If you are following my story and don’t want to read about tinkle, then just stay on this page and you won’t have to hide your eyes, because this post is G-rated, and a bit more serious. I was asked about this recently – the phenomenon of going from careGIVER to care receiver, and I had a lot of time to ponder it on Tuesday when I was inside what author Kara Tippetts called a “Scary Snort” for a couple of hours in the midst of yet another diagnostic test. (The “Scary Snort” phrase comes from one of my favorite books, Are You My Mother? when the little bird is scooped up into a steam shovel. MRI machines and CT scans feel like Scary Snorts.)
One of the strangest parts of this whole journey has been the role reversal I have experienced as I left ministry and the almost constant role of careGIVER, to become a care receiver. My tenure in ministry placed me in the position of walking with people through some of the hardest – and some of the best – experiences of their lives. I have prayed, and cried, and slept at the bedside of many. I have helped people to fill out Living Wills and detail their funeral wishes should the worst happen…and when the worst DID happen, I arranged funerals and held hands and made casseroles and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was sacred work. I was invited “beyond the curtain” into the hardest of hard for some amazing people, and I can admit today that my competence in these situations probably puffed me up a little….too much.
Because suddenly, I couldn’t do it all. Almost overnight, I could no longer keep up. I couldn’t work AND cook dinner. During what I fondly call our “diagnostic limbo hell,” and weeks turned into months, my pain increased and my energy decreased, and just like that I was deciding whether I had the energy to wash my hair or watch tv with my kids. (And let’s face it, hair matters. As does mascara.) My tribe recognized it before I did, and they forced nudged me to ask for help.
All I had to do was send a text and the problem was solved. Meals poured in, as did treats, and gifts, and flowers, and cupcakes and dry shampoo, and I no longer had to feel guilty about ordering take out again, because we could sit as a family and eat real food, and know that we were loved – very dearly. But hitting send on that first text was monumental, and I felt defeated, because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being the capable caregiver (I think the “Capable Caregiver” needs a Cape.)
But sitting in that foreign space of receiving care reminded me that my identity is not based on my ability to create a sign up genius for casseroles, but rather fixed as a part of a loving community of people with whom we laugh and snort and cry and hurt as we do life together. I am so grateful for my tribe, but I am also grateful for this trial that reminded me that my identity is not about what I can do, but rather who I belong to.
And in the midst of this divisive political climate, I can look at my tribe and be assured that this still the best work a community can do – to hold space for one another as babies are born, as loved ones pass on, as they receive a diagnosis – this is the good stuff of community.