My shoulders are tired

Last night, I watched “Moms’ Night Out,” and I highly recommend it. I understand this woman! I won’t give it away, because you HAVE to watch it. Suffice to say though is that there are three women who are beyond stressed out with their families. One in particular just can’t get a hold of life anymore and either needs to take a night off or is going to mentally break. Fun and hilarity ensue.

Now, while I am not a mother obviously, I am on that stress precipice where I will either explode leaving emotional debris everywhere or where I will cause equal damage by throwing up my hands and literally walking away.

But, right now, I am stress paralyzed. I totally concur with the movie–it’s a real thing.

I’m not getting respite on any of my three fronts. I can’t run to church to escape the tensions at home and work. I can’t hide at home on my days off to recover from work and gear up for church. And work is no longer a happy experience where I can focus on something to take my mind off of church and home.

And before you give me the supposedly sage advice of finding a new church or job– that is not going to fix anything. The idea of running away from the blessings God has given me, is not hardwired into my DNA. The opposite is. I care too much for the people involved to just leave when things get rough.

Running away– while a nice thought when your jaw aches from biting down on the harsh words that want to spill forth–never solves anything.

I think there is enough broken relationships in this world to prove that.

I am a fixer. I am a counselor. I am a listener. I am a caregiver. These are aspects of my core personality. I can’t change who I am. It is not in me to say, “I can’t handle any more, so don’t tell me anything else!”

I have been so consumed by the stress, that I, who process things by writing, haven’t written anything in many weeks. Which, let me tell you, adds more stress because what in the world am I stressing about?! I don’t know, because I can’t write it out. Argh!!

I always like to say that I don’t worry. Worrying will not change the aspects of the future you are concerned about. Staying up late at night chewing on your fingernails won’t change how much that doctor’s bill will be. Nor will it affect the flight that a loved one will be on as if your worry will be the cushion that will keep that plane from crashing.

Nah, I don’t worry. I stress! Totally different in my book.

I don’t care if Webster’s Dictionary says worry is a synonym of stress. You can’t believe everything that is written okay?

Webster’s says that stress as a noun means: “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” While worry means “give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”

Sure, I dwell sometimes. But, everything that is concerning me, isn’t even about me! It’s about people I love and am worried concerned about. How can I be there in the moment for them? How can I encourage them? How can I represent God’s love in the tension? How is it going to affect the community, family, client?

I’m not trying to control the world. I’m not even trying to change my little sphere of influence.  I just want answers to be given so people aren’t waiting for the next shoe to drop. So I don’t feel as if I have the weight of these people’s fear crushing my back.

My shoulders are tired from the burden I carry.

The unknown is scary. We do not know how to ready ourselves for the hidden threat. We don’t know if we need the shield or the first aid kit, if we need knives or bullets. We don’t know how to protect each other from the masked intruder who is right outside our peripheral vision. That dark entity that could possibly be holding a sharp knife that is ready to rip our lives apart. We’re in a constant state of readiness, waiting for the attack. Sometimes it happens and we can expel the adrenaline. Other times, we are in the fight/flight response with nothing to do. But be ready. Be alert. Be exhausted…

Sometimes, I feel as if I gather other people’s worries, fear, concerns, hurt, anger, as an attempt to get them through the problem. As if I am trying to protect them from that sick twisted emotional bomb by holding it for them. As if I want to throw myself on that grenade in a brave Steve Rogers act, so others have a chance to live. As if sacrificing my peace of mind will keep someone else sane.

I must think highly of myself.

We, or maybe I should just say, I, get this convoluted idea that if I work my butt off, I can protect people from…well, from life. I can keep my friends from finding out that their beloved parent has cancer. I can keep my parents from worrying about their financial existence. I can keep my grandparents healthy. I can keep my brother and his wife safe in Texas from the floods. I can keep gossipers from harming my church family with their vicious vitriol. I can keep my client safe from her anxiety. I can keep my community working together for the betterment.

