Do you have a place to go?
If not, it may be a big part as to why you’re stressed and resentful.
Caregiving invades your space, your head, your time–you don’t always get to say when you’re needed.
I pulled many a “late night shift” with my mom.
My mother had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and not only did she have Sundowning, a condition in which people with Alzheimer’s get more aggitated and have more energy as the sun goes down–and on into the night, but she simply didn’t need much sleep–or her body wouldn’t let her sleep. (Here’s a post I wrote about my experience with sundowning).
It’s not like we could make it up during the day.
I was dragging. That made me miserable, fussy, and I tended to overeat. Why? Because studies have now shown that obesity is linked with lack of sleep. We tend to munch all day because it gives us something to do, causes our brains to perk up, and since sugar is almost always involved, we’re pumping ourselves up like we’re climbing the highest point of a rollercoaster–and then plummeting to exhaustion.
Maybe what you need isn’t to just lie down.
It’s a renewal of your spirit you’re hungry and longing for.
You don’t have to be religious to need a sanctuary.
I love that I happen to live in a bird sanctuary area–the Timucuan Preserve. I love the thought that animals are held as sacred and that an area is designated for them.
But shouldn’t we humans create our own sanctuaries? What exactly is a sanctuary?
The word, “sanctuary” means:
Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) –The spelling has changed since then.
Sanctuary\Sanc"tu*a*ry\, n.; pl. Sanctuaries. [OE. seintuarie, OF. saintuaire, F. sanctuaire, fr. L. sanctuarium, from sanctus sacred, holy. See Saint.] A sacred place; a consecrated spot; a holy and inviolable site. Two of the definitions include: c) A house consecrated to the worship of God; a place where divine service is performed; a church, temple, or other place of worship. A place to keep sacred objects. (d) A sacred and inviolable asylum; a place of refuge and protection; shelter; refuge; protection. Operative words: Refuge. Sacred. Shelter. Protection.
How to Create a Sanctuary:
What is sacred or holy to you?
- Gather a few objects--a photo, seashells, stones, your mother's broach, your dad's pocket watch, your baby picture.
- Grab a basket or a box and walk around your home and hard. Gather anything that interests you. Your sacred objects will change over time. Just get it rolling for now.
Find a place:
- Where in your home or yard feels "safe?"
- Where can you have some privacy? Where can you relax?
- Place a table, a desk, a chair, a cover at this place. If it's outside then create a box of your sacred items that you can carry out with you.
- You might also want to include a journal and pen, micro-cassette recorder, a drawing pad, candles, a rosary--any object that helps you figure out life.
- Go frivolous~ don't think a sanctuary is all serious! Take your ipod along. Dance! Paint your toenails and read a magazine! Navel gaze. You may just need some extended down time--staring into space.
- There are no rules. Do what you feel like doing. We're taught not to trust our feelings. That if we got to do what we felt like, we'd all be drug addicts, cheaters who eat nothing but Oreos. Trust yourself. Do what feels right. Sleep. Stare. Rant. Cry. Sleep some more.
- Your sanctuary is off limits to everyone else. Make your boundaries. No interruptions. No phone calls. Unless there's blood and lots of it--you are not to be called away from your most important work--taking care of you.
- You'll be surprised, but your family and friends will respect your space--if you do. This is a great example for your children.
- Don't expect "results."
- This isn't a magic box. It's a place to rest or even to rejuvinate. Recenter. Calm down. Work things out. Place no expectations. This isn't like Weight Watchers for the soul. You don't have to weigh in and measure if you've gained or lost since last week. Just be.
- You may need to use your sanctuary to work out your anger, hurt, and resentment. One thing I do when I'm really upset is to write it all down on scraps of paper, say it outloud, and then burn it. It helps to watch your anger turn to ash.
Pick a Sanctuary Location:
- Some people like clearing out a closet and placing a chair, pillows, and a small table and light in their "prayer closet." Oprah recently featured a sanctuary closet that was really decked out.
- Others like to go outside--they hide away in the nook of the yard and get the benefit of nature to heal them.
- One friend keeps her "special box" she calls it in the car. She literally walks out the door and goes and sits in her car. Her family is less likely to find her there and she feels safe and cocooned. She can scream, cry or laugh in her sound-proof sanctuary.
- For some, it's in the bathroom. They retreat eat night to the tub--they keep candles, soaps, and a journal on hand. They know that being naked will most likely keep people away! Hey! Whatever works!
- Be like my cat and change your sanctuary every once in a while.
Cats are great to observe. They seem to make their spots seem sacred. My cat picks a spot and goes there after breakfast each morning. He gives himself a luxurious bath, folds in his little paws and I swear, if cats could pray, I'd think he was praying. Then, he takes a nap.
This week, his spot is under my birth grandmother's rocking chair in my bedroom. He tends to pick a spot and goes there for 3-4 weeks before picking another spot. Recently, it's been in the back of my closet--that's when he doesn't want to be found. A few weeks ago, it was on a chair next to the dining room windows so he could enjoy the sun. I knew where he was, but he's also quiet and hidden away enough to not invite attention. Smart cat.
What Do I Do in My Sanctuary?
First, let's address what you DON'T do.
- You don't take care of anybody but you.
- You don't stay busy just to avoid what's bothering you.
- You don't have your thoughts constantly interrupted with the chatter of life.
- You don't allow yourself to be bombarded with the demands of every day life.
This is What You DO:
Rest. Think. Imagine. Work out hurts. Cry. Zone out. Learn (maybe take a book?) Find your joy.
If it feels odd at first because you've never done anything like this, then let it feel odd. Your sanctuary practice will be even more necessary at the end of your loved one's life--and especially during your time of grief. Create this space now so that you'll have a place to run to when you really need it.
Like my cat, I change my locale every once in a while.
Right now, it's on my back porch on my parent's glider (they had it since I was adopted in 1965). I have a stack of books on one arm, and I recently bought a big cushion--in case I get sleepy. About 9am you'll find me there with my 2nd cup of coffee, my journal, a few magazines, a no doubt, a couple of dogs by my feet.
I'm a Guy and This Sounds Lame:
My daddy had a sanctuary. He called it a garage. He built it himself. He left for his garage every morning after breakfast (he was retired at this point) and after his game shows. He putzed, worked on a broken lamp, put in a small bathroom. He listened to talk radio. For the most part, he was alone--although a few friends would come and visit. Mama and I came down but never really stayed long. It felt like we were intruding.
He'd come back to the house with a smile. He'd had his time to himself. He smelled of sawdust and linseed oil--and peanuts and Coke he kept in a cooler to sustain him throughout the day. He came back relaxed because he allowed himself this break. He didn't have to listen to Mama nag or me talk incessantly. He came back ready to be a dad and husband. Smart man.
Caregiving stress is a real issue with real ramifications to your health and realtionships. Sometimes we unknowingly contribute to our own stress by always being on call. Sometimes it's a power thing we're unaware of, sometimes it's fear, sometimes it's just a plain ole' bad habit we can't figure out how to break.
You need a sanctuary--caregiving or not.
You need to know that the world won't fall apart because you take a half an hour and pull inward.
Like Daddy, you'll come back refreshed.
~Carol D. O'Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
available on Amazon
Family Advisor at www.Caring.com
Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com
Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/mothering