At this time of year, the symbols that represent the season include trees adorned with bright baubles and lights, candles, beautifully wrapped gifts, a man with a white beard and a red suit, and a seagull. What? A seagull??
Yes, a seagull. Or if you prefer to stick with the good ol’ sandwich theme, the hero sandwich. A big fat, loaded down, dripping sandwich with all the fixin’s.
You are probably saying, ” Ok, Jane, maybe you live by an ocean so that somehow adds seagull to your list of holiday symbols…but the hero sandwich? Have you had too much eggnog??”
No, I have yet to indulge in eggnog this December. But I do know caregiving and I guarantee many of you have a seagull or hero sandwich as part of your holiday happenings.
Let me explain. Your sister-in-law from Boise will be coming in for the holidays. She always comes armed with loads of advice. She only comes this one time of year, never when you need a break or an extra set of hands, just at the busiest time of year. And she is quick to share her many helpful hints. ” What I would do, is…” or maybe it’s, “Well, it seems to me that …” or the one I really like is ” All my friends say ….” Squawk, squawk, squawk.
It doesn’t seem to matter to her, that you are caring for your loved one every single day thus you have a bit of insight and hands on experience. She apparently reads newspaper articles occasionally and maybe she even brings you some crappings – oops, I mean clippings! ( Seagull, get it???)
Or maybe it’s your brother. He comes in for a few days and lovingly offers to give you a break. You leave him for an hour, but just an hour. You know that’s about all he can handle. And when you return from your quick errand he says ” She was fine for me. I don’t know why you get so upset with her!” The Hero has arrived!!
Yes, now, you see what I mean. The holidays inevitably bring that person who doesn’t do the daily care, but is intent on offering opinions and advice. That person does not necessarily see your loved one at his or her very worst. He doesn’t have to deal with the crises or even the daily mundane tasks of toileting and bathing. And the more advice he gives the more it seems like flapping wings and heart burn. That’s often all you get from seagulls and hero sandwiches.
Maybe you love that person. Maybe your sister-in-law is actually nice and really does mean well, but she just doesn’t understand the tasks and trials you face each day. Or maybe she is not nice but you have to tolerate her or risk a major family blow up. So….
Just like when you first had to do a presentation and someone advised you to imagine the audience naked – I’m advising something similar. I want you to see that helpful family holiday visitor as a seagull….a seasonal bird that will fly away soon!! Or a hero sandwich….that you can tolerate once per year. Heartburn will usually ease after a bit.
I want you to listen to THIS voice in your head… not the shoulda, coulda, woulda voice of that seasonal visitor but my voice that says ” You are doing the BEST THAT YOU CAN!” You are courageous and loyal and yes, flawed, but you are trying. And trying beats talking every time. You are not perfect. As I shared recently in a Facebook post, famed basketball star Michael Jordan said, ” I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 20 times I was counted on to make the winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael is arguably the best basketball player of all time. But he has failed sometimes. And yet he kept at it. and so do you. You are there, trying, every day to provide good care.
My gift to you this holiday season are the two images. A loud, squawking, crapping bird that will fly away soon. And a big ol’ sandwich that thinks it is the be all and end all but often causes heart burn. Take a little antacid and wait for it to go away.
Find some quiet time to know the peace and love of this season. And know I care.