I am witness to themes that emerge from the voices of caregivers: true generosity, patience, and personal growth. The profundity of Acceptance without Ego stands out for me. In the simplest of terms, it has to do with providing care without making it about ME.
This sounds reasonable, right?
When we take on the role of caregiver, it’s like a traditional marriage vow: For better, and for worse, until death we do part. Caring for someone who depends on us is a huge, life changing responsibility. I write this from personal experience: My parents asked me to care for my mother after Dad passed on. They knew his death due to cancer was impending when Dad declined treatment at age 85. The plan was for Mom to relocate, leaving her home of 40 years. Of course, I would support and care for my mother!
When she became a widow and left home, our level of involvement deepened and the relationship between us changed from mother and daughter (so simple and carefree in retrospect!) to caregiver and care recipient, comrades in arms in the battle against declining health.
I was at once heartbroken, determined, and a little flattered that they had faith in me to do the job. The truth is, I did not fully understand what I was signing up for. Not that it mattered, because there was no choice. I simply did not foresee the complexity of the adventure that Mom and would live together, the journey to the end of her long and fascinating life.
The challenge to live in a state of Acceptance without Ego had a huge learning curve. It meant facing my habitual ways of dealing with the world, with the difficulties of advocating for my elderly mother in a world that makes us invisible as we age. I learned patience. I learned that generosity is truly a gift given and a gift received. I learned to begin refraining from judgment, to approach complex and challenging situations with curiosity and a willingness to adopt new methods and attitudes. It took several years to begin to embrace flexibility and compassion, to understand that sitting in silence together can be nourishing. Knowing that my experience is far from unique, I send love and admiration out to the millions of caregivers around the world.
What truly heals is gratitude and tenderness. - Pema Chödron
Photo by Leilani Norman