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Archive for the ‘spiritual teachers’ Category

I spoke at Haven Hospice in Gainesville, Florida yesterday–and the speaker before me was Dr. Slayton who is also a caregiver to his 87 year old father. He spoke of the “Out of Town Hero Syndrome.”

Everyone knew what that was–it’s when out of town relatives swoop in town and begin to tell YOU how to care give.

They come once or twice a year (thank goodness, not more) and rearrange everything from your medicine cabinet to your car’s glove compartment while proceeding to tell you (in subtle and not so subtle back stabs) how you could, should give better care–to mom or dad.

You’re there 365 days a year. They’re there for 10.

You’re nice at first. Keep peace, you tell yourself…but by day three you’re about to blow a gasket.

If your loved one has to go to the doctor or is in the hospital or in hospice and it’s near the end–then it’s ten times worse. They run the show. The doctors and nurses speak to them. Especially if they’re an older sibling–then you’re really in for it.

By the time they leave you can barely find your own socks.

You’re angry, frustrated–and worse–your confidence has been undermined.

You start to doubt yourself.

You just want to quit. Fine then–take mom–take dad.

“Do it all yourself and I’ll come back this time next year and boss YOU around for ten days.”

That’s what you’d like to say.

On top of that–your mom or dad like them MORE.

They get the smiles, holding hands, pleasantries you haven’t seen in months–they sit at the table and gab like you do this every night and you feel like such a hypocrite. They’re all in the livingroom talking after dinner–and where are you?

Loading the dishwasher.

I didn’t have siblings, but I experienced this with several relatives who came into see mom–twice–once each in more than two years.

I went off for the day to give them time alone and when I had come home this person (no names) had reorganized my pantry and all my kitchen cabinets. She took me in there by the hand and showed me everything she had done and explained why her system should work better. I had to stand there like a ten year old in trouble and agree, yes, her system was better and I was a piece of …well, you know.

I was so stressed, angry and nervous by the time she left I thought I’d collapse in a heap on the floor when she pulled out of the driveway. On top of that, I knew my mother had complained her head off about me–not taking her to church, drinking wine (my mother was a fundamentalist minister), watching movies with curse words, letting my daughters wear those short shorts…you name it.

The next time this happened was with a good friend of mine. My mother ate her up like she was homemade vanilla ice cream. They chatted and laughed–my friend washed my mother’s hair and did her nails.

Made me sick.

I had asked my friend to come down to help me and this felt like betrayal. I know she didn’t mean to but that’s how it felt.

I felt judged–and poorly lacking.

Mother hadn’t said a kind word to me in weeks and now she was a geyser of compliments.

Then I heard them whispering. Mother was crying (fake crying) and saying she wished I were sweeter, kinder, more patient, that she didn’t know what she had done to make me act so cold to her.

My friend came out and a very concerned voice told me I needed to make up with my mother and forgive her.

I thought my head would split open. I felt betrayed by everyone.

Mother was up to her old manipulation tricks–and I knew this full well having experienced it countless time in forty years.

I told my friend she really had no idea what was really going on here and that I needed her to respect and trust me.

Later, she apologized. Her father got Alzheimer’s and she dealt with her own family issues. She really didn’t have anything to apologize for. I knew how mother had played her, but I understood.

I share all this with you to say this about relatives in town or out who make you question yourself:

Know deep inside you are a good person–a good daughter, son, spouse–and let no one shake you on this

Stop worrying about what other people think about you and your caregiving.

It’s none of your business what others think of you. (How freeing is that?!?)

You’re care giving because you believe it’s the right thing to do. You have to give care the way you can–the way you can be consistent, they way that’s right for you and your loved one.

Stand firm on this and don’t listen to other’s opinions. 

Unless they have done this for as long as you have, they can’t possibly comprehend the level of sacrifice, committment, love, tenacity, and exhaustion you’ve endured. Caregiving is a marathon not a sprint.

You may feel yourself pulling away from people.

That’s part of caregiving.

You’ll naturally pull in–for good and not so good reasons.

You’ll get tired of explaining yourself.

You’ll get tired of trying to be nice to people.

You’ll get tired of feeling that everything you do is up for scrutiny.

You’ll get strong and stop needing others to validate you or what you’re doing.

That’s the bottom line.

Your relatives, friends and neighbors will intimidate you just so far and then you’ll find your backbone and stand your ground.

This is one of the best lessons of caregiving that can change you and how you deal with others for the rest of your life.

You will become strong, independent, and do what you need to do and you won’t give a rip what others think. They have no idea.

The anger and hurt will dissapte. In time.

These situations and people that threaten you will give you a gift–you’ll find your own confidence.

You’ll be in your own quiet center.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati Publishing, www.kunati.com/caroldodell

Family Advisor on www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog on www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

 

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Do you hear the tick, tick, tick of the death clock?

What’s the death clock you ask?

The death clock, is a website that calculates (with a little information you add in) the exact day you will die.

Sounds morbid, right?

I agree, but take this as a bit of fun and not too serious.

Playing with death–trying it on for size is one way humans deal with the tragedies of life–kind of like playing dress up with your mother’s high heels and your dad’s jacket.

