Friday, June 24, 2011

The Voice of Caring

The definition for "caring" as listed in the online dictionary defines it as "to be concerned or solicitous; have thought or regard." As I consider what this means to me, I realize that my "care and concern" for another is  based upon examples set forth by my family of origin.While my family had great "heart" and "emotion" the messages of how to care were skewed and very humanly flawed. It is that very flaw that has motivated me to write, to spend years in self-reflection and perhaps has even created a fertile pathway to my own spirituality. All those things are wonderful and I am deeply grateful for the fire. It has, too, left a tender wound that sometimes gets activated. We all have those wounds and by definition, we cannot escape the humanness of those who loved and love us. But if we understand how the caring we received as children have shaped us, then we can perhaps reshape our own methods of caring in a way that serve us and the people we love.

Caring for others comes in so many colors and shades. There are as many ways to care for another as there are people in the world. With so many layers of complexity, it is hard to offer a simple formula that covers all our bases. There is, though, simplicity in caring. The first step is always the hardest because it is the foundation of everything. Foundations being the critical part to any structure tells me that I must have my intention and my heart cleared before the caring I offer is understood. What I have learned to be important is that my caring must come from a non-judgmental place, holding in high esteem the value of myself and the other person. Without this as a foundation, no caring (no matter how well intentioned) will be understood or even received. I do know that caring has no room for entitlement, prejudice, or opinion of what I think is good for someone else. I do know that for a person to show their care and concern is not given based upon what they "do" for us but for who they are. It depends upon me to be present and willing, to be kind, and to listen and hear what is said and felt. It also requires a deeply abiding patience that can be lost in the turmoil or our own reaction to who they are as a person. (And yes, sometimes this patience requires a very super-human kind of effort!)

All of my primary caretakers are now gone, living beyond life's veil. My experience with them, as they each reached the end of their lives, was that most of them felt deep regret for what they missed, how they might have cared differently or more compassionately...more intentionally. Regret is the greatest weight of the soul and I have witnessed it first hand. So the ghosts of my ancestors ask me to ask myself, "What if that person were gone from my life tomorrow, what would I miss?" I always say to myself, "I would miss everything." But the truth is, I would miss and long for their uniqueness and quirkiness, their flaws, as much or more than their perfections. If I could do those little things that tell them they are important to me in every way, why wait until that intention is a regret. There is no time like the present to be kind, to be caring, to love and value someone with the little gifts that cost us nothing at all but when left unspent, cost us everything.

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