Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Care Free

    Something curious has been happening to me over the last two weeks, building in intensity. I suppose it's a form of caregiver burnout, although it doesn't feel quite the same. It doesn't include the usual agitation and despair. It, rather, involves feeling removed, as though I am existing, for the moment, as the player of a virtual reality video game, the theme of which is The Inability to Care.
    I noticed it a couple of days ago. I've been avoiding a couple of friend obligations, lately. The first is returning a call to an excellent friend who wants to visit this week, in part to catch-up, I'm sure; in part to introduce a new member of the family (which I expect is a dog) to my mother. The second is acknowledging an unusual and superb gift-for-no-reason from another excellent friend that I received about a week and a half ago, perhaps longer; I'm not sure, now. This is unusual behavior for me, in light of the last couple of years.
    I finally decided, over the last week or so, to pay attention to these lapses, which, oddly, are not plaguing me with guilt. I've noticed, for instance, that my recent lags in correspondence on this site, although I've finally almost caught up with them, also haven't plagued me with the usual guilt and have been executed, for the most part, easily and breezily. I've also backed off from manipulating my mother's schedule in order to decrease her sleeping and increase her movement; I've been extremely and thoughtfully negligent about taking stats; for the last three days, up until this evening, I have not wanted to rub down her legs at night, so I haven't. None of these lapses has seemed to make any difference in her health and well-being. Could be that I don't care to notice, but, then, I don't care about that, either.
    I've discovered a hole in my spirit where my ability to care and tend usually resides. It's quite large. It encompasses everyone I know, whether in person or online. My heart-memory (comparable to finger memory when playing a musical instrument) remains. I'm pleased about this; it has allowed me to continue, for instance, commenting on sites I usually visit; even though I'm finding it impossible to fundamentally care about what I'm reading or the author. It allows me to react as though I do care. I've been able to depend on this heart memory to keep up the appearance of caring, which seems wise, in case I begin, again, at a later date (oddly, I don't care if it's sooner or later) to care. But, I, frankly, have nothing else to give; anything I appear to be giving at this time is merely a repetition of a past gift. As well, I cannot tolerate the idea of being visited, as I feel as though I will be put on the care spot and I have nothing to give. I am lagging in responding to the receipt of the gift because, although my appreciation for it is high, I seem to be unable to give out this appreciation; it's as though all that's there is an echo of appreciation, not the real thing. My internal care package is completely empty.
    It's occurred to me, objectively, that I am in dire need of care nourishment. I cannot think, though, of what form effective, adequate nourishment would take. Gratitude, acknowledgement have fallen flat: I can't care enough about other people's expressions of these, including my mother's, to work up enough energy to appreciate them. I already know that help which would relieve me of my duties, including the duties of caring, and loving, is not available unless I do something to make sure the relief is adequate enough to keep me from having to monitor the help to insure that my mother receives the level of care to which she has become accustomed and which has served her superbly. I don't care to do this. It may seem that my feelings about alternate care for my mother, alone, indicate that I do have some dregs of caring ability down there in the bottom of that hole in my soul, but, you know, that's not it. It's more like, well, here I am, literally, without a care. I don't even care to change where I am.
    What is truly strange about this episode is that I have, in the past, never been completely out of the ability to care, thus, one way or another, I've always been able to reinspire myself, renourish myself. This time, though, I'm completely empty. So empty that I truly don't care. Everything I say, everything I do, assuming that I say or do anything, is simply following a previous caring pattern. This isn't bothering me because, well, I just don't care.
    There have been moments, in the last few weeks, when, suddenly, something has sparked more than a vague reaction from me. Those moments fade fast, though, and I find, afterwards, the hole remains, as empty as before. I continue undisturbed by this. It has occurred to me in passing, too, that after a while of this I will collapse in on myself, because there is nothing in that hole to support me, heart-memory will no longer serve me, and I will be of no use to anyone else or myself. I find the possibility not at all alarming. Perhaps this will happen. I don't really care.

Originally posted by Mike: Tue Oct 10, 09:20:00 AM 2006

All earthly things pass away
This is the law of all existence.
Going beyond this law of extinction
We are in the bliss of Nirvana alone.

Originally posted by Paula Martinac: Wed Oct 11, 04:58:00 AM 2006

Gail - I find this very eloquently stated, and the title "Care Free" is so apt in its double meaning. I have gone through a long period of this myself, just recently - I've thought of it as a sort of "performing" of caring. Continue to write, although perhaps something not related to your job as your mom's companion - it's one of the few things that has helped me.

Originally posted by Mona Johnson: Wed Oct 11, 05:08:00 AM 2006

Gail, I'm glad you're writing about these feelings, or lack thereof. You're expressing something I think we all feel at times. For me, it means I just need to take a break from what I'm doing. For fulltime caregivers, that's not usually an option. Take care...
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