So, I went to www.deathclock.com, (there’s also a few others– http://www.findyourfate.com/deathmeter/deathmtr.html, http://deathdate.info, http://www.death-clock.org/) and put in my numbers.

I didn’t really want to know when I’d die. But I have to admit, I was curious.

How can you not be curious?

I was raised in a uber-religious home and this sounded like fortune telling–something stricly forbidden to dabble in–which means it’s even more tempting, dangerous, and oh so fascinating…(yeah, I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak in me, I can’t deny it).

So I typed in my info, and you know what? I feel better!

It says I’m going to live until I’m 100 years old.

Instead of feeling depressed about knowing my “D day,” I felt expanded.

100 feels pretty far away. I’m not quite half there. I still have a a whole lotta livin’ to do. 

I do take in account I could get hit by the proverbial bus at any time–that lightening could strike me for visiting that heathen site, (sorry, Mama!) or a myriad of other diseases and accidents could come barrel my way–but I’m not the type of person to be paralyzed by the “what ifs” of life. 

But I’ve seen the dark side of agin. I know what Alzheimer’s looks like, about the challenges that come with aging.

My dad died of heart disease at 78, and my mother lived with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and died at the age of 92 (they were my adoptive parents and older than most parents). I was her primary caregiver and she lived with my family and I the last three years of her life.

I wrote every day my mother lived with us.

I wrote what it’s like for her to live with this disease, what it was like for me, her daughter to struggle with the challenges of being a sandwich generation-er. I wrote about our fears, our fights, our hurts, our day-to-day challenges, and the truth about the guilt and resentment caregivers and families are afraid to say out loud.

Our story became a book, Mothering Mother and has been read by thousands.

The fact is, if you live long enough, you stand a real strong chance of getting Alzheimer’s.

Deal with it. Sounds cold, but what I mean is…do what you can now to take care of yourself.

Eat healthy, have a good attitude, walk every day. Forgive.

Those are the best ways I know of to stave off that dreaded disease.

And even if you get a diagnosis, don’t just crawl up and die. You still have time–love your family–leave a legacy. Don’t spend your precious time worrying.

I don’t know if you want to try the death clock–if it all seems like a bunch of hoo-haa.–but if you’re feeling brave, then take a twirl with the grim reaper and give it a try.

A few years ago, I wrote a “100 Things To Do in My Life” List.

I wrote it while we were on vacation. I wrote it around the margins of an old Rand McNally atlas we had in the car–apprapo, I guess.

I wrote things like:

  1. Go back to college and get my BFA
  2. Design and make a bronze sculpture
  3. Visit the Vincent Van Gogh Gallery in Amsterdam
  4. Publish books (plural)
  5. Take a cooking class in Napa
  6. Repaint all my favorite Van Goghs myself
  7. Create cool yard art–and sell it
  8. Be paid 500 bucks an hour to speak and inspire people
  9. Be on the board of a charity/organization and help make a difference
  10. Design an Italian garden
  11. Have a 30+year writing career
  12. Be a GREAT grandma
  13. Speak French, Italian and Spanish fluently
  14. Live in the South of France for several months
  15. Win a PEN award
  16. Stay married, stay healthy
  17. Forgive and not grow bitter

I wrote this in 1999. I was dreaming big,. I packed it away and didn’t look at it for more than five years. My heart and my words guided me intuitively.

There are 126 items on my master list.

Of the 16 I listed here, 11 have already come to fruition.

I have 53 years to achieve the rest.

A friend of mine said she saw The Bucket List this week and that she loved it, but a friend of hers said they wanted a list of all the things they didn’t want to do–a “Chuck It” list. I like that idea too.

Or you could do an “anti-list.”

Remember that edisode on Grey’s Anatomy when that guy found out he was dying and decided to video-taped himself chewing out all the people he hated/who had hurt and humiliated him? This is what he chose to do before he died.

How cleansing! To leave this world feeling like you said your peace. Perhaps is he had done this sooner, he wouldn’t be dying.

What would be on your anti-list?

I’d love to never ever have another root canal…how about you?

So maybe I should rename the Death Clock to the LIVE clock.

After all, I have a list that needs a whole lot more check marks. Instead of counting down the days until I die, I should count each day I’m living.

Instead of following the old cliche, “Live a little.” I think I’ll rewrite it:

Live A lot!”

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati books, www.kunati.com/motheringmother

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

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Anniversaries that mark the day our loved one’s passed away can be tough days, but with a little bit of forethought, it can also be a sweet-tender day.

Your body seems to remember even before your mind.

Athletes call this muscle memory

“Muscle memory can best be described as a type of movement with which the muscles become familiar over time. For instance, newborns don’t have muscle memory for activities like crawling, scooting or walking. The only way for the muscles to become accustomed to these activities is for the baby to learn how to do these things and then practice them with a great deal of trial and error..”

