The Hand We’re Dealt




 Worst case scenarios. I’m surrounded by worst case scenarios all the time…I was sitting on my porch trying to get a handle on my emotions. I was in a slump. Financially strapped, but really that was nothing new. Single. No dog. Big coffee stain on my carpet. The thing is, all of that has been true for a while and it’s never bothered me before, so why the sudden case of the dark and twisties?

      I sometimes forget that caregiving takes its toll. Thirty-six people who were in my care at one point have died. I’d go to visit only to find they have passed. I understand that death is the ultimate conclusion to life and it is part of the gig but that doesn’t make it easy. Every one of them left an impact on my life.           

     So much of caregiving involves making the most of what is lost. We help our clients live with losses we can’t imagine for ourselves. A woman has a massive stroke in the prime of her life, a young man is hit by a car crossing the street and suffers major brain damage, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, people living with addiction, people living with mental disorders, all of whom have had their entire lives redefined by a disorder of some kind or simply aging. I get to know these people. It’s impossible not to form relationships when we work so closely together. It’s the two of us for twelve hours. When I worked in facilities it was the same. Sure, there were more residents, but it was the same people every shift.  As caregivers, we know these people in a way that no one else does and that means we feel their losses like no one else does. 

       On a daily basis in this field, we face our own mortality; our “what could be’s”, our own potential cataclysmic moments. Maybe it’s because my fortieth birthday is fast approaching, maybe it’s because private care allows more time and awareness for those thoughts to creep in, maybe it’s because I danced on the line of my own doom many moons ago, but I have been keenly aware of my own powerlessness lately. I am powerless over a stroke. Can’t fix it. Can’t take away her pain. I am powerless over the aging process and other people’s choices. I am also powerless over my own future potential cataclysmic moments.

        As I sat on that porch, tightly wrapped in the cocoon of my unreasonable fear, it occurred to me that my client went to bed over the moon because she was able to get a hair appointment. This woman in chronic pain with very limited mobility on her left side is SUPER EXCITED because she is going to have her hair bleached to the right shade of blonde, a four hour experience that you couldn’t pay me to endure. She takes her hair very seriously. She always has. She still does. There is something so quietly courageous about that; those small acts in defiance of pain. It’s a refusal to be owned by the hand one is dealt. They learn how to play a new hand instead. They adapt. WE adapt. And slowly I regained my perspective. I even learned something new. I am not surrounded by “worse case scenarios”. I’m surrounded by people who defy the odds in a million ways every day; people who put one foot in front of the other, no matter what, and who teach me to do the same.

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