Kindness: Attempting To Walk In Another’s Shoes?

INDNESS: Attempting To Walk In Another's Shoes?

The word KIND has come within my purview several times in the last few days. Does it make sense to discuss kindness? I think it does. Will it change the nature of those who don’t understand that they are not innately kind? Probably not, it’s nature after all. What it might do, however, is soothe the hurt caused by those who are unkind. They often mistake kindness for weakness, or as a threat (people don’t like to be reminded of their shortcomings). Reinforcing that kindness is good and it’s right under any circumstances serves everyone well in the long run.

There’s no way to know if most Caregivers are kind. But, I’ll venture to say that most kind people are Caregivers. Kindness is akin to compassion, yet not the same. One who attempts to walk in another’s shoes and tries to provide what they think is needed for that person, with no benefit to themselves, is being kind (a type of kind that’s done when no one is looking). Interestingly, a kind person recognizes immediately when someone else is being kind, and they’re grateful. It’s the little things, like making sure another is included in a conversation. Or, that something they have accomplished is recognized by others. The instinct to notice that someone is being left out is compassion, doing something about it is kind.

In conversation with a close friend recently, I could feel his hurt that his children and siblings hadn’t shown up when he could really have used some help caring for his father. This is a man who shows kindness everyday in many ways, the ultimate Caregiver. He brings flowers to his wife regularly, just to make sure she knows she’s in the forefront of his mind. A sick friend gets chicken soup whether they want it or not, as soon as he’s aware they’re sick. When his brother needed him, wasn’t he always there for him? So why did his brother not offer to do something, even just be there for an hour so he could run some errands?

Who knows? Is it that the brother doesn’t get how hard it is, he just assumes that because you always take care of everything, you’d ask for help if you needed it? Maybe he’s selfish and just doesn’t care? Maybe it’s all of these. It’s too complicated, you’ll never figure it out. So how do you get past the hurt, the lack of kindness and compassion shown toward you?

In my experience, the best way to get past emotional pain is to recognize and greatly value your own freedom to be who you are and nurture it. Somehow you are that kind and caring person you would hope to be. Aren’t you the lucky one? Maybe you’re an old soul. Maybe the brother is a baby soul, just learning to crawl and has no clue yet that walking is the way to go. May I suggest that you do your best to let others be who they are. Let everyone be free to be who they are without your judgement; with its rewards, consequences and all. Everyone is living out their own lives as best they know how. It’s so liberating when you let go of being part of someone else’s actions!

Cherish freedom! Be happy you are who you are. This is what works for me when I feel hurt by someone else’s action or inaction. That is, after my heart hurts a little and tears start to well. We’re all human right?

Big Hug!


 

 


 

PS:  Serendipity strikes again!  The day I wrote this blog about kindness, I received the NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE below. If you would like to receive a personalized note each weekday, go to tut.com and signup. I’ve been receiving them for about seven years and they help me start my day on a high note!  I know Mike Dooley, went on one of his fabulous Adventure trips, the one to Italy in 2012. They’re cruising the Tahitian Islands in March!

NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE

To touch someone with kindness, Patricia, is to change someone forever.

Heavy, huh?  That’s nothing.

Because for everyone you touch, you also reach everyone they will ever know.  And everyone they will ever know.  And everyone they will ever know.  And so, for the rest of all time, your kindness will be felt, in waves that will spread, long after you move on.

Muchas gracias,

The Universe

Don’t ask what happens on a bad day, Patricia. 

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Don’t Forget the Music!

I’m sitting at Starbucks, my home away from home, thinking about what I can write to share with you that would be meaningful, maybe helpful. The song “WE ARE FAMILY” by Sister Sledge is playing. I’m reminded of a scene in one of my all time favorite movies, “BIRDCAGE”, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (best John Wayne imitation ever) where all the disparate characters in Mardi Gras style costumes file out of the nightclub in a conga line singing “WE ARE FAMILY”. They are people who would never be friends or even speak to each other if they could avoid it, but suddenly they’re thrown together and through the chaos are somehow able to become friends. The music and the party atmosphere bring people together. Not unlike a gathering of family and friends at a holiday dinner, sometimes!

The music is still playing and I start to picture my own families faces dancing in a conga line. They’re all laughing and singing, really enjoying themselves. The friends and neighbors who always joined us at our holiday dinners join in. I imagine everyone gets out of their chairs, my husband and me, too. He would have been in his transfer chair in the later years, but his grandson Ty would have danced him through the line. What fun, I can see everyone singing the words we all know, “WE ARE FAM-IL-Y.”

