Deep, esoteric reading material leaves me feeling dumb and vocabulary challenged as a rule, but there is something that I took away from a recent read that resonates with me. It was about joy. (And I may have gotten it wrong, but forgive me C. S. Lewis.)
I agree with C.S. Lewis that real joy has a sadness, and a longing behind it that makes it what it is. I have found that to be true about caretaking. Every time I’m doing something for someone, I’m wishing they were well and able to do it for themselves. I’m thinking about what I have that they don’t, what I can do that they can’t, and I’m grateful that I can help them. There is joy in adding to their life something they cannot have on their own.
There is also the joy of coming together, collaborating and accomplishing a task, that is different from anything I can do on my own. I believe we are meant to be in community with others and find our greatest satisfaction in sharing our skills, our words, thoughts, and our time – and that is often what caretaking is about. Almost always, the people I am caring for have something that they give back and share with me. There is joy in that.
I am sad when caretaking seems like a one way street with no feedback, no acknowledgment, no life giving return. But even then, I feel that I am honoring God by caring for a life that he values until he says that care is no longer needed. Caretaking teaches me things about myself that I couldn’t learn any other way. Persistence, integrity, compassion, acceptance, courage are all attributes that get challenged and honed… courses in Caretaking University.
That’s it. JOY. Caretaking is hard work, at times frustrating, exhausting, discouraging and other “bad things”, but joy is there to be found. I have named it and realize that it makes me able to continue taking care of others.