By Jaime Huysman, PsyD, LCSW
This business of baseball is only one-half skill. The other half is something else; something bigger!
That’s the lead-in line to the song “Heart” in the musical “Damn Yankees.” For our purposes this month, I’d like to substitute the word baseball for caregiving.
In my days of clinical practice, I had to “have a heart” to be of any real help to my patients. As a therapist, it was important to be present, listen, witness, and, many times, ask probative questions to find out was really going on.
I have since learned that it is an important aspect to quality of life as well. In my view, being open-hearted and living from a heart-centered place is an extension of my true self. Heartfelt kindness carries no judgment but has the power to discern and understand what is not being said, rather than what is.
As caregivers are not mind-readers, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with those we care for, which can be difficult when both time and energy are at a premium.
My experience is that it’s well worth the effort to take the time.
My mantra is, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I found it online credited to a gentleman named Toby Mac, whom I’ve never met. It’s not always easy to live up to, but it’s how I really try to live.
When I lack the ability to be kind, I do not “have heart.” As a rule, that’s usually a red flag that means there’s something going on within me that I may or may not be aware of at a conscious level.
Having an open heart has an empowering magnetic field that feeds me. I become more tolerant of my humanity when centered there; I am happier, even more productive. This is in great contrast to the feeling of being shut down, tuned out, defensive, acting as if you’re unengaged and downright bored. I have felt and have been at the mercy of all those, too, because I’m human.
Like all personal growth and evolution, having a heart is a process that one surrenders to over time; it’s an alternative way to flex my heart muscle! It is not a weakness, and it doesn’t make me too sensitive to be in the world.
I’m reminded of the lyrics to an old song by the band America, that went:
But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn’t, didn’t already have
Yup, he had to find it for himself. I hope you find yours and use it to take care of yourself as well as those you care for.
Happy Heart Month!
Dr. Jamie co-authored the acclaimed Take Your Oxygen First: Protecting Your Health & Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss and was featured in The 100 Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership, Voices of Caregiving and Voices of Alcoholism. Dr. Huysman writes for Caregiver SOS, Florida MD and Today’s Caregiver magazines and blogs on PsychologyToday.com.
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