That question was posed to me yesterday during a get-together with several other caregivers. My first thought when I pondered that question was, “what don’t I feel guilty about?” I realized in listening to the others share, that I don’t give myself enough credit for doing the best I can. For example….
I feel guilty that I get annoyed at Lynn when he interrupts me over and over again when I’m trying to do other things. I hear him call my name less than five minutes after I’ve been in his room helping him for fifteen and my first thought is, “what now?” Then I go into his room fussing about why he couldn’t have said something while I was still there. Often his issue is something he could not have anticipated and something he really needed. I realize that in my mind, I’m accusing him of being thoughtless of my time when really all he’s doing is asking me for help with something he really cannot do himself. More times than not, it’s something I would have wanted done if I was him so I can’t really blame him for asking…Then the guilt comes rolling in…Why can’t I have more patience? How can I get angry at someone just asking for help when he really can’t do it himself? What kind of caregiver am I to resent helping him? …and other thoughts which I am sure you, too, have experienced at times.
Then there’s the guilt for not doing my job as well as I used to. I’m not as prompt in answering calls or getting back to emails. I can’t come into work to meet with people face to face except once a week. I’m not there to brain-storm resolutions to issues or even just to share concerns. I don’t turn out as much work as fast as I used to. Therefore, the guilt piles up and I feel that I’m letting everyone down at work as well.
Of course, there’s also extended and immediate family guilt. I can’t attend family gatherings unless they are held at my home. I can’t help out with family needs as much. I often have to cut conversations short to go take care of something for Lynn. I can’t be there to support them and care for them the way I once did…More guilt.
I don’t spend time in worship as I used to. I was very involved in my church before Lynn’s hospitalization. I was often at church five out of seven days. We rarely missed attending a Sunday. I tried to always pitch in to help others. Now I’m lucky if I find time to listen to the sermon off the internet from the previous week on Sunday morning.
When I step back and take a look at what I’m feeling guilty about, I realize I’m ridiculous. I’m feeling guilty about being human!
If I only had one of those things to do, then I could devote lots of time and energy to perfecting what I do, but that’s not the case. I have to divide my time among so many needs that it’s impossible to do more.
If I was a home-made delicious apple pie that was never cut, then I would look and smell good but either would not bring much joy to anyone or if eaten all at once, I would make them sick. If I could be cut, instead, into eight pieces, then eight people could share in the joy of my deliciousness or I could bring joy to fewer people more times. But what if, I’m cut into sixteen pieces? Does that mean I’m not delicious and I don’t bring joy? No. I would still taste just as good, though I could not bring as much immediate joy to those sharing in the pie. I have not lost my value or the delicious flavor available to those who can sample the taste, I am just spread out to many who share the limited joy of smaller pieces.
Maybe that’s a weird analogy but it sort of works. I still am me with all I have to offer and share, but I have just so much of me to go around. The smaller my pieces become, the less joy I have to share with any one person. If the ingredients were “thinned down” so that the pie would go further then it would not taste as sweet or bring as much joy so I have to allow myself to do the best I can with the pieces I have to offer at that time and not look for ways to thin myself out so much. That also means I have to give up my way of wanting to be perfect with what I do. I need to allow myself to let some nonessential things go, buy rather than make things, accept help and ask for more, not promise to turn around projects as fast as I once could, etc. I need to learn to care for myself in the same way that I care for others and give myself permission to be less than perfect as long as I do the best I can at that moment. I am still an awesome caregiver, a very skilled worker, a follower of Jesus, and an awesome Mom even though I can’t be all things to everyone I used to be at every moment. It’s time to step off my own pedestal and have a little reality check. I’m okay and I’m doing a good job with what I have and can physically manage at any given time.
So, time to kick guilt to the curb. “Get thee behind me Satan. I’m a child of God and I’m doing just fine so take the guilt knife out of my back and get lost!”