Friday, June 29, 2007

 

Let's not be afraid to say this...

...companionating and caregiving for Ancient Ones is a transcendent activity. Even a part time measure of caregiving activity, especially for a relative, causes you, often in the face of personal opposition, to:
  1. Lose yourself, and;
  2. Hear and consider the questions your soul asks.
    You'd think, wouldn't you, that being a parent, an ordinary parent, would automatically confer the experience of transcendence, but from simple observation I can tell you (and, I'm sure, you can tell me), for some reason it doesn't; it offers the experience but, judging from how many adult children have trouble conceiving of taking care of their aged parents, it allows easy right of refusal. It's easy to be a perfectly capable, untranscendent parent, maybe because the path of childhood is to differentiate oneself, while the path of The Ancient Ones seems to occur when a pinnacle of differentiation has been reached and, hmmm...., what would be the word..."something else" will do, I guess, happens; the conflict is no longer over differentiation, the caregiver is no longer pushing the cared for away, but pulling the cared for in...or, actually, being pulled in by the care recipient, which is another type of conflict...a conflict with what constitutes identity and how solid is it. Some of us fight it, or, anyway, as in my case, parts of it. But, when you can no longer fight it, when you are thoroughly mesmerized by caring for your Ancient One, you are forced to transcend yourself. You may not like the experience, at first...you may scream to your god that you did not ask for this, you never wanted to learn to be this good...you may even flee the responsibilities but, once confronted with the choice of caring or not caring for an Ancient One, if you spend any amount of time giving companionship and care to that Ancient One you will not ever be the same in a particular way.
    As caregivers, though, despite all the sappy stuff out there, we are embarrassed to admit that even we can see a difference in how we relate to others once we've transcended, hmmm...whatever it is we transcend. I'm not actually THERE, yet, but I know where I'm headed, now. We may modestly confess to an ability to see further into others, and the world in general, but we would never confirm that we came to be this way because the challenge of Ancient Care and Companionship took us, sometimes kicking and screaming, into its transformative den.
    The issue of the transcendent and transformative nature of this kind of caregiving comes under scrutiny when individual caregivers get to the point of feeling they've been blessed by this duty, in ways that only this type of duty confers. From what I'm hearing in this book Dementia Caregivers Share Their Stories, this continues once caregiving has ended. It changes you. Period. It never changes you definitively for better or worse; it just changes you and you usually become grateful for the change, even if it was an arduous journey. Most others are grateful for the change in you, too, if they think about it.
    Although some of you may disagree with me, I'm beginning to consider that, if we can do nothing else, we can acknowledge the mystical within The Path of Those Who Care for Ancient Ones. When someone within our intimate community shows the inclination to set down this path, at the very least we can hold an initiation and express awe and wonder at the possibilities of insight this person will automatically receive. We can celebrate without knowing. When the person emerges from that path to rejoin ours, we can celebrate their return and encourage them to tell us what they know...allowing us to consider that, maybe, we, too, might have the stamina for what amounts to Advanced Loving.
    Ancient Caregiving is, after all, a visionary experience like no other. The caregiver is constantly confronting visions, unbidden, of what exists for one's loved one and what one wishes to exist...and for oneself, as well. For some reason, although parenting seems to draw parents away from sub-conscious visions, caregiving to Ancient Ones does the opposite. We are forced to observe, and tend to, life at its end. All ignored metaphors appear, our care recipients', ours. We begin to see the stage we're in (and on) more clearly...others' stages, as well. Whether or not we want to, we exit caregiving wiser. We caregivers need to be willing to acknowledge this, perhaps even put a bit of PR polish on the benefits of caregiving...and we, as a society, need to surround caregiving for Ancient Ones with all the awe, respect and deference we believe we will deserve when we are Ancient. If we do only this, offer only this rite-ful, rightful respect, when one of our relatives decides to take The Journey of the Ancient Caregiver, we will go a long way toward ensuring that someone we love and trust will be readily available to accompany us on our final journey.

Comments:
Originally posted by Anonymous: Sat Jun 30, 10:53:00 AM 2007

You've hit the nail on the head again Gail. One is never the same once they've transcended.
A woman (a stranger) told me a few weeks ago about her caregiving experience first for her father, then for her terminally ill husband - a journey of 17 years. She said that "most people just don't understand until they've been a caregiver themselves". She then gave me a big hug because I think she recognized the "caregiver look" that I was wearily wearing that day. See, we can even recognize each other! There is a certain deep mutual understanding between unacquainted caregivers that your best non-caregiving friend in the world will never grasp.
Keep up the insightful posting. I truly can relate to a lot of your posts.
Sue
 
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