(Humm, psst! Ranelle, you know, that sounds a lot like worry.
Nah…it’s stress, you don’t know what you are talking about. Shhh!)

I don’t have a messiah complex. I don’t have a hero complex. I don’t have a martyr complex. Believe me, I don’t aspire to be Captain Steven Hiller who takes on the alien ship with a nuke strapped to my ship.

I KNOW that the weight of the world is NOT on my shoulders. That the happiness of those around me is not my job. I KNOW this. But, still. I have a desire to make sure that if I can, I can keep them from shedding tears. I can keep the anger at bay.

I need to live in the Swedish Proverb, “Not my monkey, not my circus.” Or in BBC’s Sherlock’s Detective Inspector Lestrade’s motto: “Not my division!”

Don’t borrow trouble. You can be concerned, but ultimately, it’s not your job to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the world. God gave me the heart to love people, but he has also told me that I have a limit on how much I can take on. It is all in God’s hands. I need to stop taking my loved ones out of his hands, thinking I can do a better job at caring for them. Because, obviously I can’t.

Where I grow weary and exhausted with the strain, God never does. Where I get exasperated and frustrated by their actions that just cause more pain, God just continues to love. When I don’t know the whole story, God does and still loves. Where I make mistakes in the course of helping, God never does. God is the only perfect caregiver there is. I am a pale broken imitation. But, still God uses me.

So, today is a day of self-health. I am dating myself. I am finally writing, here in the park on a pretty day. I am taking a breath. I had my comfort food, aka Tacos. (Yumm) And I will go watch a movie. I will go home to play with my dogs and be snubbed by my cats. I will simply be. Try to keep from mind the problems that Sunday will bring, that Tuesday will hold. I will unclench my jaw and rotate my neck. I will shed this weight and put it where it belongs, in God’s hands.

When I start to take it back, I will say a prayer instead.

I will learn how not to worry the problem like a nasty mosquito bite. Checking in on it every few minutes to see if it still itches. I will pay attention to God’s police line, where it says “DO NOT ENTER” and in smaller words “IT’S NOT FOR YOU TO WORRY” (I mean…stress.) I won’t sneak under the tape and rob my loved ones back into my hands.

If you pray for me…I would be eternally grateful.

“No one can pray and worry at the same time.”– Max Lucado

Matthew 11:28-30– “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Luke 12:25- “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”


Dear Mike Rowe

If I wrote a letter to Mike Rowe, host of the former Dirty Jobs show on the Discovery Channel, in regards to a dirty job I know of, this is what I would say. (And there is a good chance that this might have ended up sounding more like a rant. Which I might or might not apologize for, let’s just be honest.) 

Dear Mr. Rowe,

I always enjoyed watching you shine the spotlight on the unsung heroes of the work force. As a daughter of a dump truck driver and a para-educator, I understand hard work and determination. Since I was 14, I have worked hard and continually, helping put myself through college to graduate with a Master’s degree in Pastoral studies. I never once shied away from the idea of hard work. Also just because I have now succeeded in getting that degree, that does not mean that I still won’t work hard with my hands at every opportunity.

I held down a full time janitorial job on campus during the school year and then worked as a full time caregiver during all school breaks. I was actually told by one classmate that he could never “clean up after the professors who teach me because I’m better than that.” I was completely baffled by that thought. Being a janitor is a good, solid, respectable job. I have always been proud of doing that job for my 7 years of undergrad and seminary, and even now continue to be a housekeeper, as the opportunity arises around my other full time job.

Since I was 14, I have worked as a caregiver. Mostly, I have cared for clients who have either Dementia or Alzheimer’s, both of which are terrible diseases that can drastically change the person you love into a stranger. You might have to watch your sweet grandma turn into an aggressive banshee, who chases you around the house, trying to hit you over something already forgotten. Or see as your loving father struggles with the fact that he knows he is forgetting something and becomes extremely agitated over that knowledge.

