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Nurturing my Neglected Heart

For over 40 years I

was a caregiver

Setting myself aside

To care for others

As a mother

As a child

As a teacher

As a parent

I functioned

To serve those

Around me in need

Giving myself away

Even beyond my daughter’s illness

I was caregiving for a spouse

For my family of origin

And for my survival

My heart turned outward

Doing what I must

Blind to my neglected heart

I acted with intentions of love

As my walls of health broke down

And my personal limits beaten

I was cornered into seeing

My neglected heart

Slowly as I learn

Boundaries and reason

I discover it is never too late

To nurture myself back to whole

By defining what I need

And granting this gift

By defining my boundaries

When someone is reaching for my bliss

I am in charge

Of this neglected heart

Never anyone else

I create my boundaries

And define my limits

Never forgetting my-

Self in the corner

Never neglected any more

This fierceness I have developed

To fight for what is mine

My heart, my worth

My self-respect and my time

For truly without me present

With my heart and self-respect

I am but a shell providing

Support without a net

I look forward with gentleness

Accepting the lessons I’ve learned

Forgiving myself for forgetting

The who who must come first

This knowledge I have learned

From years of neglect

Now there is no doubt

I will never ever forget

I am the Lady in shining armor

I am the answer to my pleas

Never abandoning myself

I am present and there for me

Participants’ Reflections:

  • Anxious about grandkids coming next week. I’ve been quiet and alone for 4 months. I have to figure out how to cope. I’m thinking about how to care for self while they are here. It’s a whole new twist.

  • The reading spoke to me to think about how to care for myself.

  • Good reading. I am drained. It’s the nature of we what we do as women (and men). I have to think about what do I do to feed and nurture me. I’ve been stoic during this pandemic, and it is draining. I had a visit with my grandkids. I was mindful and it took more energy to be so. I meditated on the ocean, giving and taking. It was peaceful. Boundaries are a work in progress. The parameters are changing. Be gentle with myself. People have needs. It’s good to validate concerns and be mindful of the ways to take care of self.

  • This week was my annual college reunion and they went ahead with it. I wanted to go, but I was mindful to take care of my family first. I am sad to not be there. I am listening to my heart but miss my friends. Hopefully, my mind will align. It’s hard, listening to heart. I am prioritizing. I could feel the frustration yesterday.

  • I have to get back on track re the pandemic. I am forgetting about Covid. I have three kids, young adults. On Father’s Day, they wanted to go out to dinner. I wasn't thinking, celebrate and do for my daughter or social distance. I don’t need to people please and go along. My other daughter committed to a beach cleanup and I immediately agreed. Now I’m thinking of not joining in. Am I selfish? Do I put my own needs aside and do for family. Forgetting what is happening. I know I feel safe at home.

  • I hear you using mindfulness. I used to just put up with the pain of crossing a boundary. It takes courage to stand up for one’s needs and boundaries.

  • I’m bumping up against different cultures and the assumptions people make. I made a painful decision to cancel travel plans this summer. My philosophy is “if you can’t get out if it, get in it.” It is challenging, I want to engage with normal life.

  • Right. Who wants to experience yuck.

  • I am sad. My were planning a family reunion. I took stand against it.

  • You are modeling strength. It’s important to feel your feelings.

  • Many people are grieving. It wasn’t expected, this late in the pandemic. Many of us are older and grieving.

  • That's what prompted my reading on caregiving today. I am experiencing that same feeling of helplessness which a caregiver experiences. I used to try to take care of everyone to keep everyone safe. To care for self, I have to limit self. I am up against it. And when it’s too much, I go back to bed and cry for ten minutes and then face life again.

  • I’m reminded of the cup and saucer that Lisa Nichols talks about (see "Doing Service" blog post. When are you giving from the cup and when from the overflowing into the saucer? It’s just words. Putting it into practice is something else. How do you know the difference? I don’t know her. Meanwhile, next week, I am zoom bombing my mother’s friends, people I haven’t seen in five years. This whole new world we are in allows this type of joyous connection to be created.

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