DO YOU FIND YOURSELF LOST IN A MAZE?
The caregiver’s journey can be likened to walking through a maze. You cannot see what’s waiting around each corner — will there be a clear path, or a wall? What perspective does it give you?
In the beginning, a caregiver may approach their role much as a child faces their first adventure into a maze, with nervous anticipation, courage, and commitment.
The sense of commitment at the beginning fuels your inner strength and confidence. You may feel a small twinge of dismay as you run into the first barrier, but you were expecting this to happen, so you simply retrace your steps and try a different route. However, as time goes on, the barriers become more difficult to tolerate and you may find that you’re not making the progress you had hoped for. Your confidence starts to weaken. You become frustrated, anxious, fearful, angry, disheartened, weary, resentful, and perhaps a bit panicky.
To make matters worse, while you’re stuck there with no end in sight, you can hear others outside the maze having a great time. Life is passing you by. It’s not fair. You begin to doubt your own abilities to make it through and wish you had never tackled it to begin with. You want out!
WHAT IF YOU WALKED A LABYRINTH INSTEAD?
This is often confused with a maze, but a labyrinth has one continuous path into the center and back out. There are no barriers.
Now is the time to look deep into your soul. What are your beliefs? What are your values? What purpose does your life serve? What is at the beginning, center, and end? Do you believe in a power greater than yourself?
As you walk the labyrinth, as in the maze, you cannot see what’s around the bend. However, with a strong faith in your belief system, you trust that you will be led to the center, that you are where you’re meant to be, and that you will be led out. You are not alone.
For me, this represents a strong faith in God and His promises. I may not like where I am at the moment, but as long as I trust in God, He will walk with me through the trials, give me strength, nourish me, and lead me out.
What a person perceives, becomes their reality. Your core values and beliefs are the firm foundation upon which to establish whether you’re struggling through a maze or walking steadily along the path of a labyrinth. This will determine your perspective as a family caregiver, affecting your level of stress, and ultimately your health.
Let’s look at two scenarios:
One caregiver believes that we have only one life to live and when it’s over, there is nothing else. We must take advantage of each moment to make ourselves happy, or rich, or famous. This person will feel resentment, anger, and despair when asked to make sacrifices. Life is too short for that. They view their caregiver role as a great burden.
Another caregiver may believe that each life has purpose and we are blessed to serve each other. While their journey may be difficult, they do not feel alone, and believe that the best is yet to be in the life eternal. They view their role as caregiver to be a blessing. They are a blessing to the person for whom they care, and they will be blessed for their compassionate service.
Can you see who is likely to be more stressed, more unhappy, more bitter? This is why it’s so valuable to take time to get in touch with your inner self. Understand your personal values and beliefs to gain control of your thoughts and emotions. You will revisit them many times on your caregiver journey, and there you will find comfort, peace, and strength.
A maze, with its many paths and decisions regarding which direction to go, is designed to confuse and disorient you. This can cause great stress through fear, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. In a maze, you become lost.
When walking a labyrinth, your values and beliefs will guide you. Your journey to the center may be bumpy, but you know you will find your way as long as you stay on the path. In a labyrinth, you find yourself.
Your choice between the maze or the labyrinth will influence your perception of your role as a family caregiver. Will it be a burden or a blessing?
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Learn more about the responsibilities of a family caregiver and why their role is a special calling.