There are so many emotional ups and downs involved with being a caregiver. There is a balancing act that many people don’t see. I always get variations of two comments when someone realizes that I am a caregiver, “Wow, I could never do that job! Wiping people’s butts and stuff. Wow. I admire you.” or “That would be so awesome to have a job where you could sleep all day!”

They totally miss the purpose and the wonderful aspects of the job.

It is my job and my pleasure to attempt to be all things to one person.

My client is knocking on her 100th birthday in a sliver of years. She has lived through riding on a horse drawn wagon, to seeing a man walk on the moon, and now being ignored by her great grandchild in favor of watching a small handheld screen. The amount of unplumbed history just sitting there, watching the world spiral out of control on the news, is staggering.

Through this job, I wear many hats. Gardener, chef, housecleaner, counselor, chauffer, bookkeeper, dog walker, spider catcher, bird feeder, and whatever she might need at a moment’s notice. To say the least, I do not have time to ‘nap’ because my client, though nearly 100 does not nap.

Caregiving is not a easy white collar medical job. So many people think that it is an easy job because there is so much demand for care of the aging Baby Boomers that are filling the retirement centers.  Too many ill equipped care givers are now in the system. This is why I vote for finger printing and background checks of all people who are charged with the care of these precious clients. Too many abusers now have in their care, vulnerable adults. As like with most public care jobs, you hear too much about the bad ones that destroy the lives of those put into their keeping, rather than showing how someone who deeply cares for their charges, can go about making their last years comfortable.

Despite working in a private home or adult care facility, while the clients may change, my job stays the same. That job is to give my clients compassionate care that protects their dignity and gives them respect in all aspects of that care.

If I find myself scrubbing a bathroom into an inch of my life due to the ferocious cleansing agents of prune juice and promptly having to do it again within two hours, it is just par for the course. If it’s about driving one of my clients over a hundred miles just so they could get out of the house, I do so with a smile. It’s about biting my tongue to keep my opinions to myself, because my job is to listen rather than advise.

Caregiving is not about MY desires or wants. It’s about keeping them happy and healthy. It’s about cooking the same meal 20 times because you finally found something that they will eat and will hopefully gain a few pounds. It’s about being a pharmacist who has to beg her clients to take their pills. It’s about defending your client’s rights to live their lives as they see fit. It’s about speaking up for them when they are too scared to do so. It’s about neglecting your own sleep so that you can make sure that they are sleeping well. It is about treating them the way you will hope and pray you will be treated when it is your time to be in the care of someone else.

Caregiving, in my book at least, is a dirty job. I always wanted to write in and ask you to do something in regards to it, but with privacy laws,  you wouldn’t exactly be allowed to shadow someone on the job! I would just love to see a nod to those in this noble profession who, as you put it, make civilized life possible for the rest of us. It is one of those jobs that is over looked but is so diversified.

All said and done though, I am very proud of being a caregiver.

Thank you, Mr. Rowe, for doing all you do. I agree 100% that Americans don’t understand what hard work is anymore. Most of my generation has lost touch with work ethic and it is translating down into their young children. It is so sad to see that juxtaposition between the ‘Greatest Generation’ who were such hard workers and the stereotypical ‘Generation Me’ who is more focused on ‘what I can get for myself’ attitude.

I might be called old fashioned for some of my ideals and morals, but taking a look around me, I’m glad for that old-fashioned value set. It has held me in good stead my whole life, and I get to listen to all the untold stories that are just waiting to be let free from the minds of my quiet elders.

So, my hands might be gloved in vinyl blue, and while I might not be crawling under houses or putting my hands in some animal, I  think all dirty jobs are the jobs worth doing. Because at the end of the day you know you have accomplished something. And me? I am accomplished in my job when I see my client face another day, knowing I’m in her corner.

Keep dirty and work hard!

