Caring for self while being a caregiver…

Today I took time off from work, though I am still very much behind in everything.  Taking off initially made me feel guilty. But it appeared I got some rest last night in that I may have awakened once and got back to sleep quickly. when I awoke for good, I actually felt a little rested.

The night before I was checking my school email and noticed Andy Greenhow was scheduled to speak at Eastern University. Andy is the pastor at Broad Street Ministries (BSM) where I volunteer. I wrestled with going or staying home and getting other things done pertaining to my mother. After the should I or shouldn’t I back and forth stopped, the decision was made to go. I would make sure my mother had her medicine and leave in plenty of time to take the long route to lessen the chance of me getting lost (I am usually the one who makes one wrong turn and I am lost for three hours). My mother had something for me to do, so I hurried and got that done, and by the time I got in my car to drive to Eastern, I was leaving at the exact time I wanted to go; perhaps this will work after all.

At the same time I was a bit stressed. My mind was spinning about things that I needed to do: grocery shopping for my mother and myself, getting her prescriptions filled, finding the over-the-counter medicine, making a list of the medicine for her to keep track of, making an extra set of keys for my son and myself, preparing lunch for my mother when I got back. As I was thinking about all this, my chest started to hurt – actually it was my heart was I in pain. I knew I needed to pull back and de-stress. So I began to pray to God for my chest to stop hurting. Next I started just thinking about God, what he had already worked out. And as Tye Tribbett says in one of his songs, “if he did it before, he can do it again.” Eventually, I started to feel better and excited about going to see Andy.

I got to the location in plenty of time, and I was proud of myself for not getting lost. I got a quiet place to sit down and start the medicine list to complete later. I got to see some people I knew who came to see Andy, and I admit, it was nice to be involved in the simple art of conversation.

Andy’s speech was on point, full of his comedic personality yet showing his passion for addressing the concerns of the disenfranchised through communion entitled The Lord’s Supper Beyond Sunday: The Sacramental Approach to Hunger Relief at Broad Street Ministry.” 

After the presentation, a student came to me (I had asked a question earlier and Andy said my name and that I sang in the choir at BSM), and we discussed the ministry and how her daughters would benefit through the volunteering of serving meals…it was so nice to talk about something else for a change.

Keeping a close watch on time, and knowing lunchtime was on the horizon, I left and got home. I-95 was not congested and I quickly got home, prepared lunch for my mother, who, at the time of this writing (which began in early evening) is just getting around to eating.

The bottom line is this: I learned that a caregiver needs to care for him/herself, and one of the ways of dong that is to do something different, like what I did today. There have been so many times in the past that I talk myself out of doing something different and later wonder the “what if” – if I had gone. Today the what if did not occur. As I walked away from the auditorium and sat in my car, a smile came across my face; I was proud of myself. I had achieved the goal of doing something different. And in that doing a discovery was re-introduced: the caregiver needs to take care of self while taking care of others. What I did today recharged me to continue caregiving. So to caregivers everywhere, as you are doing the mundane and day to day living of caregiving, take the time and dare to do something different: by yourself and with friends. Get away from the responsibility of caregiving and experience a time of refreshing, if only for a few hours. Be a caregiver of yourself…

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