When I was in high school girls who took “college prep” courses were expected to become a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. I never wanted to be any of those professions. My test scores indicated that I should become a mechanical engineer. In my mind, girls didn’t become engineers. I took a traditional path; got married and had children at a young age. I went to college later and got a bachelor’s degree in financial accounting because I still couldn’t figure out what I wanted to be and I had a head for figures. Nursing was the last profession for me and because English was my worst subject, you know I shunned being a secretary or a teacher.
It often takes a lifetime of many experiences to figure out who we are. It was my image of a being a “classroom” teacher of children, a “hospital” nurse or an “office” secretary that I was opposed to, I realize that now. Eventually, I became all three! Just not in those settings.
As a Caregiver, we often spend time sitting with our loved one in silence. One of the advantages of that is the opportunity to reflect on our lives. It’s a chance to examine where we’ve been and why those experiences had to take place in order to prepare us for our next adventure. I use my own life here as an example of the variety of experiences it takes to gain the skills that were needed to be an effective Caregiver and lead me to my life’s work.
Do you know how talented you are; how many skills it takes to do anything that’s needed as needed? On the spot we learn to administer medications with needles and through tubes, perform nursing tasks that are usually done behind the closed curtain in a hospital, we deal with time consuming administrative and legal issues, we orchestrate the management of a household and all it’s upkeep under unusual circumstances. When someone comes in to relieve us we teach them all the things they need to know to keep things going temporarily. We’re nurses, teachers and secretaries whether we know it or not. We’re, also, engineers and accountants and students.
With all your talents, what are you going to do next? When you’re sitting in the silence, maybe while the person in your charge is sleeping and you have time to reflect, I hope you let go of the difficult side of your tasks for a while and dream; dig deep down inside yourself about what would make you happy. It doesn’t have to be rational, practical or appear doable. Dreams are part of who we are, to be taken advantage of in a big way. They can come true if we nurture them and love ourselves enough to believe that we can do anything if we set our minds to it; after all, you’re doing the impossible now. Maybe reading or studying, while you’re in the position you’re in, about something that you have always been interested in, could be an inspiration for your next adventure.
When I was at home for three and a half years taking care of my husband, I would take the time when possible to get on the computer. Sometimes I would go to Google Earth and explore the streets of the towns in Southern Italy and Sicily where my grandfather and father were born. I would look at the shops and restaurants near the addresses of my family who still live there. I knew none of these relatives, but, I had the feeling that I wanted to know them. I didn’t even speak the language. Eventually, after my husband passed, I studied the language a bit and then it came about that I had the opportunity to go there and meet them. The trip was MERAVIGLIOSO (WONDERFUL)!
I believe that by focusing on my future and not on my current difficulties or isolation, I created the opportunity to take that wonderful trip to Italy. The dreaming took me out of my current situation temporarily, a respite. By improving my mood it helped me appreciate the time I had with my husband and see it as a labor of love and not an obligation. Caregiving is really hard, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in the difficulty and miss the opportunity to stay close to the one we care for. Mostly, we don’t want to lose ourselves. No regrets!