Ranelle Gildersleeve

Beautiful age

Today’s culture in America is truly negative against those who are aging. It’s an abomination to the “beauty” companies who keep improving their formulas so that one might have less wrinkles. We puncture our skin with needles and knives to get tighter skin, while we insert foreign objects that were not created by the God of Creation into the very body given to us- simply to deny our own age.
Women fib their ages by decades while men go into mid-life crises trying to prove they aren’t as old as their birth certificate proves.
Why do we hate age so much in this culture?
In many other cultures- that have some how stayed untouched by America’s brashness- age is something to be venerated. They hold a special place in the family hierarchy and those who hit a certain age are sought after for their wisdom. In tribal cultures they are the rulers of the village- guiding it along treacherous paths so that they might thrive. In many cultures the grandparents live with the children, helping take care of the grandchildren and helping the family prosper. They have respect and honor.
Then there is America. Where we have totally turned upside down what it means to be family. Where more families are torn apart by selfishness than anything. Where broken families are meshed together with other broken families in an attempt to heal which causes more problems than it mends. Where family members are replaced, misplaced, and displaced as easily as a pair of shoes. Where family is something you make rather than being born into, when gathering a group of friends that fit your criteria is better than your own blood. This is America in all of her broken misunderstanding.
But, then when we age, our family- because of our culture- decides we no longer matter in the grand scheme of the family. So we do our ‘duty’ hopefully and place Grandma/pa in a nursing home– spend the money so that they are out of sight out of mind. We can’t be bothered taking care of an ailing human who only takes up time and valuable resources. Better to pay someone else to do so we don’t have to be bothered.
So life goes on.
We fight the act of aging because we fear the very thing we have done to our own parents happening to us.
The Baby Boomer generation in fact are facing this dilemma more than anyone right now. There are more than 78 million baby boomers out there who are hitting the age of 65. As a caregiver many of my clients will now be part of that generation. They will also be the ones who will fight the most about what it means to be considered old. And because of their own actions towards their own parents- their children will mimic them. They will most likely be one of the most forgotten aging generations in the retirement and nursing centers than any previous one. Many families have not instilled in their children the need to respect and honor their elders, so many children and grandchildren will not understand the need to care for their aging family members and will even begrudge the need to put money towards their care.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are on the way to being a normal action of an aging generation because they fear age and suffering- and they want to die on their own terms.
Age is beautiful. Your face will show the pages of your life. The silver of your hair will show the wisdom you have gained through pain and joy. Why do we fight something so beautiful?
I served a woman who made it to her 105th birthday- a woman who lived through the War to End all Wars- twice. A woman who saw technology create wondrous things never thought possible. She met many people and she was a blessing to know. She didn’t fear death but embraced life like an old friend. The beauty carved into her face made her radiant. A small woman in stature but a giant in personality. To sit at her feet and hear the stories are some of my fondest memories.
I love to hear the stories these elders carry. Sadly, many of them will go unheard and forgotten because we can’t be bothered to take the time to listen. Wisdom will be loss and ignorance will be hailed the victor.
Embrace age I say! Sure, your joints will ache, your sight might fail, your hearing might go- but share your wisdom. I am not saying that age doesn’t have it shortcomings but the wisdom that you can impart is worth so much. Don’t let your children be ignorant and don’t hide from age. No matter how much one might hide- it will always find you. You think you might erase your wrinkles of years pass, but one day you’ll look in the mirror and realize that you look much older now than if you had just let life creep over your face the way it was going too.

A poem I wrote to a client who was apologizing for getting old:

You’re Not Old!
For Ann M-C
By Ranelle Gildersleeve
August 2012

You don’t eat slow- you’re savoring every bite!
You don’t walk slow- you’re smelling the roses!
You aren’t hard of hearing- you’re having deep thoughts!
You don’t sleep too much- you’re just praying a whole lot more!
You’re joints aren’t popping- you ate Rice Krispies this morning!
You don’t have false teeth- you just have an extra smile!
You don’t go to the doctors a lot- you just go to get updates on their families!
You don’t take too many pills- you are just supporting your local pharmacy!
You don’t forget things- you just keep them in an extra safe spot!
You don’t repeat stories- you just remember the good times!
You’re not old- you just see the world a little better!

 A letter from an aging mother to her daughter: The day I am getting old