Archive for the ‘Caregiving’ Category

Caring for Myself: A Short Memoir

October 17, 2017

Yes, there are times in all our lives when stress or fear or despair or injury can send us into a downward spiral. Something like that happened to me when I awakened the morning after the last presidential election.

I was in shock. “How could our country have chosen as president the type of person—as evidenced by his words and his actions—that it chose?” I couldn’t fathom it had actually happened. I felt almost traumatized.

After the first few hours of gathering the news, I stopped gathering the news. I stopped tuning in to radio and TV reports. I avoided relevant articles on the internet. I went into retreat. I didn’t announce I was doing this. I couldn’t quite explain my actions. I just knew that I needed to care for myself. I needed solace and quiet. I needed to be free of all the noise. I needed to take refuge, to find a sanctuary for myself away from all that was swirling around me.

How was I to do this? The answer came quickly: I would return to a favorite creative outlet—the design and creation of stained glass panels that hang in windows. So most evenings after dinner I’d settle into my studio in the lower level of our home. I played quiet music that soothed me. In time I played albums that spoke to my conscience; Peter, Paul, and Mary joined me down there often. Sometimes I simply worked in silence, concentrating on what I was doing with my hands.

I came up with designs I had never tried before. I wanted to make my own statements in glass that were a positive, alternative response to the many negative messages that began to emanate from Washington D.C.—divisive words about Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ people, women, the powerless and the poor.

Choosing the six bold colors associated with the Pride flag, I created pieces surrounded by white glass and framed in copper that communicated (as I visualized it) a message of “I believe in diversity and inclusivity, in human goodness and possibility.”

This is what I wrote to accompany these pieces:

Where others seek to build walls—

     walls related to nationality, race, religion, gender—

         I seek to make bridges.

Where others sow suspicion, even hate,

     I reach out in search of common bonds and shared hopes.

When others resort easily to fear,

     I turn intentionally toward love.

When others push away the different, the unfamiliar,

     I choose to celebrate the colors—all the colors.

Will you join with me?

Weeks turned into months. I cut glass and sanded glass and soldered copper foil and sawed copper framing. Twenty stained glass pieces of various shapes and sizes became forty, then sixty, then eighty. I gave some away. Others were sold at a city-wide event with all proceeds going to a progressive non-profit called The Center for Non-Violence. One very large panel, entitled “The Flowering of Pride,” was auctioned at an annual fund-raising event for the LGBTQ community.

In time I began creating panels with a whole different look: these were small landscapes and seascapes, done in such a way that they communicated hope. Bright yellows and oranges marked the bold rays of a morning sunrise over undulating hills or a horizon line of blue water.

As I write this, it’s been eleven months and the pieces keep coming. I go to my sanctuary less often these days but I still go there—I still feel the need to. I’m able to take in more of the news, even if much of it saddens me or angers me. I continue, as I have done all along, to sign petitions and attend rallies and write letters and make donations. I make my voice known in ways other than glass.

I still practice self-care with what I watch and listen to. I still make sure that I have adequate time to make art and to share this art as a part of making my life. I still grieve and I still hope.

My outlet is not for everyone. It may be for very few. But I hope that whenever you find yourself stressed or shaken, feeling bruised or traumatized, you’ll find your own ways to settle into a healing sanctuary, or to channel your positive energies in ways that suit you, or to make time to be with others who support you, or to unleash your own creative self, whatever that means for you.

By taking care of ourselves, we are taking steps toward taking care of the world around us. I could not believe that any more than I do.

An Idea for Our Time—Slow Caregiving.

July 25, 2016

Slow_Caregiving_2Slow Caregiving is not about doing this work more slowly, although that’s sometimes what happens. It’s more about adopting a mindset, and choosing an attitude, which you then carry out in as many ways as you wish each day.

Slow Caregiving is rooted is what’s called the Slow Movement which had its unlikely beginnings in Italy in 1986. McDonald’s was about to open its first franchise in Rome. Such an idea did not go over well with food-conscious Italians. A protest movement sprang up, as protestors waved signs and brandished bowls of penne pasta at the site where fast food was about to invade their country.

What did they object to? Food that was not the most healthy. Food which was shipped in from elsewhere, having been prepared in bulk. Food associated with a conglomerate rather than locally-owned operations. Food that was cooked quickly, served impersonally and presented unappealingly. And food that was designed to be eaten swiftly too, clearing the way for another paying customer to sit down.

These Italians didn’t want fast food—they wanted slow food. They wanted to linger over a meal, to savor all the tastes, to leisurely enjoy one another’s company.

The Slow Food Movement took hold and before long it spread into other directions—Slow Living, Slow Travel, Slow Cities, Slow Architecture, among other approaches.

