A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
I was lifeguard certified so I could watch over the pool at a church summer camp. Yes, that was long ago. Today, you would need lifeguards to pull me to the surface if I attempted the job.
One of the things I remember from the training is a push off technique, to be used if a person you’re trying to rescue panics and tries to put you in a bear hug. The danger is real that you both end up drowning. So you push off, hopefully to take another running at saving the person. Failing that, you live to save someone else some other day.
Another care giver recently vented some frustration,
We have no social life, we can no longer golf, bike ride, snow shoe, go for walks, etc because it hurts [my disabled spouse] too much. I am home all day and every day runs into the next day. I am also dealing with some health issues…
Push off, friend. Not totally or permanently. Stay and take care of your spouse. But push off from whatever is keeping you anchored in 24/7/365 care giving, be it guilt, cultural or religious workaholic self-justification, your spouse’s demands, whatever.
Yes, your spouse needs you. But your spouse needs YOU – healthy, happy, able to do the job without falling apart or wallowing in bitterness. Find respite options so that YOU can “golf, bike ride, snow shoe, go for walks, etc”, on your own or with friends. There is no reason to deny yourself these things and it does the person in your care no good to have you down and unhealthy. Taking good care of your health and your heart are loving gifts to the person in your care.
There is a place somewhere between killing ourselves by ignoring ourselves or giving in to the selfish culture’s mantra of “Hey, you have to be happy. Just get a divorce and have fun.” It is to do the hard work of care giving, but also accepting both our human dignity and limitations and taking time to refresh. That, we deserve. And it gives the one(s) in our care our best, which they deserve.
Still don’t believe it’s OK to push off? Let me give you a better authority:
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 3:30-32)