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The Caregiver’s Cairn: We Need More “Happy”

jane-barton
Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...

Every month when writing the posting for the Caregiver’s Cairn, I am always amazed that another month has come and gone. Today is no different. In fact, the first month of 2017 seemed particularly fast paced. That is not totally unexpected. January is the month when I get my “ducks in row” professionally. Submit proposals. Schedule educational events. Finalize contracts. However, the pace seemed particularly swift (and stressful) this year due to unexpected and disturbing events. Based on conversations with friends, colleagues, and community members, I am not alone. Everyone I meet seems to be a bit on edge. Uncertain. And therefore a wee bit anxious about the future.

This undercurrent of anxiety is why I relished a chance encounter yesterday after my workout. Throughout the winter when conditions are not favorable for walking outside, I frequent my local rec center and spend an hour on the treadmill. Although I miss the fresh air and sunshine, I do enjoy the ability to read while walking. Multi-tasking at its finest! Upon completing my 4 miles, I stopped by the locker room to get my bag. As I turned the corner, I noticed that the entire length of the bench was covered in towels, swimming suits, and sundry items. It was then and there that I met a delightful girl who inspired me to write about our collective need for more “happy.”

As I walked toward my locker, a ten-year-old girl approached me—apologizing profusely for the clutter. I assured her that I only required a moment to grab my bag. There was no need to move her things. But she was quite insistent. She gracefully gathered her possessions, clearing the bench in front of my locker. This gesture touched me deeply because of the way in which this girl conducted herself. She was poised. She was respectful. And she was kind. After thanking her, she turned to me and said, “I am HAPPY to do it. The way things are in the world today, I think we can all use a bit more happy!” Out of the mouths of babes, right?

“We can all use a bit more happy.” That was just the message I needed to hear yesterday. The girl was just the inspiring image I needed to see. Her simple act of making room for me on the bench was touching because she was HAPPY to do it. She didn’t clear the decks with attitude. She wasn’t resentful. She wasn’t annoyed. Instead, she was HAPPY to do it. As I left, I again thanked the girl for her kindness and remarked that the world could use all the HAPPY she had to offer!

Driving home, I wondered how different life would be if we were all HAPPY to help one another—to care for each other. Seriously, how could an attitude of HAPPY transform our interactions? Our experience as caregivers and care receivers is affected by more than the logistics of care. Our attitude determines whether we embrace or merely tolerate the journey. Our attitude informs our perception of caregiving as burden or blessing. Would caregiving be less stressful if we felt honored to help instead of obligated? Would we be more inclined to ask for help if we believed others were happy to help? Perhaps I am being overly optimistic and simplistic this morning. But the words of a young girl continue to resonate in my soul—“We can all use a bit more happy.” Personally, I think it’s worth a try! How about you? Care for a bit more happy?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, enjoy the moment...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

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