And now I’m proposing Slow Caregiving—caregiving that is done not unthinkingly but thoughtfully. Caregiving that is not always in a rush to be completed but in an easy, more relaxed manner as often as feasible. Care that is provided not with absoluteness but with a certain flexibility, not with aloofness but with kindness.

If Slow Caregiving isn’t necessarily done slowly, then what are its earmarks?

  • Above all else, Slow Caregiving means that you make yourself fully present to the other person as you provide your care, whether they are aware of what you are doing or not. (In time, they probably will be.)
  • You hold the one in your care in deep regard. Perhaps you love them, perhaps you respect them, perhaps you are simply concerned for them. Whatever your feelings, you value them for who they are, for what they’re going through, for what they’re facing, and for what they must be doing on their own.
  • You give each act of care its appropriate time and attention. You refrain from moving quickly through each act, ready to check it off your list when it’s done. Sometimes you linger. Sometimes you may pause and converse. Sometimes you choose not to “do for” but to “be with.”
  • You also pay attention to yourself as a caregiver, monitoring your energy, your desires, your feelings. You do not neglect your own needs but you strive to find ways to meet those needs without compromising your caregiving responsibilities. In doing so, you realize you’ll be a much better caregiver.
  • You allow others to provide care with you and for you so you’re not entirely on your own. You look for alliances and supportive relationships. You guard against any loneliness that caregiving sometimes engenders.
  • You remain alert for and open to any of those daily experiences that offer you beauty, joy, and contentment, knowing that you must sometimes be proactive in doing this.
  • You make time to reflect upon the lessons you’re learning and any meaning you’re finding. This may include sharing these insights with others, including possibly the one in your care.
  • If your situation allows for it, you develop a reciprocity with the one in your care so that you are not only and always on the giving end of things, which requires that they be always and only on the receiving end of things. You remember they usually want to give to you in some ways too, even if it’s very different from the kind of giving you do.
  • You locate yourself always in your body, bringing this dimension of who you are to your caregiving, calling upon and utilizing all your senses. You bring also your mind, your heart, and your soul so that the fullness of who you are can meet the fullness of who this other person is.

In other words, remembering how limiting the fast food approach to eating and to life can be, and how limiting and unfulfilling fast caregiving can be, you provide other options. You do this both for yourself and the other person. You hurry only if the situation absolutely requires it. You make it a point to savor what there is to savor. You take time to connect, to communicate, to reach out, to touch. You look people in the eye as you talk. You place value on the congenial, the convivial, the hospitable. You stay open to the possibilities. You trust. You affirm. You hold hope.

Mostly, you just care, the Slow way.

Our Newest Inspirations—For Caregivers. For You.

July 25, 2016

Newest InspirationsWhen you open your daily email, you’ll find waiting for you one of these four types of Inspirations:

A Photo-thought.

Receive one of Jim Miller’s beautiful photographs from nature with a quotation embedded in it, offering encouragement and hope. You can save it to be viewed whenever you wish. You can even print it in full color to hang somewhere or to place within a book of your own making. You’ll find a sample of one photo-thought here.

A Video.

Each video (there are over 100 of them) gives you Jim’s artistically-orchestrated photography and a meaningful message in his own voice, accompanied by original music by Eric Clancy. All videos are between one and three minutes long and can be viewed time and again, even for years to come. Here’s a sample of one.

An Audio.

Jim narrates a short true story from the lives of family caregivers, some famous, some not so famous. Each audio segment offers a single helpful message designed for caregivers everywhere. These are between two and three minutes in length—long enough to engage and inform you and short enough to preserve your limited free time. You’ll find one of the audios, this one about Mohammed Ali’s wife, here.

A Writing.

In a couple hundred words, accompanied by one of his photographs from nature, Jim shares a piece of advice or a useful perspective from his own life as a caregiver, as well as from other caregivers he has known. Occasionally he shares excerpts from one of his books. Here’s one such sample, about something called “healthy denial.” 

We’re gratified that Daily Inspirations for Caregivers is finding a ready audience. Here are two examples of what people have written us:

“What a wonderful, uplifting way to start the day! What makes these extra special and meaningful is that they nourish one’s spirit in so many different ways.” (Sharon K.)

“Each morning I can hardly wait to experience that day’s Inspiration, knowing it will somehow stay with me and guide me. I don’t know how you’re able to do this as well as you do day after day.” (Paul J.)

See for yourself. Sign up for a free 14-day trial on the Willowgreen homepage here.

You can also order your own subscription there. Better yet, use this coupon (InSight5), available only to readers of InSight, and you’ll receive $5.00 off when you place your order on our shopping cart.

Caregiving is an enormous undertaking. We at Willowgreen want to support you in this way and in other ways too.