Caring or Being Cared For?

Recently I received an invitation to take part in a Photo Shoot for illustrating an article in A Carer’s Journal as an example of how true care can be. Having been a carer all my life, for instance being a mother and caring for my children, nursing a terminally ill husband, my tendency to look after people’s feelings and making sure they are comfortable, choosing a hands-on bodywork profession, encouraging my clients to care for their bodies through their everyday movements, and volunteering for a charity which supported elderly and lonely people, I felt sure I would take the part of carer, despite the fact I was nearly 80.

However, when I arrived at the venue it became obvious to me that I was to be the cared for one. I have to admit I had a bit of a shock and wondered if I appeared to be more in need of care and weak and fragile than I felt, or that I was not considered energetically truly caring enough to take the part of the carer. I immediately realised that these thoughts were ideals and pictures I had about myself and with that surrendered gracefully to the role on offer.

As it turned out, being the cared for one was a great gift to me, and I learned two life lessons; that there is so much more to caring than is assumed by most, not in terms of what is done but of the energy and way of touching and attitude of the carer, and how the cared for one receives it.

Mostly all of us want to preserve our independence, and find it hard to ask for assistance, it feels like we are losing a part of ourselves. It is a very tough stance; we cling onto an old belief which needs to be broken because life has moved on and we need to respond to what is happening to us. I have been like that, it is a fear of what will happen if we let go, will we go “downhill” more quickly?

The first activity we shot I was helped out of a door, had my jacket zipped up, was supported to walk to the car, most tenderly assisted into it and with my seatbelt. My carer was Jonathan, he was natural and attentive without being overbearing, very gentle in his touch, no push or drive to get the job done, open and friendly and playful. I became used to letting him do things for me and began to enjoy it, not resist it.

The day went on with a little walk, then going inside, changing into my nightwear and being put to bed. Gradually this strange feeling came over me of waiting for the instruction and for someone to take charge of me and my wellbeing. I thought how easily and quickly we can become institutionalised and let go of the initiative to do things for ourselves which are still possible. There was a warm comfortable feeling about it, a kind of relief from the efforts of moving the body and taking responsibility for others and indeed everything.

This is the danger spot everyone finds themselves in, that moment when we want to give up and let others take over, give away all our power and purpose in our lives. I felt it then, even in a short two hours of being looked after.

Is it not the purpose of the carer to be aware of the tendency to control and take over rather than encourage the client to keep their activity alive and steady?

But there are times when it is completely appropriate to completely surrender because the body is asking for complete rest and inner repose. We have to discern and listen to which it is.

One significant point is that my carer was so gentle, his touch not at all imposing or hard and rough or hurried, he took his time and laid his hand on my precious fragile body (for actually it is so) with such care that there was no reason to be reactive in any way. His demeanour was patient and loving, and stress free, and totally focused, his mind was with what he was physically doing. It was almost like he was saying in his movements “Look, this is how you can be too!”

With this reflection being cared for can be an education in how not to go into a decline, but a means of caring so devotedly to one’s own movements, encouraging a life-giving energy within the body and the self.

The day finished with being fed my soup, in conversation over a cup of tea, and having my hands massaged. All three true elements of care, whether it be given to you by another or by yourself for your own self-care; as in feeding myself gently with the soup, having a conversation with myself in a quiet moment of inner reflection; being honest about how I am feeling, and massaging my own body.

It is a two-way equal communication, for we are all carers and cared for, equal in responsibility, at one in our inner hearts. We serve each other.

After this day of being truly given a connection with myself I felt light and joyful, free and graceful, and amazingly present. All from simply allowing myself to receive the care that was being offered in full.

2 thoughts on “Caring or Being Cared For?”

  1. It is very easy to hold assumptions about carer and cared for. The opening paragraph of this article diminishes the divide and re-states the truth that we can be called to care for another at any age and in many different situations.

  2. Such a beautiful article and reminder that we can only provide to another the quality of care that we allow for ourselves. And being on the receiving side of care brings a true sense of the quality of care that others feel and are able to respond to when bringing this level of care to those around us.
    Thank you❤️

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