“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
One of the inner battles care givers fight is with the thought, “These demands are taking me away from everything I should be doing.” Even when we can’t put it into words, we sense some purpose for our lives. It might be daydreams; it might center on our job, a hobby, or a goal. Care giving intrudes on such pursuits, puts them on hold or wipes them out.
There is an alternative to feeling angry, used up and deprived.
I had a couple of helpful examples in the last week.
I was talking to a woman who is very active in the life of her church. She’s always in the thick of leadership and projects. She had finished several big efforts, and was feeling a bit adrift, asking God, “What do you want me to do next?”
She became aware that “next” was all around her in the needs of her extended family, including a relative entering skilled nursing care, another on a transplant list and their immediate family members. “Right now, my purpose is right here in these family needs.” Those situations are not distractions from a meaningful life, they are a source of purpose for each day.
A few days later I had coffee with a career educator. He’s in an ideal setting to use his intellectual gifts and share his passion and expertise in his field.
But he’s spent the last few years scaling back his teaching and meetings to serve the needs of his wife, who has a rare condition requiring constant care. He’s found meaning and even satisfaction in caring for her and being her advocate.
“The first doctor said, ‘There’s no treatment for this.’ I came back with three articles from places giving effective therapies. I was told that institutionalization was inevitable. But here it is years later and we maintain our life at home.”
The title of this blog is “Sometimes, Care Giving Stinks.” Yes, it really does. But if we can get past the smell (the offense to our high sense of self), care giving can give us a whiff of our life’s sweetest meaning and purpose, right where we are.