Ways to Celebrate Your Loved Ones Passing:

  • Have a celebration gathering. Funerals are for the most part sad. Illness, accidents–it’s hard to remember all the sweet times when you’re hurting. Six months or a year later gather your family and friends and tell all those great-funny stories. It’s okay to laugh, cry, and remember. Do something unique–serve their favorite foods, host a football party, go ice skating or fishing …something they loved.
  • Create a memory box. Craft stores sell wood boxes with glass lids. Collect Dad’s baseball cap, ticket stubs, signed baseball, a photograph of the two of you at the game and create a memory you’ll always cherish.
  • Write them a letter. Tell your loved one where you are, that it’s still hard but you’re doing a bit better–or you hope to soon. Write them letters on your birthday, their birthday, their passing day–any time you want and need to talk to them–and keep these letters together. You’ll feel as if in some way they’re still with you.
  • Have a place to go and talk to them. Many families choose cremation, which is a valid option–and even those who bury their loved ones in a cemetary have the issue of trying to get back to the place to visit them. Why not donate a bench to a local park and engrave a plaque with your loved one’s name on it? That way not only will you have a place to go to talk with your loved one–other people can enjoy it as well.

Know that grief takes time. Lots of time–and it’s different for every person.

I think there’s a grief memory as well.

Our bodies store everything that’s ever happened to us, and something as profound as grief cycles though our minds, bodies and spirits. We find ourselves a year later experiencing many of the same overwhelming emotions–as if no time has passed at all. Unless we teach our spirits–literally replace the painful memories with new memories, we can circle this mountain again and again.

A dear friend of mine has a very difficult few weeks leading up to the anniversary of her father’s passing. He committed suicide and also killed his wife–her step-mother. It was needless to say, a horrendous shock and tragedy. We were talking this morning and she was weepy, feeling lost–and I reminded her that this weekend was the anniversary of my mother’s passing. Then it hit her–her father’s passing date will be in a few days. Her body remembered long before she looked at a calendar.

But knowing that this happens helps.

Each year, each cycle, we can choose a path of healing–in some small way we can begin to remember with sweetness and peace instead of turmoil and panic.

This year, I spent the day I remember my mother’s passing quite differently than before.

I danced this day.

Why?

We celebrated two family weddings this past weekend–one on Friday, another on Saturday (different sides of the family). I spent all weekend at rehearsal dinners, on the beach, toasting with champagne, hugs, hugs, and more hugs. Both sides of the family are generous, sweet, affectionate people, and both sides had lost a dear loved one this year so they knew how precious a day of celebration was.

It was also the right time for me. Enough time has passed that this was the right thing to do. There is a time to mourn, to ache, but there is a time to rebuild our lives.

It’s important to celebrate every chance we get.

Life is hard enough. Death comes and taps each of us on the shoulder.

Everyone’s been touched by cancer, heart disease, car accidents, Alzheimer’s–do you know anyone who has not experienced at least one or more of these?

Life comes in packages–life-death, babies–old age. We cannot open our arms to one and reject the other. We must somehow, learn to embrace both.

If this is the first or second year after your loved one’s passing, it is most likely a very difficult day. Be easy on yourself. Do whatever you need to do, whatever way you can get by. For some, this is a day to visit a graveside–for others, it’s a day to go parasailing–to do something so big and over the top to remind themselves they are alive and outrunning death’s grip. Some can barely get out of bed.

Do what feels right and natural, even if that means feeling sad and overwhelmed with grief–right now. Know that it won’t always hurt like it does now. It will get better in time. 

I was on a boat with a friend once. We were facing the wind, our hair going wild. We were smiling and laughing and watching flocks of birds lift out of the marsh and take off in flight, the spray of water surprising us–and my friend said,

“If sorrows and tragedies can literally make us age, then can’t good times, celebrations make us younger?

Yes, it can.

Scientists and physicians including Dr. Michael Roizen, author of Real Age has proven this.

You can be younger than your chronological age by how you take care of yourself physically, and by your mental outlook on life.

I missed my mom this year.

Thinking about the day she left this world will no doubt always hurt–but as I danced with my husband, my nieces and nephews, my mother-in-law, babies and toddlers–as I hugged and kissed and cried and toasted–I knew that this was the very, very best way I could honor my mother’s life–and her passing.

To dance.

It was time to place a new memory on top of the old one. It doesn’t diminish it.

Perhaps this is why people started placing flowers on graves.

Life and rebirth trumps death every time.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle

www.caroldodell.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

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Life lessons are everywhere, and I was recently reminded of what it’s like to be a caregiver by my two dogs–Kismet and Rupert. Kizzy (short for Kismet) is an Alaskan Malamute and her son, Rupert who is part lab. (She had a tryst in the front yard before we could stop her). Miracle was, she only had one puppy–so we had to keep him. Miracle number two was that Rupert was born the very week of the anniversary of my mom’s passing.

Recently, I was sitting outside with the two of them, their leashes attached to my lawn chair (they love to romp the neighborhood if set loose), only Kizzy wanted to go inside. It was a cool, there was a breeze, she had a water fountain next to her to drink out of, I was there to pet her and we had a beautiful lake and birds galore to enjoy–but no–she would have none of that. She wanted inside.

Kizzy strained and strained. Whined. Wouldn’t sit down and relax and enjoy being petted or play ball–nothing. Rupert, on the other hand is less stubborn, more easy going by nature, and so he  was sprawled out beside me just as comfortable as he could be.

Both dogs were in the same place, under the same circumstances.

