The Caregivers’ Resolution

2017 January 1


Amidst the hangover of guilt that spills over from broken promises only days into the new year, remember that we think about the future in ways most others don’t.  Those who celebrate aren’t trying to be mean, they simply don’t know that for us, the new year is marked in silence and aloneness.  We watch the fireworks on television and think about lives we used to live.  When most others finally make it to sleep from a night of partying, we awaken not to the strike of midnight, but by the needs of the person nearest to us.  We’re responding to a different kind of resolution.  One not recognized by a world dreaming of life without relationships, but one that reminds us that life isn’t lived in grand proclamations, but in the countless gestures of care that never ask to be noticed.

Unfortunately, during this season of resolutions, not all people are welcome.  Not all situations are valued.  And not all resolutions are noticed.  This post is dedicated to all of us who care for others and find ourselves on the outside of this ritual of renewal . . .

  • While other people make resolutions about how they want to changewe resolve to continue our care for a loved one. Others’ New Year’s resolutions are all about changing what currently exists—losing weight, gaining adventure, increasing self-confidence, decreasing clutter, more friend time, fewer apologies.  Our resolutions are different because the main ingredient isn’t change—it’s sustainability.  Resolutions of continuity are rarely appreciated because the day after the new year doesn’t mark a change in ourselves but a continuation of care that does not pause for fireworks or sips of champagne.   Though others celebrate the shiny newness of change—we carry on in the often-forgotten, but vital, tasks of caring for someone we love through change.
  • While others’ resolutions are bathed in a boundless future of possibility, caregiver’s resolutions are always situated deep within the confines of ongoing relationships. New Year’s celebrations only allow dreams to be dreamed that exist free of a body situated in a specific time and place.  To introduce the possibility of life interruptions or context into New Year’s toasts would ruin the party and silence all of those in attendance.  On this night of collective fantasy, there seems to be no room for the little details of life and living that connect us to one another.  Others’ proclaimed new year fantasies are full of what they can imagine, whereas our new year’s realities have names and histories and call out for needs in ways most others can’t—or don’t—notice.  Our resolutions are never reducible to the ‘I’—they are always about how we are joined together with another in ways that most others don’t understand.
  • While others’ resolutions are about what is going to be done in the new year, our resolutions are about who we are going to be. Resolutions, we are led to believe, are about grand gestures of promised accomplishment.  They are designed to be proclaimed, not listened to.  We’re different.  We’re used to listening, not impressing.  We know from experience that proclaiming falls flat when it meets the realities of our care situations.  That’s not what we do.  Our resolve is sustained in the silence of our thoughts . . . thoughts that pass from one day to the next without celebration.  We don’t preoccupy ourselves with accomplishments that will merit applause. No, we try to sustain ourselves by focusing on what we are creating with those who need us most.
  • As others gather together to watch end-of-the-year memorial tributes to celebrities who have died, we care for the people we know and love. Not the people others know, but the people we know. The people that others won’t necessarily tweet about, but the people who have made significant differences in our lives and the lives we care about.  Fathers and mothers.  Spouses and siblings.  Images won’t scroll by with music that makes us nostalgic for people we never met.  Our fathers and mothers, spouses and siblings—our loved ones—are near us.  We don’t need music and montage to help us remember.  We’re in it.  They are with us. Not far away. But up close.  We don’t have the luxury to reminisce about the past, we are struggling to stay afloat in the present.

During the long days and nights of this year, remember we too are resolved with you long after others have forgotten their resolutions.  Our resolutions can’t be forgotten. They are made of love.  Though we might feel alone throughout this year, remember this community that celebrates every day of this new year by everyday actions, not by grand proclamations.

12 Responses leave one →
  1. John Ruff permalink
    January 2, 2017

    Thank you for your insight and encouraging words. I moved from Key West where I retired from as a working Executive Chef, back here to help out my elderly parents in thier 90’s and my older sister, of six sisters who is handicapped and crippled from cerebral palsy. This turned into being thier fulltime Caregiver 24/7 in thier private home. Finding your column brings some peace to my heart mind and soul, just knowing I’m not alone . This has had a huge learning curve and is, naturally, an ongoing ever present thing. Giving up or suspending ones own personal life has definetly been something to deal with for me. So as nature runs it’s course we take it day to day and try to maintain my patience and Thanks again for giving me a brief and welcome shelter in a world where others cannot ever comprehend.
    John @
    Phoenix, Arizona

  2. January 2, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing your caregiving story, John. So glad you found The Unprepared Caregiver. Thanks for being an inspiration. I can’t think of a better way to describe The Unprepared Caregiver community than what you wrote: providing a “welcome shelter in a world where others cannot ever comprehend.”

  3. Noei permalink
    January 2, 2017

    Thank you so much. It’s good to be reminded I’m not alone. Everything written in this article is true, I know because it is my life for 10 years now. How much longer? I even find it rude for me to ask that question, is it guilt? I dont know, I only know that this is my purpose in life, that I’m a great value to my love one. When I think it that way, I feel better, I feel special.

    Happy New Year to us all !

  4. January 2, 2017

    Thank you, Noel. You are an absolute value to your loved one. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration.

  5. January 2, 2017

    Great article! … and remember that the others who celebrate and make resolutions usually don’t fulfill those resolutions, while the caregivers stay true to their constant resolution of loving and caring for a dear one.

  6. January 2, 2017

    So true, Terri!

  7. January 2, 2017

    Your words as always, Zachary, are so true and so wise. Your reflections reminded me of the last lines of Kenzaburo Oe’s book, A Personal Matter. The main character is a Japanese man called Bird whose life changes completely when his wife bears a son with Down Syndrome.
    “Bird waited for the women to catch up and peered down at his son in the cradle of his wife’s arms. He wanted to try reflecting his face in the baby’s pupils. The mirror of the baby’s eyes was a deep, lucid grey and it did begin to reflect an image, but one so excessively fine that Bird couldn’t confirm his new face. As soon as he got home he would take a look in the mirror. Then he would try the Balkan dictionary that Mr. Delchef had presented him before his legation had shipped him home. On the inside cover, Mr. Delchef had written the word for HOPE. Bird intended to look up FORBEARANCE.”

    Sending you my warmest wishes for all good things in your family this new year, including much forbearance, continuity and sustainability.

  8. January 3, 2017

    Beautiful insights as always, Donna. Thank you!

  9. Sharon Wysocki permalink
    January 6, 2017

    My husband and I care for our 48 year old son who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and is pretty much bed bound at this time. He has 3 different types of tremor which makes eating and food prep for himself impossible. We are in the process of selling our homes and purchasing a new fully handicapped accessible home that accommodate his wheelchair and hopefully allow him to socialize within the house, something he can’t do now. He has always been an athletic, extremely personable individual and has done very kind things for a lot of people. Yet, no one comes to visit – or rarely. His condition makes people uncomfortable. Day to day is really tough some times but then I consider the alternative and remain so grateful that we can have funny conversations, share our hopes and dreams that include the situation, and just love each other every day. Caregiving is definitely a challenge and I truly appreciate your wonderful understanding of it…and look forward to getting The Unprepared Caregiver. Thank you.

  10. January 7, 2017

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sharon. At We are so glad you found The Unprepared Caregiver. We are moved by your care experiences. Thank you for enriching our community with your experiences, insight, and wisdom.

  11. January 18, 2017

    Zachary, thank you so much for the insights and encouragement. This sentence alone calls for a new way of thinking and being: “While other people make resolutions about how they want to change—we resolve to continue our care for a loved one.” We thank you.

  12. January 19, 2017

    Thank you, Norris!

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