Not Guilty

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guilt is the enemy of a caregiver.

I’ve always been a person who sees what I haven’t done rather than what I have accomplished. The never ending to-do list is an example. One of my professors pointed this out many years ago and ever since I realized he’s right, but I have yet to change the fact. I’m getting better, but I’m not quite over it! I don’t think I am so judgmental on others as I am on myself.

I have a lot of “haven’t done” lately leading to feelings of guilt. No one thing is very big, it is the accumulation.

  • I haven’t written here (but I have written, just not posted)
  • I haven’t spent enough time with Dave (but I am across the hall and he is sleeping)
  • I haven’t finished the oodles of my work goals (but I can only do one task at a time)
  • I am enjoying my creative time working (or am I hiding behind my computer?)
  • I haven’t tackled much on the hours and hours of audio and video on Dave’ s life (this is just plain overwhelming and time consuming)
  • I haven’t changed the burned out light bulbs, called the exterminator, or the furnace man (OK, put it on my list so I don’t forget)
  • more…

Does anyone else get grocery store amnesia?

(You make a list you leave it in the car, or worse, on the kitchen table… You take the list, but forget to check it off while in the store… You don’t make a list as you have only three items and can only remember two…  I can’t blame this on hospice stress. It started young. I used to repeat the list on the way to the “little store” to pick up stuff for mom. I didn’t always get home with all the items. Must have been the penny candy that distracted me. Also, there was one grocery store that I always got the loudest hiccups every time I stepped across the threshold. I digress, but those are funny memories.)

“Am I doing this right?”

“We’re doing this the best we can.”

Am I doing this right? Hmm. This comes directly out of an interview with our Hospice folks who have been gathering video and photos of us to share our story about this experience. (I’ll post the link when finalized)  It is Dave who asks, “Am I doing this right?” of himself. And he has asked it long before the interview. But, I, too ask the question. So the guilt, for me, isn’t one of really getting everything done, it is more of the “am I doing it right” variety. It is not about accomplishment, it is about quality.

And Quality is a big word in hospice – for a provider, for a caregiver, for loved ones, and for the person facing the end of life. Can we make our lives the very best knowing there is a limited time for exchange? How do you prioritize? How do we define quality? Who decides?  Are we caring for ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Even as we can’t fix the outcome, it is only natural that we strive to fix as much as we can.

So is there quality of life? Yes, without a doubt. I am comfortable that we are doing the best we can. So this must means we are doing this part, for the moment, right.

Go away guilt. I’ve no time for you. There’s work and life to be done.

4 replies
  1. Ellane Chandler
    Ellane Chandler says:

    Joan, I have been wanting to tell you how much I appreciate you looking after Dave, and for posting this blog. I sure know about guilt. I have guilt about not staying in touch with Dave better. I have had guilt about looking after my mom. I grapple with “am I doing it right” and “how come I haven’t gotten it all done yet” all the time. And yes, I get grocery store amnesia on a regular basis! I never got to meet you when I was at Evergreen and living in Olympia, but already I just think you are one lovely person and Dave is so lucky to have you. (I hope this really is the 50th time somebody’s told you that because it’s true.) So here’s to that WONDERFUL last paragraph in your blog – I love it! This blog is helping me a lot, so tell your guilt that too 🙂

    Best wishes and love to both you and Dave,

    Ellane Chandler
    Asheville, North Carolina
    Former student of Dave’s
    Evergreen ’92

    Reply
  2. joan
    joan says:

    Oh, thanks, for all of the comments, you are very kind, Ellane! I do get to hear it, because Dave tells me he’s lucky to have me! I am so happy to be taking stock of all our years now.

    It makes my day to know that I can help through writing.

    ~Joan

    Reply
    • Ellane Chandler
      Ellane Chandler says:

      Writing can sure help you get a grip. I don’t know if you have an annoying inner editor. As long as I can tell mine to just shut up I can get things out of my beleaguered brain and down on paper where they belong. I’m the author of the “Remember Roxanne” post on Dave’s website. I did a reading this past Sunday of a new Roxanne piece and I dedicated it to Dave. Keep posting – it is so much appreciated!

      Reply

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