Every so often I meet a caregiver who makes me rethink the idea of the superhero. I keep waiting for this person to transform themselves right before my eyes (that is if they aren’t accustomed to changing close in a phone booth) and automatically be imbued with powers beyond imagine. If that were truly the case there would certainly be a lot less suffering in the world. The truth is that when you engage in caregiving you don’t do it off the cuff, as a second choice, as something to pass the time. You take on the caregiving role out of love, friendship, respect and the belief that your energy is part of the wellness or healing equation.
The truth about caregiving is that the hours can be long, if not physically at least mentally. It can consume your life. It can cause you to worry beyond the boundaries you thought possible. It can leave you feeling powerless at the times when you need to feel in control. It can be heartwarming and joyful as a means of sharing an intimate experience in another’s life. It can expose qualities in you that you weren’t aware of or thought were dormant. It allows you to exercise your faith in human nature, connection to a force greater than yourself and an admiration for science you may have never known.
So what happens when you think your hardest “isn’t enough”? I hear caregivers say “if only I could have___________________(you fill in the blank). The truth is your hardest will always be enough, in fact it will most likely be more than enough. The human condition is strong and fragile at the same time. We’re given opportunities and experiences that continuously change our lives. How can you know that your hardest is more than enough? When you can be in the sacred space of caregiving and be totally present in that experience. I know it can be hard to sit with pain, despair, frustration and a host of other emotions, but that’s when you’re hardest is more than enough.
I’ve spoke about caregiving and identity, and true your self-concept will change throughout the caregiving process. It’s also true that we are fundamentally consistent in how we process information and our emotions. Don’t you see…your hardest has to be enough because that’s all you have. It’s not like syphoning gas out of someone else’s car. You are who you are and accepting that will bring relief and immeasurable confidence in your actions, decisions and beliefs. Having limitations is not a bad thing, in fact for many caregivers accepting their limitations probably saved their own lives.
It’s through out limitations that we begin to rely on community. We come to understand that constructing 20 foot high walls, trying to protect yourself and the patient from the outside world is counter-productive. When we accept our limitations we begin to look for those who have complimentary skills and gifts. We begin to see that caregivers as a community are greater than the sum of its constituents.
Your hardest will always exceed expectations. Don’t try and become something your not; that leads to disappointment and despair. Understand that the gifts you have to offer of support, compassion and love, will serve the person you’re caring for as one more arm of their journey to wellness. You’re an integral part of their lives, while at the same time understanding that you too have a life that is parallel to the caregiving process.
I can tell you that your hardest may not always be popular and that’s when you most need to sit with those feelings. Limitations keep us in the human world. We’re not born to be superheroes, we’re born to be part of a community and relationships that enhance our lives. When health challenges enter the picture although not ideal, have to be confronted. I know it can be all-consuming; that’s why understanding that humans have limitations proves in and of itself that your hardest is all we have and is more than enough!