Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson starred in Bucket List the movie in 2007. This family-friendly movie where two strangers find common ground while sharing a hospital room and nearing the end of their lives. They check out against medical advice and go on the most fulfilling adventure. Two men from opposite ends of the economic spectrum bond over life’s final goodbye. I am not here to promote a movie. I am using it to underscore that the most impactful events of our life involve people and relationships.
Have you noticed that your Bucket List contains happy adventures? Granted, that is the essence of having such a list. All those great life experiences that we believe will complete us. But for every outstanding life event, we add to our bucket, we experience others that deplete us. For example, did any of you have a once-in-a-century pandemic on your bucket list? Yeah, me neither.
Your Future Self – Social Pillar
The third episode of our podcast focuses on your social self. Chris MacLellan and I discuss how caregiving impacts our relationships during the journey and where we go afterward. You can listen to our conversation using the green button below. First, let me state that Chris and I agree, no one puts caregiving on their bucket list. Caregiving happens when we least expect it, like Chris says, “you’re thrown into this massive job either by an unfortunate accident or an untimely diagnosis and suddenly you’re entrusted with the care of somebody else.”
Humans, by design, are social beings. Even the most introverted among us engage with others, just less often than most. These interactions impact our mental health. However, caregiving injects a new dimension into our lives. Often, we lose touch with ourselves and our social connections during caregiving. In fact, time is so limited that one loses track of the things that one likes to do. A caregiver is so focused on caring often losing sight of their own needs, identity, and health.
Normalizing Stress and Caregiving
Have you heard about the boiling frog experiment? The nineteenth-century scientist Friedrich Goltz conducted experiments to test how beings react to change. Goltz added frogs directly to boiling water causing them to jump out as a metaphor for the sudden change. Then he tested the frogs in room temperature water and was slowly heated to a boil. The story goes that the frogs remained in the water unaware that the rising temperature would kill them. This scenario represents a slow change that becomes normal over time. Despite debunking Goltz’s theory, the concept of normalizing behavior, when it slowly changes over time, has proven true throughout history.
Caregiving is like the slowly boiling frog that experiences change over time called “creeping normality” by American Scientist Jared Diamond. In our podcast, Chris recalls “In the midst of caregiving and it just seems normal. But when step back and say, oh my goodness, cooking, cleaning, managing transportation, doctor’s appointments, following up laundry, grocery shopping, all these things that you just kind of take for granted going. go into the radiation treatments daily. Suddenly those are just a normal part of your day and it’s not normal. Going to radiation treatments is not normal.”
Social Isolation and Mental Health
Grief often walls us off from others. Social isolation stops the healing process. Chris and I believe in the power of relationships on our mental health. Our mental health is our social self and vice versa. After caregiving, many of us must rebuild our social network. I liken it to the first years as a new parent. Everything outside the home and that new baby are a blur. The work is all-encompassing, exhausting, and rewarding but comes at a price. Listen to us discuss how to nurture your social self by re-engaging in your community and relationships.
Chris’s ability to articulate his journey is a gift to all of us. He found the strength to move forward after caregiving. Listen to the podcast to hear how he did it. We believe that you too can live to the fullest after caregiving is over. What’s on your bucket list?