After I moved across the country to care for my parents, more than five years ago, I put my heart and soul — to say nothing of my energy and time — into my role as a caregiver.
As many of you know, it’s an all-consuming responsibility, one that can soon overwhelm your sense of self. For me, I felt my identity slipping away. I feared I’d lost myself in caregiving.
So I thought about who I really am and why I felt part of me was missing. I realized I had less time for work, yoga, walking, reading, singing, concerts, theater, gardening, going to the movies and traveling, but I also realized those things aren’t who I am — they are things I do.
Even so, I know it’s important that I maintain a connection with those areas of my life. I need to take care of my physical and emotional needs and continue to do things that bring me joy. But who I am is more about creativity, kindness, compassion, humor, joy, adventure, love and being of service. And aren’t these the things that are truly manifested the most in caring for others?
I now know that I’m not really losing my identity. In fact, my identity is actually evolving because of my role as a caregiver.
As I go through this life creating who I am, my life is not on hold during this intense caregiving phase. This is my life right now, and it’s part of my growth as a person. But it is also an opportunity to learn to live mindfully — being in the moment, accepting it without judgment, and keeping my mind from racing ahead or dwelling in the past.
So I strive to stop fighting the change and stop focusing on missing the things I used to do. Instead, as strange as it may seem given the sacrifices I’m making, I focus on being grateful for the gift of caregiving.
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