One was miserable. One was content. It was simply an attitude on both of their parts.

As I sat there, I thought of how some caregivers–or care receivers don’t want to be where life has brought them. Whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant isn’t even the point. They simply don’t want to be there. Period. They strain. Whine. Refuse to become a part of their environment and just enjoy the ride.

Others bloom where they’re planted. They adjust, adapt, make new friends, look around,  and figure hey, if they’re going to be there they might as well make the most of it.

Attitude.

I’m not saying that caregiving isn’t hard. Lord knows I know how hard it is. My mom had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,and in those last three years, I was Kizzy straining on the end of my very short leash.

I know now that I was scared. I was afraid my mother or that caregiving would consume me. I was afraid that if I was okay with it, that I’d never get to leave–or quit. I was afraid I’d never have a moment  to myself. I was afraid I was losing my indepence. Afraid. Afraid. Afraid.

Kismet, by the way, means fate.

I know that at times, I made it harder than it needed to be by not asking for and accepting more help, by realizing what a gift caregiving was (ironic gift), and by not seeing the beauty of where I was in my life. I missed certain opportunities by resisting so hard.  

If you’re miserable, edgy, antsy and irratated, ask yourself why?

At first, it’ll seem obvious–you’re exhausted, frustrated, sleep deprived, and perhaps dealing with a fussy loved one or facing death.

Ask yourself again–why are you miserable?

Keep asking until you get at the heart of the matter.

Ask yourself until you run out of excuses.

Why are you where you are?

Because it’s exactly where you need to be.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated Blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.Kunati.com, Publishers

 

 

 

 

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Do you wonder sometimes why your life has turned out like it has?

Why does one parent need you right now?

Why you’re caregiving dad–not mom–or vice versa?

The obvious reason is dad or mom is still here and needs care.

That’s the obvious reason, but not the only one.

It’s no coincidence.

It has a lot to do with what you need to learn. What lessons have come your way.

Where you are and what you’re doing is important and significant not only to you, but how your experience ripples out and touches others.

Some have pleasant, easy caregiving experiences. Not too many.

Relationships are complicated, and even when they’re not, caring for another life can be exhausting, frustrating and challenging because there are so many aspects to it–physically, financially, dealing with the medical community and other family members–it’s about as pleasant as licking a porcupine!

I also wonder about those people–with nice parents. Nice spouses. I feel as if I’m studying an ailien species that breathe in water. How do they do that? I ask myself.

I had to ask myself why my dad passed fifteen years before my mom. He died of heart disease and had  struggled with it for about a decade–he’d had a valve replacement, several veins replaced, he lived on nitro-glycerin tablets, and in the end his heart simply wore out. I was relieved for him to pass knowing he was out of pain and not struggling for every breath. He held on for my mother. She asked him to and he did. For as long as he could.

Dads can be stubborn, cantankerous, strong (headed and bodied), non-communicative, cold, (maybe less affectionate, or shows it in differnt ways), proud, demanding, opinionated, and controlling.

Not all dads. Just some. Caring can be a real challenge. And some of those challenges are inherent to the fact that you’re dealing with testosterone.

Men are proud critters. They’ve always been the one to help others. They’ve provided for a family, fought in a war, held a job down for 30+years–and now you, their child, is going to tell them what to do???

I can understand that it may take a bit of an adjustment period.

The list may sound stereotypical, but I believe many of those traits are more personality than gender based. Stubborn? Cantakerous? Demanding? Opinionated? My mom staked her claim to all of these. But there’s a male version that adds a whole other level of independence and stubborness to this scenario.

Dads can also push our buttons. A lot of history runs between dads and their kids. Hurts, frustrations, wanting to please your dad, obey your dad, honor your dad–how do you do that and still change his diaper? It’s tough.

Let’s be fair here. Not all dads were Ward Cleavers. We adults have to deal with the disappointments and hurts from childhoods and teenhoods that maybe have been marred by absentee dads, alcoholic dads, angry or distant dads–and now, we have to care give and act like one happy family?

That’s another post, but know that you can find a way to take care of you–and provide the care they need.

Sometimes dads are difficult to care for because of all the things they won’t let you do.

Not just you, but anyone. Pride again. They don’t know how to stop being that person they were for so long.

How do you reach your dad? Especially if you have a hard time (either of you or both) talking about things of the heart?

  • Be patient
  • Let them have their way on things that don’t really matter
  • Honor them. Treat them with dignity. “Brag” about who he is, and all he’s done when you’re out in public or when people come over
  • Focus on how proud you are of him as a person–not just a list of things he did. It’s hard for him to reconcile himself to not being able to be that strong, tough guy he used to be. Focus on inner qualities of patience, humor, kindness, wisdom–things he still possesses
  • Choose to focus on the good times, the good in him–and in you. Let go of the “you weren’t there for me” moments of your life
  • Pay attention to anything that interests him–birds, politics, how to cook perfect scrambled eggs, vintage cars–find ways to connect
  • Smile. Do something they like–pull out the sports page, buy him a car magazine.
  • Be easy. Let go of your own fussiness and let the time just flow.
  • Before long, you’ll see a softening in him–less combative–and if you can get just one small acknowledgement in a week, then you know you’ve broken through.
  • Ignore the bluster. If he’s fussy, demanding, opinionated, even angry–ignore it. Do the care you need to do–take him to the doctor, give him his bath or meds and just let him gripe while you keep doing “your job.” Griping is one way of handling the embarrassment–a way to distract him and you from the task at hand

***

This Father’s Day, if you don’t have a great relationship with you dad, then focus in one thing to be thankful for. Write it down on an index card and put it in your pocket of what you’re wearing that day. If things get off course, pull that out and focus on what you’re grateful for.

