Practically every task in our daily lives revolves around meeting the needs of someone else. In most cases, the person we care for is far more vulnerable than we are. Even if they are physically strong, they have lost the capacity to be able to take proper care of themselves. Nine days out of ten, we put their well-being ahead of our own, often to the detriment of our health. If we’re lucky, on that tenth day we can get a few minutes alone to take a walk, have lunch with a friend, or address some matter in our life that has been neglected.
This sacrifice of independence, is different than the sacrifice a parent makes while caring for their child. A parent knows (or dearly hopes) that their kid will grow up healthy and able to exercise their own independence one day. But caregivers can’t motivate themselves through the hard times by thinking about a happy ending on the horizon. We know that our independence can only be achieved when our loved one leaves the earthly plane. There’s a great sadness at the core of this understanding. To fulfill our role, we need to put that thought aside and focus on the moment we’re in.
Some days I am desperate for a little personal independence. At times I wake up but keep my head on the pillow, daydreaming about the things I want to do that will take me away from the drudgery built into my daily routine. But I know in my heart that as much as I crave independence, I don’t want to lose my mom. She is funny, she is sweet. She is so much like a little child that I am sometimes tricked into thinking that’s who she is. It’s a cruel form of role reversal. But managing this challenge has enriched my life in many ways, too. My mother’s illness has brought some wonderful people into our lives and made me value our family much more than I ever understood possible.
These thoughts are pretty random, but I’m sure that this mood catches many of you as you consider the unpredictability of life, wondering what will come next. Maybe caregivers just have to steal an Independence Moment, instead of an entire Independence Day. We know how to observe a Moment of Silence, or a Moment of Appreciation. Let’s invite ourselves to take a few moments of Independence, too. Go ahead. Independence Day is almost over so I’m taking my Independence Moment right now.