I mentioned in an earlier post, that I am taking an online Oprah Life Class, with researcher and author Brene’ Brown. Last week I also posted a couple of comments on Facebook, meant to help you be thankful, even in the midst of holiday stress. I was busy and stressed myself and had no time to Blog!
So, now the Thanksgiving week is over and we are full-on in the rush and “busy-ness” of the Christmas season. What did you experience last week? Everything was perfect, right? Family arrived and were complimentary of all your efforts, they pitched right in and helped with everything…the meals, your caregiving duties, keeping the house straight in the midst of all the cooking and the visitors. Your person for whom you care enjoyed the holiday, recognized the visiting family members and had several “good days”. You got a chance to relax and build some energy for the next surge. And you may have even gotten some bargains in the weekend shopping trip. RIGHT?????
Or, the turkey was dry, your sister-in-law got on your last NERVE, your mom with dementia doesn’t remember the fun she had on Thanksgiving, and you did not get a chance to go shopping as you were washing sheets and towels, cooking more meals, picking up your son’s shoes from the middle of the floor repeatedly, and telling your barking dog to “PLEASE JUST SHUT UP! Or some variation of those things.
And maybe you feel guilty because you weren’t very thankful. You didn’t feel much joy and your guilt is choking you because you realize it could be worse. Your situation is probably not the worst of the worst. Someone has more burdens to bear out there in the world. So shouldn’t you feel gratitude?
But here is the truth. Yes, you should feel some gratitude, but it is probably so covered up by the voices, the ones in your head that say things like, ” You could do this better.” or ” No one appreciates all that I do” or ” No one understands what this is like for me!” that you can’t find any gratitude at all. So, let’s work on some new voices – because those voices in your head are KEY to your well being.
Brene’ says that, in her research, she discovered that joyful people are not necessarily grateful people. It is that they PRACTICE gratitude There is a difference between FEELING grateful, and practicing gratitude. First, you have to realize that as a caregiver, you are in a constant state of grief. You see, grief is really the loss of what we thought of, and were used to, as normal. Your normal changed when you had to begin caring for that person who used to be strong and independent and who maybe even used to care for you. And grief doesn’t feel good.
Each Thanksgiving, as I rinse off that turkey and reach in for those blasted giblets, I grieve because my mother used to do that. I can’t make good gravy, my mother always made the Thanksgiving gravy and each year as I try, and it turns out thin, or lumpy, I grieve. I wish my mother could still make gravy. I wish she were still the way she used to be. It’s not really about the gravy, it is my grief and sense of loss. ( note: this year, I just didn’t make any gravy. That way I didn’t have to feel bad that it didn’t turn out right. And no one even noticed!)
So, let’s get back to that practicing gratitude thing – even when you’re experiencing grief, or anger or sadness. You know how I always recommend that you sit in a chair and have a conversation with yourself? I am doing it again. As I said, those voices in your head can make or break you. So I am going to keep hammering away at helping you be in charge of those voices. And if you can’t find time to sit in that chair, then have the conversation with yourself while you are stripping the sheets from the bed, or while you are vacuuming, or even while you are driving to the store to get the Depends. Go ahead, do the BMW thing, you know, Bitch, Moan and Whine, because sometimes things ARE CRAPPY. Get it all out. Call your sister-in-law that name you have been thinking in your head. Your son is twenty two for heaven’s sake! He should be able to pick up his own stupid shoes by now! Hit that steering wheel or throw those sheets into the pile, HARD, and say ” it’s not fair!” Do that until you get it all out! Give yourself a good ten minutes – but no more than that. That’s plenty of time for BMW-ing.
Next, do that thing that I recommended during the stress storms, that good old deep breathing…in through your nose and count to six…then out through your mouth and count to six. Do it several times. You feel a little bit calmer now.
Next, search for ONE THING, that you can be grateful for – one thing that you can put on a gratitude list for today. Just one. For me? No one missed the gravy!!! Oh, and then there may be another one. Maybe your son, who leaves his shoes everywhere, got a good job this summer. Oh, yes, and the new cat has finally started pooping IN the litter box. And your oven did work, even though the turkey was dry. And you did have a turkey and no one went hungry. And your sister-in-law did go back to her home in Idaho!!!!!!! Woopee! You don’t have to see her again until NEXT YEAR!
And tomorrow is another day. This day will soon be over and you get a new chance. A new chance to face challenges, but a new chance – a new day in which you just might find something to list on your “practice gratitude” list. And remember, I do understand. The key word is “practice”. Practice it with me…as together, we learn to adjust to our new normal.