This New Year, Adopt An Annual Intention
I finally gave up making New Year's Resolutions in 2006. Every year it was the same old "exercise more, eat right, live (relatively) clean"....all of which were broken by January 5. Plus in my life, it seems that fate/karma/etc. has a quirky sense of humor and keeps putting me exactly where I have said I'd never go, doing the things that I swore I'd never do. So I finally figured out that it might be easier and less stressful to stop fighting/plotting/planning and learn to go with the flow.
Because I anticipated what 2007 had coming down the path (Mom's declining health and eventual death), I also knew that I didn't need more stress caused by making resolutions that I probably would not keep. But how could I provide a focus to the year if I didn't have these goals staring me in the face?
A variety of books and essays that I had explored in 2006 made me stop and think about selecting a single word as an intention that would serve like a "global positioning system" for my thoughts and actions. After much pondering, it seemed like the best choice, considering everything that was coming my way, would be the word "cherish." I figured that opting for "cherish" was a no-brainer related to Mom's situation, but it also would guide my choices and actions related to my father, brother, friends, colleagues, my dog, strangers, and even my own self-care.
During each of the many decisions that I had to make this year, I stopped and thought about what thought, action or comment would best reflect the spirit of this intention. It turned out to be as easy as bringing smoothies to the nursing home as Mom's treat when she could no longer physically swallow the cookies that used to be a key component of our social hour.
"Cherish" also served to guide me in my self-care decision to take my week-long vacation at home, but to ask Dad to visit Mom instead of me so that I could take the time to replenish my own lagging energy. And "cherish" provided my inspiration in finding the right words to say to my brother during the difficult and heart-wrenching moments after Mom died when we realized that he wouldn't get to say goodbye to her in person.
Looking back, choosing an intention was one of the best decisions I've made and I can see lots of positive changes in my life based on this intention. I've decided that I'll keep "cherish" as a secondary focus, but plan to add another word as my primary intention for 2008. I think that an intention serves as a good way to focus caregiving and also as a guidepost to living the life that you want to live after your loved one is gone.