Sunday, January 29, 2017

Grace Under Fire

I had such a busy week that when Saturday rolled around, I plopped on the couch and turned on the TV. I began to watch the twenty hours or so of the European Figure Skating championships recorded on the DVR. This gluttonous devouring reiterated my opinion that a figure skating competition is the epitome of grace under fire.

Countries sent only their top skaters to the competition, but most knew they were not in medal contention. Some found victory by participating in the competition, while others were only satisfied with one of the top three slots.

Some of the performances were so nearly perfect that a small bobble made the difference between earning a coveted medal, or going home empty handed. It was easy to show grace when everything went according to plan, but those that truly showed their spirit were the ones who fell, jumped back up, and continued doing their very best.

The expert commentators knew immediately when someone faltered. The skater’s foot touched too soon, they didn’t quite complete a rotation, or pairs were not in unison. Skaters made “silly mistakes” when they completed difficult jumps and then stumbled on an easy element.

It made me think about being a caregiver. I could often handle the messy and difficult parts of caregiving, but might fall apart over a broken nail. Why was that? I believe that I forced myself to meet the tough challenges with acceptance and a sense of loving duty. Oh, but when it came to the simple setbacks, I stumbled.

I can’t think of many things that rival the beauty of figure skating. Each move is choreographed to carefully selected music. Music helps set the tone whether figure skating or drudging through a day that seems almost too much to tolerate.

During the years of caregiving, I remember days when I was up before daylight to work ten hours and then went by the nursing home in the evening to feed and bathe Jim. It was unusual for me to make it to bed before midnight.

In the journal I kept while Jim was in the nursing home, I would tell about my day and often say, “I am so tired.” Thinking back, that’s what I remember the most—being tired. Exhausted. Like I was running on empty.

Being chronically tired often means that grace goes by the wayside. To this day, being tired makes me cranky and more than a bit whiney.

Caregiving, like figure skating, greatly improves with practice. When we put ourselves out there, so to speak, we open ourselves up to criticism or derision. Caregiving is like figure skating in that sense. The critics will sit back and watch someone else struggle and pontify how it could have been done better or more efficiently. When a caregiver provides caregiving with love and grace, it just doesn’t get any better.

Taking care of a loved one is much like walking through fire. It hurts like hell, but unless you keep on moving, you’re going to be charred beyond recognition.

None of us makes it through life without faltering. The best we can hope for is to demonstrate grace under fire. No one gets a medal for being the best caregiver in the world. Our reward comes from being the best caregiver we can be.     

Copyright © January 2017 by L.S. Fisher

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