A to Z Challenge: Letter G for Guilt

“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.” Erma Bombeck

There is a tremendous burden of responsibility that we take on when we become a caretaker. Sometimes it can mean the difference between life and death for those we care for. But we are human and mistakes happen. If you are a caretaker you have signed up for big time guilt in so many areas that you can’t even imagine.

Almost all dependent persons, those who are ill, or disabled, or elderly take medication of some sort. I have a nursing nightmare, which comes from a similar real life event, of being responsible for giving medication to dozens of patients without time to do it. Errors of giving the wrong medication or not giving a med on time are so common in the medical world that whole systems have been developed to prevent them.

No chance I’m going to make a mistake here, right?

At present, I only have one person (the husband) who needs help with his medication so we haven’t had nightmare material lately, but I have forgotten at times. There are also many other kinds of errors that can devastate us. Saying the wrong thing, giving the wrong information, errors in judgment, errors in attentiveness. I hear of it happening all the time in the online support groups that I frequent.

I want to say something to those of you who truly care about “your person”. You probably are going to do something that you consider an error. Do the best you can to avoid making mistakes but when they happen, forgive yourself and learn whatever you can from them. Continue as best you can. My way of doing this is to pray for those in my care. I ask God to protect them and to help me know what to pay attention to and when to listen. I ask him to give me the necessary skills, and help when I need it. He does this.

By being willing to be a caretaker you are giving “your person” a gift. Maybe you are making it possible for them to be in their home rather than an institution. Maybe you are saving them great expense. Maybe you are providing a sense of family, of belonging. Maybe you are giving them something that money can’t buy. Don’t let the fear of making errors keep you from giving something precious and needed.

Cleaning Your Room

 

I helped you clean your room

Not because it was a toxic death trap

But because I knew we might find something,

Something you’d been looking for.

And we would laugh at the candy wrappers, the moldy apple,

The discarded clothing, the random bits of paper with

Life scribbled on them, anguished life, raw life, devotion, angst

And dreams, scribbled on bits of paper.

 

I helped you clean your room

Because the hours spent with you were precious.

We talked and small traces of order would appear,

small traces of calm and pleasure, even though we knew

they were temporary. Your room, your life was meant

to be lived in, sometimes messy,  sometimes organized but

always uniquely your room,  your life.  And I was

always happy when you let me sit there with you. Always.

 

I helped you clean your room

And it was with the same strategy used in cleaning

My own room with its messes and secrets and disorganization.

My room never stayed clean either, but I always enjoyed making

It different.  I could always make a difference,  move the furniture,  clear the floor,

And feel fresh and renewed.   A messy room was just an opportunity, not an indictment.

I perhaps never told you these things, but I want you to know why

I helped you clean your room.

(A reflection on possible messages of shame, unwittingly communicated, deeply regretted)

 

The Voice of Condemnation

Condemn: to express strong disapproval of, to show or declare guilt, to declare unfit for use.

Every now and then the voice of condemnation makes a bid for prominence in my day, my thoughts and feelings.  It’s often when I hear the story of a famous, influential person who has accomplished a lot, or when I hear a tribute to someone who used their talent in an extraordinary way and influenced many lives for better.  I am tempted to look at my very small circle of influence and compare.  The voice points out the ways in which I have not been courageous, or diligent, or faithful, or willing to be involved.

Yesterday I entered the doctor’s waiting room, signed in and took a seat.  There was a late 20’s aged girl totally absorbed in telling her life story to an elderly couple.  She recounted her home life, her dysfunctional relationship with her father, mother and brother, and the situation she was presently involved in.  There were many complaints, tales of poor decisions (blamed on others, of course) and all voiced loudly enough that I had a hard time concentrating on the book I was trying to read.  I was wishing not to hear her after five minutes, but after fifteen minutes I was actually considering going outside to escape and asking the desk to call me when it was my turn to go back. The elderly couple was called back and she no longer had an audience, which clearly upset her.  She changed chairs and started making comments to herself about how sick she was.  She got up and kicked a book off the chair next to her, sat down on that chair, and mentioned out loud how she was not going to pick up the book because she was too sick.  I was SO grateful to be called about then and spared having to get into a conversation with her. She had “needy” written all over her and I didn’t want to deal with it.

You see, I am very aware of the miraculous ways in which God is walking into people’s lives and changing their course, and yet I am not always willing to get involved.  The truth is that when I have been involved in situations similar to that, they have not turned out well.  Over time I have seen that I am ineffective when it comes to counseling, reasoning with people to enlighten them, thinking of what to say to help them.  I am not able to change hearts, and much of the time I can’t even figure out what their need is and how to approach them.  Here’s where the voice of condemnation would like to finish me off. It would like me to think that I was responsible, and that it is now over, too late.  The voice repeats “It’s about you, and your failure.”

I have been convicted of my part and in response I am asking for crazy boldness, extra resourcefulness, time at the right time, and discernment.  I know God can teach me these things.  I know he forgives me for falling short.  If I hear a condemning voice, it is not his and I had better ask who that voice belongs to.  It is never too late for God to show what he can do, in fact the later it seems, the more awesome he proves himself to be.

“so, there is now no condemnation…”    The Bible, Romans 8:1

Guess what? It is not about me (or any of us). The whole story is about God and what he has done, is doing and will do yet. It is not over, not too late.  It’s in progress and we are part of it, a special part, but it is not about us.  That is pretty good news, just sayin’…