Thursday, March 8, 2012

caregiver navigation

A friend of mine who's a social worker said recently, "I swear every younger social worker I know - besides hopefully myself - is in a dysfunctional relationship with a moochy jerk." This happens a lot with givers - it feels good to us to give, so who better to be in a relationship with than someone who will receive... and receive, and receive, and receive, until we have nothing left for anyone, least of all ourselves.

If you are a nurse, therapist, social worker, pastor, non-profit worker, giver-by-nature: be careful in relationships (and not just romantic ones - pay attention to the energy levels you experience in any intimate connection, like to a parent or close friend). Be especially careful in your early 20s. If you're in your 30s or 40s and feel incredibly drained every day - like inexplicable, depressive "How did I get here?" feelings - spend a lot of time in quiet, tuning into yourself, turning that nurturing energy towards yourself. If the person living with you can't handle you getting stronger and attacks you for it - just keep going and let the cards fall as they may.

I was planting roses today and feeling really strong and happy that I was finally taking care of even a plant. I've cut off the energy suckers from my life and gone inward and found incredible amounts of energy in self-care. I'm learning (and will probably be practicing till the day I die) how to navigate being a giver with a capital G. It involves constant boundary work, which is mostly listening to my energy levels - when I feel drained and yucky about myself from being around someone, I need to stay away from that person. The trickiest part is knowing when the considerable love I have to give is actually getting in the way of the love someone needs to learn to give themselves (or the patience, understanding, listening, honesty that someone needs to give themselves). This is the great dilemma of parenting as your children get older; it is the often clumsy dance of romantic relationships; and it is essential in dealing with coworkers, friends, and extended family.

Givers need to be in romantic relationships with other givers. Then you spend a lot of time helping each other with wobbly boundaries and coaching each other in how to still care for onesself. My life is going incredibly well right now and it's partly because my boyfriend knew he needed to give me space to muddle through many things on my own over the last two years. There is much work that only we ourselves can do, for ourselves (by seeking solitude, beauty, friends, self-awareness, Love).