5 WAYS TO BE A BETTER CARER
(Published in the latest edition of MCS Aware Magazine)
A life well lived; that is how I look back on the last 25 years, the quarter of a century I have spent caring for my profoundly ill and disabled wife. It’s a long, long time, those prime years that I might have devoted to building a career, or the training business I freely chose to give up to embrace the anonymous, impoverished path of the full time carer.
Those years have not been ones of status, influence, wealth, power, but, in terms of what counts at the end of the day, they have been fruitful years of learning about how to be truly real, truly present, fully alive, for which I am deeply grateful.
Being touched profoundly by love, learning how to face and overcome numerous fears and obstacles, growing immeasurably as a husband, as a man, tasting a freedom so real my heart would burst, surely this is what a life well lived is about?
The process of being a carer, I have found, the “secret” to success, the key to survival over the long term, is to devote yourself to constant, never-ending growth, development, learning and always fresh insight. Here are some notes I jotted down earlier:
1.See the person.“The light has come back in your eyes !”, my wife noticed, softly. I had consciously chosen that morning to see, really see not just my wife, but everything, as if anew.
Hanging up the washing I noticed a single weed; in all its beauty, it’s unconditional giving was a parable. How much there is to learn when we open our eyes in wonder.
2. Be Free.Caring for another is a tremendous privilege. Not least because it offers so many opportunities to be free. You quickly learn there is little room for ego, game-playing, immaturity, stuckness, victimhood.
All these things get in the way of truly being present; you feel them as heavy weights dragging you down, making your step heavy, causing chaos around you. Let go and you will know what freedom is !
3.Delight.What really matters ? Knowing that, to my mind, is caring’s greatest gift. After 25 years I am proud to list among my greatest achievement, the ability to sit still, contented on a bench, or an old wall, just delighting in the scene.
A town coming to life, the gracefulness of the bamboo in the garden, a gull swooping out of sight below the cliff top. I notice, I breathe in, I let the memories pour in, or maybe my mind is effortlessly present. That is to know immeasurable joy
4. Be Better
Today I will build upon what I learned yesterday about turning hopelessness to hope. Caring, it will swipe you off your feet in an instant, you will know despair such as few ever experience.
For this is not about power, position, authority, wealth, connection; this is about the bare naked you and your empty hands and the guts it takes to face the loneliness of your physical, emotional and spiritual limits, in the face of profound unrelieved agony.
Character is an excellent word to describe your choice to dig down ever deeper then and there find reserves unimaginable. Caring, it’s a constant process of growth and learning. There is no standing still.
5. Soar“Who am I to soar, to fly so very high?”, I wrote in a song, as a much younger man. It is only now, in my 60’s that I am able to grasp what I was talking about !
I have struggled all my life with feelings of not being good enough, of unworthiness; as if I do not deserve the extraordinary love of my wife, or this wonderful computer, our corgi dog, sleeping at my feet, my gifts of song. If you don’t feel worthy, you will never really know what it is to be alive and present; except in glimpses.
Thank God there have been enough of those, plus the patient wisdom of my wife, to keep me going this long. But these days; well, the freedom soaring through my veins is more than enough to make a man fly!!
Greg is the author of :”Severe ME, Notes for Carers”