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The Caregiver’s Cairn: Pay Attention!

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Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, take a deep breath—and Pay Attention! Not necessarily to me. Instead, pay attention to LIFE. Life is happening all around us. All the time. In all places. However, when was the last time you really paid attention to life? Now, be honest. If you are juggling numerous responsibilities—family, career, caregiving, friends, and community—it is hard to focus on any one thing. And it is certainly hard to pay attention to life as it unfolds every day…step by step. Although difficult at times, it is possible to pay attention to life. We just have to be intentionally attentive!

I am blessed to have a fabulous mentor of mindfulness—my dog. Millie and I enjoy a  daily walk through the neighborhood. We have our favorite route that takes an hour to complete. Along the way, we take in the sights, soak up the sunshine, listen to life, and savor the view of the Rocky Mountains. Millie also spends considerable time sniffing various and sundry things—as she should! Our time on the trail is more than routine exercise—walking is a meaning-full ritual that enriches my life. Walking serves to strengthen my body, mind, and spirit if I am paying attention!

Fall is always a busy time of year. I multi-task 24/7 to cover all of the bases and meet pending deadlines. Sound familiar? Consequently, I find it difficult to pay attention to the moment. On a recent romp through our ‘hood, Millie gently reminded me of the importance of being present to the moment. It was a gorgeous Colorado afternoon—cobalt blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and a gentle breeze. However, I paid little heed to the wonders around me due to distracting thoughts and concerns. Millie literally jerked me out of my reverie when she opted to chase a butterfly (one of her favorite things to do). The short excursion ended at the base of a large maple tree. As I watched the butterfly soar to safety through the branches of the maple tree, I finally noticed the remarkable fall colors on display for all to see. It was breathtaking! It was also shocking to realize that I had been oblivious to the seasonal beauty on previous walks. This was just the wake-up call I needed to realign my priorities in life.

Today, I am pleased to report that I pay attention to life when walking with Millie. My mission this fall when walking is quite simple—collect three leaves on every walk. As I look for the most brilliantly colored leaves, I also notice the sky, the clouds, and the fall flowers. I pay attention to what is literally right in front of my nose! Thanks for the reminder Millie. It is amazing what we see when we take the time to pay attention to life! And it is amazing how paying attention to the simple things in life enhances the journey.

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, blessings to you and yours...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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