Why you’re caregiving your dad and not your mom may be a mystery to you–right now. But I bet in time, you’ll see why.

I know that I had a soft spot for my dad–and it would have been easier for me to be kinder, more patient with my dad–I’m a Daddy’s girl. But it wouldn’t have been good for him. He was in pain. He needed to pass on to the other side. Perhaps my caregiving would him would be hard on him. I was his little girl.

But I believe the biggest reason why I had to care for my mom is that I still have lessons to learn from her–how to be a wife, a mother, how to become an older woman, how to die. I also needed to learn how to stand up for myself. I still had some forgiving to do. I still had some letting go to do. I needed to know that I had the strength and tenacity to see it through–to make plans about my own integrity and personhood based off what she had to teach me.

Caregiving is a two-way street. Each have something to gain. Each have something to learn.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon, Kunti Publishers, www.Kunati.com

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

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Caregiving isn’t always sweet and sentimental. Caregiver relationships are as complicated as everybody else’s. What happens if you need to/are asked to care give someone who has hurt you deeply?

I met a woman at a book club once and her face revealed her suffering. She shared that her husband had late stage Parkinson’s and she was basically housebound and caring for him 24/7. She looked beyond exhausted.

She also shared that she probably should have left him years ago.

Sometimes we stay. For the kids. For the security. Because we were too chicken to leave. Now it’s too late. We need to finish what we started.

I understand. I’ve lived long enough and have been married long enough to understand how very complicated things get.

My “book club” lady shared she really didn’t love him any more. He had killed that long ago.

I didn’t ask, but many times relationships are mangled beyond repair.

Repeated infidelity. Addictions. Isolation and control. Verbal or physical abuse.

There are things we never tell anyone.

I’ve volunteered in shelters, counseled couples, and have found that the deepest hurts usually go unsaid.

***

So why do it? Why care give someone who you simply can’t love any more?

Why stay? You may only have a few years left yourself.

Each person has to figure that out for themselves.

Sometimes it’s not that black and white. Yes, there are hurts. And no, you don’t feel anything for that person, but you have your reasons. Maybe it’s in part how you need to see yourself.

So you stay.

How do you love someone who has hurt you?

Don’t try to make yourself love them.

Don’t feel guilty.

Don’t try to look noble.

Do what you can.

Choose a path of integrity.

Caregiving isn’t about the person who is ill, aged or infirmed. It’s about you.

Decide who you want to be, regardless of them.

Mentally and emotionally separate yourself. You’re still giving them good care.

Trust your good heart.

Practicing a faith can bring you deep comfort.

Know that forgiveness can be as basic as wishing them no harm.

Even if they’re still hateful, vindictive and cruel, if you choose to stay then it’s on your terms.

If you can, if you choose to, place them in a care facility. You’re still being responsible. You’re still watching out for them. You don’t have to humiliate yourself and continue to be demeaned. They chose their path. You choose yours.

Find your place of peace.

Detach when you need to. Methodical caregiving can still be good caregiving.

Begin to nurture yourself. Your dreams. Reward yourself for what you’ve chosen to do if you believe it’s the right thing to do.

Duty. Responsibility. Integrity. These are important words our culture has all but forgotten.

Choose a higher path.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

www.mothering-mother.com

 

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Do you need to be needed?

Carl Jung called it, “The Wounded Healer.”

Caregivers, whether they come by it willingly or are drug into their caregivingroles, become accustomed to being needed. It’s comforting  and satisfying to know that you have a purpose.

But what do you mean when you say, “wounded healer?”  Is that a bad thing?

Wounded healer is an archetypal personality type that psychologist Carl Jung used to describe the relationship between analyst and patient–why a person might go into the psychology/counseling field.

No, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not sure there would be firemen, doctors, nurses, pastors, or teachers if there life experiences hadn’t given them a reason to step into these professions–to give back or make a difference.

I know good and well I wrote Mothering Mother out of a sense of need. I needed insight and direction. I needed to know how to step into this new role as a daughter who cares for her mother. I needed to examine aspects of the soul, my beliefs, and the ramifications on my relationships.

What would caregiving do to me?

I couldn’t find the answer, so I had to write my way through.

Jung had some theories as to why people choose “needing” professions:

  • The wounded healing is consciously aware of his own personal wounds and can be empathetic toward the person in need. 
  • The care receiver/patient also possesses an “inner healer” he is unaware of, but it’s there to help guide him and lead him to wholeness. 
  • The care giver–and care receiver (wounded healer and patient) are a good fit for each other. They need each other, in many ways.
  • They intersect at that point of need and each derives something from their relationship or experience. 

