Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gratefulness and Family Caregiving

Is the glass half full or half empty? It depends on what you choose to focus on. When times get rough you can't ignore the empty part because that's information about what needs to change, eventually, as time goes on. But neither should you ignore what you have left because that's what makes life worthwhile. Who do you love? Who has loved you? Do you have a roof over your head? If things get really bad will you have the family, friends and community support to survive?

Most of my clients are very focussed on what they've lost, as is normal and natural when life is filled with loss and change. But I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that changed my perspective. He's been given a death sentence -- he was diagnosed with an illness that, theoretically, at least, only gives him a few months to a year to live. Of course, he wants to beat those odds and live a long healthy life but he knows -- like all of us -- that he could die in his sleep at any time. He feels healthy enough now so he was trying to decide what to do with his life. Should he take on a long-term commitment to make a particular dream come true? What if he doesn't have enough time left to accomplish his aims? Or should he take the next flight out to the Bahamas and live the rest of his life on a boat in the Caribbean, fishing, drinking rum, with his feet up in a hammock? The answer, for him, was to live with the paradox. To live as if each day was his last while continuing to do the long-term things that those of us who think we have forever would choose. On his deathbed he didn't want to think that he could have accomplished his dream but threw the opportunity away because he was so afraid he might die. AND he wants to enjoy the time he has left. He wants to be grateful for the time he has left and use that time to work towards his dearest life dreams.

That's the paradox we live with as caregivers, too. Yes, we want things to be different and need to plan for and make changes as time goes on. AND we need to find things to appreciate every day because every day COULD be our last. What do you appreciate within the context of being a family caregiver?

This blog is an excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving.

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