I still call myself a caregiver, even though we are approaching the second anniversary of Linda’s passing. I don’t particularly like hanging on to titles. Once we ascribe a title to ourselves, we run the risk of it defining us for years to come, or even a lifetime. It can diminish our perception of the fluid nature of life, which is what allows us to adapt to successfully change.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts that life can bestow upon us it the ability to reinvent ourselves as often as we want to; as often as is necessary; even out of the ashes of our own failures. It is hard to imaging anything more powerful. That is as close to a superpower as we can get.
I took to calling myself a caregiver the moment Linda was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s about 10 years ago. I wrapped that title around me like a wet, wool blanket for the 8 years that I took care of her. It became the way in which I related to the world. For so long, being a caregiver meant living behind an almost impenetrable membrane that kept so much of the good stuff in life out of my reach. And then, a revelatory moment of absolute exhaustion and despair became the opening to reinvent myself; in a way that caregiving became a portal toward meaningful growth and healing.
And still, I choose to call myself a caregiver, two years after Linda’s passing, because I have come to understand that caregiving is less a title than a perspective. It is a way of engaging in the world utilizing all of the principles and strategies that were so integral to my growth and healing. As I continue to reflect on all of the potent strategies that brought me to this place of acceptance and contentment, I recognize the power in continuing to move forward with these very same strategies as they continue to facilitate even deeper meaning and more purposeful integration.
I am still a caregiver in the very same way that any person should always carry the best parts of themselves forward. It has been said that we don’t stop dancing because we get old; we get old because we stop dancing. In the same way, we don’t discontinue applying transformational strategies to our lives because their usefulness has run its course. We continue to nourish our bodies, our minds and our hearts for as long as we tread this earthly path. I believe that a caregiver’s path is no less potent and influential than an artist’s path or a samurai’s path.
With the lessons we have learned as caregivers we can, in the words of Dr. King, dig a tunnel of hope through the mountain of despair. We can serve as inspiration to a growing community of people who have to endure the hardship of caring for a Loved One with this dreadful disease. Our lives can be richer and far more impactful simply because we chose to be caregivers with the purpose of turning our challenge into an opportunity for growth and healing.
I will always call myself a caregiver, because I will always embrace the highest values that caregiving implies.