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Caring for the Caregiver: Staying True To Your Authentic Nature

Lessons Learned from the ancient book of wisdom; The Toa Te Ching: Verse Five

Heaven and Earth are impartial. They regard myriad things as straw dogs. The sages are impartial. They regard people as straw dogs.

The space between Heaven and Earth is it not like a bellows? Empty, and yet never exhausted. It moves, and produces more.

Too many words hasten failure. Cannot compare to keeping to the void.
~
Lao Tzu

The reference to straw dogs in this verse is meant to convey that the Tao views everyone as equals. No one person or group is more important than another. This notion is something that we may acknowledge intellectually but can present a constant challenge for us to embrace with our hearts and actions.

It is often difficult to accept our sublime interconnectedness while we are going through the business of living our daily lives. Yet the vision put forth in the movie Avatar of the people of Pandora incorporating their link to each other and their higher power into their way of life is, I have no doubt,  the way things are intended to be here on Earth.

I believe the recent display of personal and corporate greed around the world and the economic consequences of those actions is a shout out from the Universe, “Do you hear me now!” I do not view this world-wide recession and a time of correction as much as I view it as an opportunity for reconciliation.

We need each other, desperately. It may initially seem safer and easier to go it alone but in this regard safe is dangerous. In order to live the safe life one would have to engage in only mandatory relationships such as those needed in the workplace or casual relationships such as those required  in simple social settings. You would not need to access your heart therefore; you could shut it down and engage in life only to the extent your mind would permit. Who would want to go through life this way? Anyone who has allowed him or herself to lose a sense of balance and feel battered by life is likely to choose this option.

Professional caregivers are taught to keep what is known as their professional objectivity intact. This is a skill of detaching in order to do or say what must be done or said to their patients or clients. It can be a helpful tool but like antibiotics, it should not be overused or it can cause a bigger problem. Caring with professional objectivity can mutate into cold or callus behavior toward patients, co-workers and family in the most insidious of ways. It can seem like the only way to survive and be able to do what it is we do day after day, around the clock, all year long against all odds. It is not the only solution. It just seems this way because we have allowed our stress level to close down our peripheral vision and other options cannot be seen or sensed.

This survival technique is often used by family caregivers as well. Well-meaning outsiders may try to reach out to the caregiver and share an insight or offer a suggestion to a family challenge only to be refused or told off in no uncertain terms. So often it seems like the more an outsider offers a lifeline to someone entrenched in family caregiving, the more the family caregiver chooses to go it alone.

Once again we allow ourselves to get caught up in our need to fix things and our conviction that we can fix all things if only we try hard enough. This mindset is short cut to our ruin. If only we could understand that we are not meant to go it alone or have all the answers. Reaching out and accepting help from your inner or extended community of family, friends and resources is not an admission of failure but a method of ensuring that your personal well stays full and your compassionate heart can stay open. 

We must stay true to our authentic nature and not permit our egos to cause us to tune out or disconnect.  We need to not only acknowledge the need to be part of the whole but be grateful for the fact that we are not alone. Do everything you can to create a network or anchor the relationships you have. In return you will find that you’ve actually deepened the relationship you have with yourself.

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Dr. Phyllis Quinlan

About Phyllis Quinlan, RN-Bc, PhD

Throughout her 30 plus year career, Phyllis has practiced in a variety of emergency, acute care, subacute care & LTC settings. She holds national certifications in Critical Care Nursing, Emergency Nursing and Continuing Education/Staff Development. She has held senior leadership positions in administration and education in a variety of healthcare venues in the Greater New York area & also practices as a Legal Nurse Consultant since 2004.

mfwconsultants@gmail.com | 718 661 4981

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