Then we all break out into just dancing with each other. All different ages and styles. My daughters are dancing together. My twin granddaughters and their little brother are dancing as a trio. My sister and her husband are joining in. I dance with one of my husbands daughters that I hadn’t really bonded with because we live across the country from each other. I can feel tension melt as we smile, dance and sing together. What an ice breaker! Why didn’t we do this before?

How right it would be to remember, as a caregiver, to make a point of enjoying the gathering yourself. Often, it’s all just work on the holidays for us, with the satisfaction being that everyone else enjoyed themselves. Delegate more of the tasks, people are happy to help. Plan ahead, do something so that you get to enjoy the loved ones in your life now, not years from now when there’s time. Maybe.

As I visualize the many beautiful faces of my family and friends in that conga line, I’m looking back at my life, smiling and loving each one of them. Think I’ll go buy that album. Maybe you’ll join me and have your own conga line this year.

WE ARE FAM-IL-Y!

Hugs,

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A Handpicked Family!

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

– RICHARD BACH author of, “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”

A few years ago, when my blog was new, I received a call from a reader who wanted to discuss her plans for creating a retirement home of her own, one where she could live for the remainder of her life. Since that time, I’ve heard from many women, it’s always been women, who have similar concepts but with interesting variations. People are so creative, it’s wonderful to observe. They’ve been inspired, often, by being a caregiver for someone else and wanting to keep their independence for as long as possible, as well as experience joy and companionship in later years.

That reader, from Virginia I believe, told me her husband was 5 years older then she and the likelihood of her being a widow one day was high. She was thinking about gradually converting her three bedroom house so that it would be suitable to bring in two more people who were of similar age and lifestyle. They would be like family for each other and share expenses to make it easier for all, while enjoying each other’s company. A private bathroom adjacent to each bedroom would be the greatest out of pocket expense to start. She could begin the work now, taking her time making improvements, therefore, keeping costs down by being flexible with completion dates. Once she had her two residents carefully chosen, as need developed, they could hire outside help at a much lower cost than if they were paying for services individually. She wanted to discuss any necessary improvements or pitfalls she might not have foreseen.

This sounded like a great idea on several levels. The one that stands out for me is the friendship that could be developed between the residents. I’m reminded of the 1980’s comedy television series, THE GOLDEN GIRLS. The writers were fabulous at showing the good hearts of very diverse characters. The four women became a family in the truest sense of the word. Fiction, but quite believable.

Loneliness is one of the most difficult aspects of old age. Everyone around you is young. Your friends pass on and there’s no one left who remembers things that are fond memories for you, like the popular music and movies from your generation. They didn’t share the historical events of your life and can’t reminisce about old times. The joy can go out of life prematurely.

This type of arrangement could be complicated. I’m not ignoring the potential problems I’m sure we can all come up with, but coming at it from a most positive angle at the start and preparing long before the need arises seems like a great idea if it appeals to you.

Another reader, a young woman in her 30’s!, told me she and her group of four best friends from high school, all professional women who had been meeting once a year since for girls weekend out, were thinking of buying a property together that they could convert to an upscale retirement home for themselves one day. Some of these girls had had personal caregiving experience with parents and grandparents. They are already a family.

Another, a seventy year old woman, recently widowed, was in transition currently. She and her affluent friends were looking for a property in a location they saw as perfect for their retirement, where they could socialize (for them near a golf course) and be close to shopping, restaurants and movies.

Creative people feel a need and fill it. It doesn’t matter what age or economic bracket you’re in, it is really nice to have friends around. It makes life worth living. I wish you joy in your Creativity!

Hugs,

 

 

 

Feel free to send me an email with some of your creative ideas. If you have questions, I’m happy to answer your emails. Our FAQ section answers a few common questions and my bio will give you information on my professional background in case I can help you in other matters.

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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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Accept Your Feelings and Newfound Freedoms

Recently I came across an article on the AARP website that was aptly entitled, “Feeling Relief (and Guilt) at Caregiving’s End“. In it, the article discusses the emotions that caregivers go through once their care recipient is no longer with them. Feelings of guilt or of being misunderstood, in truth there are a number of different emotions that a caregiver can feel once this happens, but the emotion that may be the most difficult to adjust to (and even more difficult to accept), is the feeling of relief.

If this sounds like something that you are currently experiencing, then I strongly recommend reading the article by clicking this link. If you would like someone to speak with you may also send me an email at patricia@caregivingcornerstone.com.

Hugs,

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