Jung also noted that you have to be careful and make sure that this type of agreement or relationship remains a healthy exchange for both people. He referred tho this as depth psychology and cautioned that the caregiver could potentially have his old wounds reopened, or get caught in a vicious cycle. He also cautioned against the ego taking over and the caregiver getting hooked on the power or the needing and falling into an an inflated ego.

For most caregivers, I fear that you’ll wind up creating more and more “needing” scenarios and begin to only feel like yourself when someone is in need or crisis mode.

It’s a big let down after your loved ones passes or goes into a care facility. You feel useless. You thought you longed for freedom but you feel lost. Your days were defined for you and now…what do you do with yourself? Who are you if not someone who cares for others?

You like that you’re good at something. You’re proud of the fact that you’re a good organizer, that you can spout off medical jargon, that you’re the one everyone comes to for a diagnosis. You actually own your own copy of Grey’s Anatomy, and I don’t mean the DVD collection of McDreamy and McSteamy.

Jung derives the term “wounded healer” from the ancient Greek legend of Asclepius, a physician who in built a sanctuary at Epidaurus in order to treat others. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen also wrote a book with the same title. The Greek Myth of Chiron is also used to illustrate the archetype of the Wounded Healer so this whole deal about being needed and what it does to you isn’t new.

Realize that you might have codependency tendencies.

What is codependency?

NIMH, the National Institute of Mental Health defines it as: “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”

Oh, that’s not me. I’m not that bad. I’m not aiding an alcoholic or hiding an abuser.

Neither was I, but I did see aspects of control issues and “only I can make her happy” in my caregiving and even parenting years. A little of this stuff is toxic.

One book that changed millions of lives was Melodie Beattie’s Codependent No More. It brought this subject out of the counselor’s office and allowed lay people to analyze their behavior and seek help.

So how do you care give without taking it too far?

  • Be aware. Realize when you’ve tied your super-caregiver cape on, when you’re deriving more power or satisfaction out of your role than you probably should have–when you push others away or start to feel oddly territorial. Awareness is key.
  • Stop being so nice! Niceness is an illness. Do what’s right, not necessarily what’s nice.
  • Trust that what is right for you is right for those you love.
  • There is a time to extend yourself for others, but make sure there’s a cut off date.
  • If you are going to have to care giver for a long time, then make a plan so that your whole life and health and relationships aren’t derailed indefinitely.
  • Give up perfectionism. Allow others to help. Ask, demand help–and then accept it. If it’s difficult, then let one thing go at a time. Let one job be done by someone else for awhile–and go from there.
  • Ask a friend to be honest and let you know when you’re in “need to be needed mode.”
  • Laugh at yourself when you “do it again.” Don’t use this as another thing to feel guilty about. Break it down into manageable chunks.

It comes with the territory, but it’s not all bad news.

Recent studies on happiness says that people derive more joy out of being needed and having purpose than they do out of having money. Happiness seems to be based on treasured experiences, spirituality, a sense of family, and meaningful work. It’s also lowest during mid-life when you thought if you worked hard enough, made enough money, and raised decent kids, you’d be happy–suddenly you realize that while maybe you got some of that, much of life is beyond your control. You have to dig deeper, look beyond life’s trappings to find a deeper sense of joy.

So see? If you just don’t go crazy with this needing thing, it could actually be good for you. Caregiving certainly has aspects of experiences, purpose, family, and spirituality.

Balance, grasshopper. Balance.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Check out my book on Amazon: Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

www.mothering-mother.com

Syndicated blog at www.hopethrives.org

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

 

 

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There’s a new kind of caregiver out there.

She (or he) is a savvy caregiver, isn’t a martyr, and doesn’t look defeated (all the time).

She (I use the feminine pronoun to apply to everyone) has her act together (in some respects) and isn’t going to let her life and her plans be completely derailed–and yet she loves her family, her elders, her children, and embraces the fact that she’s an integral part of their life.

How does she do it all?

It’s not about being perfect.

In part, it’s about being prepared, looking at the big picture, and then breaking down the day-to-day components into manageable bites.

It’s also about choosing to care-give.

This isn’t a passive thing–and yes, it may have come to you sideways, unexpected or by default, but you didn’t have to say yes. Everyday people place their family members in care facilities, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes by refusing to give them any level of care.

Realize that you are choosing to care-give. That sense of choice also provides you with purpose and direction. It means you’re not a victim.

