a time from late April until the fourth of July. He needed company. My husband’s psychiatrist tried several medications but was not able to figure out a solution to our sleeping problem. He said the next step was to go to a psychiatric hospital. That my husband would be under 24 hour observation and a specialist would figure out how to get him to sleep. I was desperate.

We went to the hospital (a lock down unit) and prepared for him to check in. The process was lengthy. It took hours to go through the paperwork and interviews. By the time we were done with admission my husband didn’t want to check in anymore. He said he was tired and would be more comfortable if we came back tomorrow. You can be sure I was afraid that he might not want to return the next day. He was a very clever man. He could be trying to trick me. But, that didn’t happen. He was reluctant, but wanted to find a way to sleep.

Upon arrival the next day, I asked the staff to say that the rules were that I could not stay past 8 PM or arrive before 8 AM. I was determined to get sleep now. The doctor came in and discussed our case with us. He had prescribed a medication for sleep. That day I arranged for 24 hour personal attendants and taught them everything I could about how to take care of his every need. Believe me, the people that knew us well could tell you what it took to take care of this blind, deaf, impatient man who was used to my being there for anything he needed. I wanted him to be comfortable and cared for so we would have the best chance of this working.

It was hard to leave him that night, but I did. I had the deepest nights sleep of my life. It was July 3, 2008, a night for which I shall forever be grateful. Of course, the phone rang in the morning about 7 am. He had not slept. He said the attendant was behaving badly and when was I coming back? I took a shower, got ready and drove to the hospital thinking about how dangerous it was for me to be driving.

The next day went by with visits from one or another nurse on duty and from the doctor. Tonight he would try another sleep medication. Of course, my husband was complaining so the doctor told him that he could go home as soon as he slept through the night. Well, that did it. Mind over matter? The meds worked, he slept through the 4th of July fireworks, and conned an attendant to go to a phone and call me at 6 AM the next morning. At least I had two nights sleep and the promise of more to come.

After that things were “better” in the sleep department. We saw his psychiatrist every week for a while and then less often, until my husband’s passing in March 2010. I will always be so grateful to that man.

Hugs,

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