This was the advice given to me during the first unit of my chaplain residency by my supervisor, Sheryl. I was shocked when she said it. “Did she just swear at me?!” I wondered.
She was responding to the woes I was listing during my first month with patients at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. My list included, “Children shouldn’t die before their parents,” “That father should have been wearing his seatbelt,” “I should have done a better job praying with that patient,” and “The family should be more involved in their mother’s care.” The list went on and on.
Her admonishment set me on a course from that moment to always recognize "shoulding" - both from myself and from others. And what I have come to recognize over the years is that whenever I think something should be different, I am choosing to not face reality. I’m choosing to ignore what IS and instead focus on what ISN’T.
In my caregiver workshops, we start off with an exercise where participants identify statements they know to be true for themselves regarding their relationship with God (or Creator, Higher Power - whatever description they are most comfortable with). While there may be some variety among individual participants, the group as a whole tends to agree on a set of (somewhat) universal beliefs such as: God is love, is always present, knows all and wants what is best for us. We then use these statements as the foundation for our discussion and frame the various challenges of dementia caregiving through the lens of those beliefs.
This exercise helps me so much when I am tempted to think that a situation should be different than it is. Now, I am in no way saying that things CAN’T be different. Heck, that is what hope is all about! But in order to create a new reality for ourselves, it helps to face head-on the reality we are currently experiencing, not “should all over ourselves” with thoughts that temp us to think that our lives are supposed to be different than what they truly are (at least for the moment). When we encounter situations where we feel distress, and we believe that what is happening shouldn't be happening, it can tempt us to speculate that maybe God does not know all, might not be all-loving and present, or perhaps does not want what is best for us, since “it” (fill in the blank) hasn't happened.
Yet, God describes God as “I AM,” not “I wish I were” or “I was meant to be.” We can discover God within ourselves by acknowledging our sacred worth and addressing honestly where we are and where we want to be. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” My book was written with the intention of helping caregivers find the truth that will set them free from those things that cause them to despair by finding hope where they are right now.
And in a truly crazy (for me) gesture, I offer you a song that I wrote on this subject. It was originally written for those experiencing online bullying after encountering so many depressed and devastated kids on Tik Tok. However, I think the overall message can apply to anyone feeling down or wishing their life were somehow different. I had never written a song before this one, and it came to me over the period of just a few hours. I won’t bore you with the whole magical story behind it, but I hope the song encourages you to know that everything is just as it’s meant to be right now and that you are absolutely able to create a life you desire. God IS love, God IS always present, God DOES know all and God ALWAYS wants the best for you.
I was raised Christian and am now married to a Jewish man. I wrote a holiday song to include both traditions while exploring the nostalgia of the season. Enjoy!
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