Preparedness (Boy Scouts, move over) and How to Care-give Not to Kill Yourself

  • She’s (the healthy caregiver) gathered the necessary info and has it at her fingertips–Living Wills (The Five Wishes is the one I highly suggest) DNR orders, if necessary, insurance info and numbers, notes made about recent doctor appts. or hospitalizations, and medicine info.
  • She uses her calendar and to-do lists efficiently, but she’s not a robot. Some days you chuck it all and love on the person who needs it the most (that may be yourself).
  • She has her down days, her pajama days, and she knows that balance isn’t about doing a little every day–sometimes there are seasons–seasons of quiet, seasons of chaos, and seasons of grief.
  • She’s learned not to let every little thing rial her. She’s experienced enough in life to know what’s worth freaking out about (which is very little) and what isn’t (which is most everything else).
  • She listens, repeats back what is said (to a loved one or to a doctor) so that she understands clearly. She takes notes if it’s important or could be necessary later.
  • She can shut it all off and be a woman, get a mani-pedi, be silly and play Prince in the car and sing to the top of her lungs. She doesn’t get sucked into being an elder or being a teen just because she happens to spend a lot of time with either (or both).
  • She prioritizes. Sometimes a home-cooked meal is soothing and rattles her nerves. Sometimes it’s pizza night. She laid down the “shoulda’s, woulda’s, and coulda’s.”
  • She has a great support team–friends to call and gripe to, a gynecologist or family doctor who’s looking out for her, knows the stress she’s under and can monitor her well-being. She relies on her faith, her heart, her circle of support and doesn’t try to go it alone. She considers herself a part of a team and shows a heart of gratitude.
  • She asks for and accepts help. She isn’t interested in being super woman or perfectionist woman. She’s willing to get help and seeks out competent care.
  • She knows she’s vulnerable to stress, so she’s devised a meditation time and exercise time she can manage–it may be only a few minutes a day, but it keeps her sane.  She’s found her own spirituality.
  • She continues to improve her own life–she takes an on line class, a yoga class, is learning how to knit–something that keeps her mind active and learning.
  • She utilizes the internet, finds help, information, and forums that help support her and her caregiving experience.
  • She can see past tomorrow–she knows that caregiving isn’t forever–and she has her own personal plan to move on with her life.
  • She gives herself permission to “lose it” every once in a while–sometimes things just go in the crapper and that isn’t a reflection of her, it’s just life. If she bites someone’s head off, forgets an appointment, bounces a check, she admits her faux pas and lets it go.
  • She values her marriage/intimate relationship and allows sex and intimacy to heal her. Even when she’s exhausted, she finds and asks for ways to connect.
  • She enjoys caregiving–even with all its craziness, caring for a loved one is a privilege. She finds ways to incorporate everyday pleasures to share with her care partner–bird watching from a bedroom window, stopping for ice cream on the way back from the doctor.
  • She takes the time to hold hands.
  • She’s strong enough to make the touch choices, to not be popular, to figure out how to get a doctor, care staff to understand where she’s coming from–and she’s brave enough to know that when death comes, she may be asked to make critical end-of-life decisions, decisions others may disagree with.
  • She’s not afraid of Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons and doesn’t give up in the cruel face of whatever disease her loved ones face. If they forget who she is, she’ll remember for them. If they become uncontrollable, she gets help and doesn’t take it personal.
  • She knows that she may not always be able to do this–and she’s explored other options. She isn’t going to wreck her health or her marriage. She’s planning for those changes now.
  • She knows that caregiving will take her to the bitter edge, and she’s got to figure out how regain the parts of her that get lost in the mix. She knows how hard this is, or will become, but there’s a thread that’s pulling her along, a thread will lead her out and will allow her to continue her journey once caregiving is over.

The new kind of caregiver isn’t a super-mom or super-daughter (or super-son).

They’re real people loving their families. It’s realistic. It’s not martyristic.

The world may not understand the “sacrifices” as some might call them that caregivers (plain ole’ family) makes, but those who have been there understand the love and loyalty that comes in tow.

You don’t do all these things at once, so don’t try to measure up.

You don’t do them to impress anybody.

This is survival. This is how to care-give and not kill yourself in the process.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

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It’s the simple things I miss about my mother.

Just two women shopping. Someone to be with. Someone who knows me better than I wanted her to.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

I’ll always miss you, and I’ll always carry you in my heart.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my book, Mothering Mother:

When I Miss Her

I miss Mother when I go to the grocery store. Since I’m no longer eligible to park in the parking spaces for the handicapped, I must walk by the light blue and white lines as I head across the parking lot that no longer takes me ten minutes to cross. I see Mother grip the handle of the grocery cart and remember the freedom this rolling walker gave her.

 

I still see her curved spine dipping, her stockings slowly sagging from above her knees and eventually bunching around her ankles. I see her silhouette, complete with a bright blue nylon cap and its hundreds of petal-shaped pieces that made her head look like a massive flower. Some people loved her hat, others made fun of it, snickered about it behind our backs, but there were a few who found her and her blue hat endearing.

 

I miss her as I pass by the bananas. She said they gave her potassium and ate one a day. I had to buy seven a week—not six, not eight—though I often cheated, hoping to tide her over a day or two. Sometimes I get the urge to eat one in case I, too, am low on potassium. Any fruit she ate had to be peeled, cored and washed until it practically no longer resembled anything that ever lived. Apples were pale and tinged brown, grapes looked naked and embarrassed without their skins.

 

I miss her when I pass the Little Debbie display. Her face would light up at the sound of me opening the cellophane wrapper of an oatmeal pie.

 

I miss not picking up her half gallon of milk, her apple juice and her frozen dinners. I knew which ones she liked—the meatloaf, beef tips and flounder, nothing with pasta, very little chicken. Ice-cream bars remind me of her dying, not living. I can’t bring myself to eat one, or even buy them anymore.

