One by one, members of the group shared stories from their lives (which, when I first arrived, looking at the women in the room before me, I thought could not be farther from my life or experiences) and it was obvious (blatantly so) as they talked that I was wrong (so wrong) about what we had in common.
What I could learn from these women was a lot, from their strength, courage and wisdom. I was inwardly embarrassed that I’d been so superficial and quick to judge when I first sat down.
I could relate to their frustrations, fears, weariness and the loneliness of being ‘the one’ to care while others only professed to, well meaning family or friends ‘dropping by’ on occasion (when it suited them or fit into their schedules) or worse, gaving lip service rather than actual service.
Some of what I heard was sad, some depressing but not all of it.
As I listened and learned there were times when I was laughing out loud with the rest of the group in shared recognition of the absolute madness of the lives we lived as caregivers, ‘gallows humor’ as it were.<a href="” target=”_blank”>
In just little over an hour I was made to feel welcome and part of the group.
When the ‘round robin’ nested with me I found myself comfortable enough to share some of what I’d been going through, and just like that, in that moment of putting words to feelings in a room full of people who needed no explanation of ‘what I meant” or “what I felt” because they knew and they could relate, I felt as if I were no longer among strangers, accepted and part of the group.
Something one of the women said ‘pricked up my ears’.<a href="” target=”_blank”>
She said, “I don’t want him to change me into someone else.”
She was silver haired and very well dressed, she had a look and air about her that reminded me of a “Mocha-dipped” Carmen, the 50’s Dior model who in her 80’s is still a fashion icon and model to this day.<a href="” target=”_blank”>
Although her comment was meant to express her specific inner struggle with the person that she used to be with her husband and her fear that the person she sees herself as now as his caregiver is different, her comment made me stop and wonder about myself.
“Have I changed?” I pondered, thinking back over my three plus years as a caregiver.
“Is it possible to walk through this experience and not change?”
“And ‘if’ I have changed, is that necessarily a bad thing?”