Many years ago, my husband Jack and I lived in NYC on the Upper West Side. We just loved its casualness, boutique stores and closeness to Central Park. One day while we were walking on Columbus Avenue, just around the corner where John Lennon lived, we saw a new store opening up called The Last Wound Up. We liked the name and thought it was catchy. The place specialized in wound-up toys; which we both found very appealing. However, one day I got terribly upset when Jack surprised me with a t-shirt from the store.
On the front of the shirt it read The Last Wound Up, but on the other side it said “Don’t Postpone Joy.” This gift with it’s sweet and light message quickly turned into a sad and upset feeling for me. Jack had a sense of how I would react and was not surprised that this phrase “Don’t Postpone Joy” would get me charged up. He was ready to face my fiery reaction. I lashed out at him, “Why did you get me this shirt with that phrase on it? Is that how you see me?” He simply answered, “Yes, I do.”
This verbal exchange led me to face something I had not examined every before. “I was not joyful. I was joyless.” And I believe Jack was ready to tell me through the message on the shirt that he wanted to look at that part of my life. And I did. I slowly began to shift from being joyless to joyful. It made a very positive difference in my way of being in the world.
As caregivers we are often walking around feeling drained and joyless. The tasks of choosing an excellent geriatric physician, meeting with an elder law attorney or fighting with the nurses in the hospital are overwhelming. The constant concern of “How do I tell my parents it’s time to get some help in the house to care for them?” stops you from sleeping at night. All these responsibilities are physically and emotionally straining to the point where you would may want to stick your head in the sand and not come up for air for a long time.
I am happy to say that The New Age of Caregiving Symposium on Friday, September 23, 2011 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL inspired hundreds of caregivers to shift from feeling joyless to joyful. They slowly began living in the moment as they stepped into the Great Room to experience the beautiful setting, mellow music and friendly comradery. There was a sense of unity. Everyone was there for a reason and were ready to feel fulfilled and contentment. The guests were focused on having a good time, gathering information from the many vendors and speaking one-on-one with the caregiver experts. Most of the caregivers indulged in getting a massage, relaxed with sound therapy and allowed themselves to relish in the art of healing touch.
By lunch time, the attendees had let their worries go and were now embracing the lightness of joy. The metamorphosis was amazingly contagious. Everyone was chatting and ready to attend the various breakout sessions that provided an “experiential learning” approach to improving their caregiver skills.
As the symposium closed for the day, the remarks that flowed through the air were a testament to the power of positive change. Undeniably, we were all touched my each other’s stories, laughter and connection. Caregivers who had no one to talk to now have a circle of friends who they could meet up with – in person, on the phone or through email. They are no longer traveling this journey alone. They feel empowered by the information they received and are now armed with some new skills they could use to give them the strength and grace to carry on.
The holidays are upon us now and it is the perfect time to remember to not “Postpone Joy” but better yet to embrace JOY whether we are active caregivers or have lost that role for now. What about you? Are you ready to remain connected to your personal power to be a loving and well-informed caregiver this season? To be joyful in the midst of messiness, challenges and surprises? I hope so.