 

I miss her small talk with the cashier, the slightly condescending way she treated the help, and the times she surprised me with genuine kindness and humor. As time went on, she took forever to get out her wallet, and two forevers to pull out her credit cards. She could no longer differentiate a Visa card from a debit card, from a license. She’d just let them pick, holding the plastic squares out innocently like a hand of playing cards. I always tried to catch her before she let strangers rifle through her entire wallet and checkbook. By then, some of her prejudices had diminished and she chitchatted with anyone who caught her eye, regardless of race, which was a pleasant change, though unreliable. She insisted the baggers carry our groceries to the car, no matter how few we had, and she saw no need to tip them. I’d slip them a dollar or two after buckling her in. Tipping never was her thing.

 

Now I just go to the store like anyone else. No one to slow me down, no one to check on, no bananas to count, no Little Debbies to hide so she won’t eat them all in two days.

 

It’s just ordinary, and what once seemed a bother, is now missed.

 

~Carol D. O’Dell

 

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

 

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.opentohope.com

www.kunati.com, Publishers

 

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We always think that happiness is “out there.”

When I get a new job, when I take vacation, when I lose 30 pounds, when…

Happiness is not that hard. We make it hard. Happiness is having new eyes. A fresh perspective.

After I moved my mother in with us to care for her, (she had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), she used to tell everybody–the postman, the grocery clerk, the pastor, the lawn guy, that she had given up everything to move in with me–her house, her car, her friends, her life.

Apparently she thought I had given up nothing.

I would stand next to her and smile and let her have her moment, get the sympathy she thought she deserved although most people had no idea what to say.

It reminded me of a precocious two-year old I knew who would run in from playing with a tiny scratch on her arm and pronounce to the entire room, “LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME!”

There were times as a caregiver (and other times in my life) that I wanted to do that, pronounce it to the world.

But somewhere along in my early adult life (after years of anger and hurt about being adopted and other very painful issues) I got tired of my own whining. I simply wore it out. I was tired of being known as the girl with the problems.

I decided to be the happiest person I knew.

Not a sappy Pollyanna happy type you just want to slap, but deep-down easy, not in your face joy.

It hasn’t been a linear path getting here, but I am pretty darn happy.

One day, while caring for my mom, she toodled into the kitchen, slapped her hand down on the counter and pronounced, “I’m not happy!”

As if I could bop her over the head with my fairy wand and “Voila!” instant happiness.

I looked at her, my mother who truly was a happy (in a self-centered, domineering, the entire world is here to serve me kind of way) person. It just wasn’t easy, and life isn’t always easy. She didn’t like having to leave her friends and move in with me. Her body was giving out and Parkinson’s had taken its toll, also, Alzheimer’s and depression are linked. Most days, she couldn’t toodle into my kitchen. She didn’t like that I had to divide my time away from her to take care of my children and my marriage. She didn’t like that her life was playing out and that sooner, rather than later, she’d die.

But I couldn’t fix any of that.

I just looked at her with this dawning revelation.

If only one of us could be happy, then I’d choose me.

Kind of the life raft theory. Who do you kick off the boat?

The one who most likely won’t make it any way.

Sounds terrible, I know, and I had truly, truly, truly tried to make her happy–and more than that, I had tried to take care of her, keep her safe, keep her alive.

But if the people around you simply choose not to be happy, then realize you can choose otherwise.

Choose joy.

My life is far, far from perfect, and I’ve been kicked in the teethquite a few times, but this morning, I rode my bike for five miles with my ipod on singing my heart out.

I have a new CD–Grey’s Anatomy’s Third Season, and I love the compilation of songs and artists. I belt it out, make figure 8s and circles with my wheels, and dance on the bike (be-boppin’ up and down) and I don’t care what anybody thinks.

Why should I? In the first place, hardly anyone’s home at 10am, and most people I know aren’t happy–or at least they don’t act happy, so why should I care if I’m known as the crazy bicycle singer?

My kids think I’m nuts, but they’re used to me by now.

My morning coffee, my journal, my glider, the sun, my bike, my ipod, my afternoon dark chocolate fix–the warm, strong hug of my husband–these are what I call give me my “happy fix.” They bring me immense daily joy. They cost very little, and I try not to run out or get so busy and stressed that I don’t do these things I love, the very things that sustain me.

Caregiving was grueling at times, and the end was really, really tough–but it taught me to love, to give, to stretch beyond myself, and it was for a season.

Since my mother’s passing, I’ve learned that life is pretty darn short and I better snatch all the sweetness and joy I can. Parts of my life are still crappy, and I’m not always this giddy–I tend to be more so in the spring and summer, so if I’m getting on your last nerve–sorry.

What I hope for you today is based off something I read this morning in Alan Cohen’s Daily Devotional book, A Deep Breath of Life,

April 14th entry:

I used to think I was a perfectionist.

I was constantly finding flaws and errors other people overlooked. If there were many aspects of a job that was done well, I would point out the one area that wasn’t.

But now I realize I was an imperfectionist.

If I was a perfectionist, I would have found perfection everywhere I looked.

***

That BLEW ME AWAY. I hope it did you too.

I plan to become a happyologist.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.opentohope.com

 

 

 

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