So far I have to admit that my posts have been a little downbeat. Caring can be a tough road to follow sometimes, so it’s all too easy to get caught up in the negative stuff.
But caring can be a life-affirming road, too. So this month I’m starting an occasional series on the positive aspects of this carer’s life.
No. 1 Let’s Sweat The Small Stuff
Caring for someone who needs help with just about everything means that your day can disappear in a steady procession of everyday tasks – washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, making cups of tea, mopping up spillages, changing the sheets etc etc ad nauseam.
That can eat into your time in a big way. Whilst that frustrates the hell of out me sometimes, it’s also taught me to value the good moments when they come along.
Sometimes those moments are shared with Dad. Having finally got Dad out into the garden and comfortably sat down (a logistical challenge in itself) it’s then lovely to just sit with him for a while. We can relax on our old garden bench, enjoy the warm sun, hold his hand while we listen to the birds and the quiet drone of the bees. For those twenty minutes or so I don’t need to be anywhere else or doing anything else – I can just sit and enjoy being there in the company of my Dad.
I’m trying to steer clear of using the M word (mindfulness, since you ask). Not because I disagree with the concept, but simply because the word has become so ubiquitous as to be almost meaningless these days. But when all’s said and done that’s exactly what it is. Being in the moment and content to be there.
I won’t always have Dad around. I miss my Mum and wish I’d appreciated my time with her more. Whatever else happens, I know I won’t have that regret with my Dad.
And it’s had a significant knock-on effect, as I try to appreciate the small moments in other parts of life too. Being a carer can be so busy, with little time to draw breath, that I really do appreciate the time off when I get it. Whether it’s a walk around our local park, sitting in a café with a pot of tea and Private Eye magazine or just standing at the kitchen window for a few moments watching our local red squirrel pinch the nuts off the bird feeder.
That’s not to say that I float serenely through every day like a Buddhist monk on retreat (if only). But it does mean that I’m learning (sometimes) just to let all the other stuff go and enjoy the moment I’m in.
We live in a world of social media streaming; 24-hour rolling news and a consumer culture that is always looking for the latest trend or the next big thing. It’s easy to get distracted from the present by what’s going on elsewhere or what’s coming next.
As a carer I don’t have the time, the energy or the inclination to keep up.
As it turns out, that’s no bad thing.
Life is made up of small moments – they follow one after the other regardless of what we humans do. It’s good to appreciate the nice moments before they’re gone.
If caring has taught me that and nothing else, it will have been worth it.