I had coffee (chai) this afternoon with a friend visit from Seattle. It's rare I get to talk to anyone who isn't a caregiver or nurse, I've been so immersed in my mother's life. She shared about how she lost herself during a short stint caring for her mother when she was ill. "You need a mirror." She said, which I took to mean that we need others to reflect to us who we are.
It is strange to be spending most of my time caring for this elderly woman, who is so different from me in many ways. It's very much like new motherhood, where you have to give over your time and attention to someone who needs you to survive. The difference is, you can't pick them up and put them down for a nap when you need a break (like my kids ever took regular naps anyway).
New motherhood often separates you from your old life. Your childless friends cannot relate. Your work associates (unless they're parents themselves) don't understand your not stopping for drinks before going home, taking sick leave because your kid has chicken pox, or passing up the promotion because it required too much travel.
These people aren't your mirrors any more. That's why new mothers join play groups and, eventually PTA. Only other parents can validate where you are at, what you're going through, the choices you're making.
So I go to caregiver meetings, and listen to other adult children (and elderly spouses) going through similar experiences. I learn from others who've been doing this longer than I have. I feel reassured by women making similar choices (when the men in their family are not).
However they're not complete mirrors. Just as the moms whose kids went to my kids preschool weren't my mirrors, either. When my kids were little, I was teaching psychic meditation and spiritual healing and working for a spiritual Church. I saw my kids as Infinite Beings creating their reality, creating me as their mom, their dad as their dad, the circumstances of their lives. Never found other Moms doing the same thing.
Fellow caregivers are only partial mirrors. I do readings and Matrix at night, and my radio show ever other week. It's hard to answer the question 'what do you do', when I'm asked.
This is not a bad thing. It gives me permission to do this in my own, unique way. It allows me to open doors of possibility, to doing things differently. I don't have to be limited by other people's choices. At caregiver meetings, I can take what I like and leave the rest.
Peer group reality can be supportive to a point. And it can limit you from moving beyond their level if you don't allow yourself to see a bigger picture.
You don't have to hang out with people just because they've been friends forever, you've worked with them, you're related to them, or they're in the same twelve step program. It's okay *not* to match the group when the group is holding you back.
This week notice the mirrors you have in your life. Are they accurate, or distorted? Are they reflecting validation and encouragement, or are they subtly (or not so subtly) telling you to toe the line with the rest of them?
Take a break from anything that doesn't support your growth and change. Try this for a week and see what happens!