I was raised by an Italian Catholic mother, so guilt has always been something I’ve experienced to a great degree. I was able to decrease the amount of guilt I experienced when I left home and became protestant, but it’s something that I still struggle with from time to time. Guilt can be good in that it’s a signal from our conscience or God that we’re not doing what is good and noble, but it can also crush one’s spirit and make one feel unworthy, and I don’t think God wants that.
I’ve recently started reading a devotional book called Not Alone by Nell Noonan, a woman of great faith and strength who took care of her invalid husband for some years before his passing. I knew her personally because she attended my church, but because I wasn’t a caregiver, I never felt the need to read her book…until now. It has helped me in doing just what the title suggests…feeling “not alone”, and it has given me some strength and helped me forgive myself for the times when I feel inadequate.
Taking care of an 87-year-old can be difficult, and when you’re a caregiver for someone, you will invariably feel some guilt if you become impatient (when having to repeat yourself a lot for instance) or don’t feel you’re doing enough for that person. I’ve noticed that when I’m tired or not feeling well, I tend to be more impatient with my mother, and when I’m under fatigue and duress, that’s also when I tend to eat things that aren’t so good for me. I had a hectic week, and I faltered in my endeavor to stay gluten free, and I ended up in a big flare of my Dermatomyositis Friday and Saturday, necessitating my taking a bunch of Prednisone. Fortunately, it worked its magic so I could take my mother to the emergency room yesterday afternoon. Apparently, she has now developed cellulitis, a bacterial infection on her leg. They released her after giving her an IV antibiotic and a prescription for more of the same in capsule form, but we’ve got to keep close tabs on the situation since she’s elderly and has Diabetes.
After I waited in line at Walgreen’s for twenty minutes this morning, I went home and helped mom with a shower, determined not to feel guilty for missing church. As mom napped in her recliner, I listened to the rain fall via my Calm app while I typed away on the first half of this blog post, avoiding practicing for a presentation that I’m giving Tuesday afternoon.
After fixing lunch, I decided that I would bake some bread, something I haven’t done in a long time. Because of my gluten sensitivity, I can’t eat it, but I can still enjoy the smell of it baking, and I know my husband and mom will enjoy eating a fresh warm slice with some butter. When I started getting out the flour, yeast, sugar, and butter, my mom wheeled her walker into the kitchen and asked if she could help, and I didn’t hesitate to say yes. There wasn’t much she could do but sit and supervise,which she did, letting me know that she always used lard instead of butter in her recipe and warning me repeatedly not to let the butter, milk, and sugar mix get too hot on the stove “because it will kill all the yeast”. Usually, her repeated warnings would frustrate me, but instead I found myself smiling and accepted that this is who she is and who she has always been, a perfectionist when it comes to baking.
She greased a bowl into which I could put the dough to rise. I know she missed doing the mixing and kneading, but she still seemed content with just sitting and talking about how her own mother would let the dough rise all night because she always made a large batch; she would make several loaves each Saturday. She smiled as she told me this, and I felt some of that guilt I’ve been feeling lately slip away and a peace came over me, a peace that comes from letting go of some obligations and just enjoying the time you have with those you love, doing activities that you enjoy.
God wants us to have a day of rest, a Sabbath, each week, and today, the reason for it really hit home. God modeled having a day for rest in Genesis, not because he needed a day of rest, but because he knew that we would. We’re just better when we’ve had rest…not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well. We cannot really take care of others unless we take time to care for ourselves.
Photo courtesy of Sean Stratton via Unsplash.com