The Starved Relationship

Matt-Head-ShotLast Thursday, Dr. Matt Townsend, a relationship expert, spoke to a group of survivors and caregivers at the Intermountain Medical Center. He presented life-changing skills with humor, teaching me how to improve my relationships in an entertaining way. I enjoyed his presentation so much that I’ve been listening to his many short videos on a variety of topics dealing with relationships while I work. If you like to listen to fun, uplifting, concise talks, you should check out his website.

A synopsis of what I learned from Matt is that life keeps changing and some experiences change the way we think and feel. Although our experiences may differ, we share feelings of: loss, sadness, insecurity, embarrassment, inadequacy, anxiety and/or depression at some time in our lives.

He quoted Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist, “That which is most personal is most universal.”

Matt professionally counsels people for a wide range of challenges. Some have financial, fidelity, abuse and a variety of addictions. He calls these problems the smoke rather than the cause of the fire. He states we all have seven basic needs and we feel starved when those needs aren’t meet. When we feel starved, we don’t want to feed the other and the bond is broken, which ignites the fire.

We all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace in a relationship we must feel:

  • Safe – including physical, financial, mental, emotional, social and spiritual safety
  • Trust – consisting of honesty and competence
  • Appreciation- hearing or seeing words of approval (remember it takes four positives to ease one negative comment)
  • Respect – showing through words and deeds
  • Validate – hearing what is said to understand without having to agree
  • Encourage – getting into the heart of your loved one and doing what you can to help them reach their goals
  • Dedication – committing to your relationship and making them feel more important than any place or thing.

Matt said trauma or health issues are the number one way to expand in these areas. We don’t grow unless we are pushed. We learn through our challenges.

Townsend Starved StuffWhen these basic needs are not met, we feel starved which makes it hard to fill your loved one’s needs. We all feel love and express love differently. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, describes how some of us feel love by: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We tend to give love to another in the manner that speaks love to us. However, it is better expressed in the language your loved one speaks. Matt says his wife’s love language is acts of service. He vacuums or does another household chore and she’s appreciative. His love language is physical touch. They’ve tried holding hands while he vacuums, but that’s just too awkward.

To learn more about The 5 Love Languages and to discover your own love language, visit: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

GandhiWe all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace, we must feed the relationship. “You must be the change you wish to see.”- Gandi

Matt is the founder and president of Townsend Relationship Center, a relationship skills-building organization.

To hear Dr. Matt Townsend’s presentation of The Starved Relationship see:

 

 

 

How to Recognize Angels

AngelsIn Laura’s Story, Part 5, by Christine Scott, she remembers the angels in their lives who came to their aid after the death of her father. We often think of angels as beautiful beings with wings, but Christine was referring to family, friends and even strangers who helped them through a difficult time. A friend of her father sold equipment and hang gliders and put collection jars around town to raise money for their family. An aunt single-handedly packed up their belongings to help with the move and grandparents who welcomed them to live in their home.

These were angels who walked among them on earth—real people with mortal bodies. These wonderful people seemed to be sent from above and knew just what was needed at the moment. How can we recognize the angels in our lives? The answer is simple: acknowledge the kindness and help given to you. Those people who have made a positive impact in your life. I’ve been thinking about it and have listed a few.

  • Our biggest angels are parents. They brought you into the world and most of them sacrificed time and money for your care and well-being. They spent sleepless nights when you were sick or out too late. They were your advocates in sports, music and/or drama. They were your cheerleaders in school and other activities.
  • Our littlest angels are children. They are pure and wise beyond their years. Their innocence and curiosity gives us a new and delightful outlook on things which are often taken for granted.
  • Friends who are honest and loyal and lift you up when you’re feeling down.
  • Teachers who taught you how to read, write and do arithmetic. Most have angelic patience and without their help, you wouldn’t be able to read this right now.
  • Doctors and nurses who attend to your medical needs and help you feel better.
  • Therapists who help you overcome hardships and improve your abilities with their knowledge and encouragement.

We can all be angels by lending a helping hand. As we appreciate and recognize the good in others, more angels become apparent.  When I think of the angels in my life, I realize they all have at least two things in common. First of all they are thoughtful and caring and second, they don’t always seem like angels. But how can they? They are people with mortal bodies and not perfected yet.

It reminds me of a “standing joke” Mark and I have. When I help him stand up I often say, “Look up at my halo,” to encourage him upward. To that he replies, “Oh there it is, resting on top of your horns.”

It’s true, sometimes I’m sweet and sometimes I’m not. However, by recognizing and appreciating the helpfulness in others, it usually triggers more kindness.

Who are the angels in your life and why?

Everything Can Change

In a blink of an eyeI can relate to Christine Scott’s feelings and well written words in Laura’s Story, Part 4: “You should have some type of warning before your life unequivocally changes so you have the chance to do things differently—to take advantage of those last moments to say ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye.’”

How easy it is to take for granted family, friends, life, health and abilities.

Today’s a great day to hug the ones we love and appreciate what we have. Remember, “in the blink of an eye everything can change.”

Part 5 of Laura’s Story will be published on Wednesday.

The Fullness of Life

Gratitude-unlovks-the-fullness-of-life-happy-ThanksgivingMy day has been filled with gratitude for all I have. I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and should not be taken for granted. I appreciate the education of doctors, nurses and therapists who have developed the skills to help heal and improve our health issues. I’m grateful for the hard work and progress Mark has made through his hip surgery and therapy.

I’m grateful for our comfortable, wheelchair accessible home, which always gives me something to fix up or improve and the space I need to be able to work at home. I appreciate my employment in property management which enables me to pay for all the necessary things in life. I am fortunate to have wonderful bosses and friends such as Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me in our business as well as my personal life. I am also blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and I’m thankful we can help each other in all things by living together.

I appreciate my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, who I know I can count on for help at any time or in any situation. They are the foundation for everything we accomplish along with the love and support of neighbors and friends. Many people volunteer their precious time to help us.

We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who love and give service to us. My need to give back is the driving force for writing our story and developing Uniting Caregivers. This passion has brought new friendships through writing and caregiver’s support groups, along with readers and participators of this blog. I have learned so much and have gained from their experiences. I am grateful for the influence of other writers and their encouragement in my own writing endeavors.

If you are reading this, I am grateful for you! I appreciate your feedback, whether it’s done with words or the click on the Like button. I hope what is written has helped you find hope and encouragement in your trials. I have truly been blessed in my life’s journey and writing about our experiences manifests those blessings to me.

What_are_you_thankful_for

The Blessing of Adversity

adversityWhile organizing some files, I found and read a talk Mark wrote and gave in church, November 1990, five months before our car accident. The title, The Blessing of Adversity, grabbed my attention and my heart started to pound as I read on. By the time I got to the last few paragraphs tears were flowing as I realized twenty-five years later the prophetic nature of his words. The talk is well over 2,ooo words so I decided to publish only part of the talk. I try to keep these articles around 1,000 words.

If you didn’t know my husband before the car accident, this gives insight on how he was before and you’ll see the core of his soul hasn’t changed. He is an example of enduring to the end and appreciating life and the lessons learned along the way.

Written by Mark Wilson

Many blessings are obvious. Our families, friends, homes and the country we live in are all blessings most of us recognize and are grateful for.  But I’d like to talk about some blessings that aren’t always so obvious.  You see, I believe that very few things happen in this world that aren’t blessings, even being asked to talk in church, for instance. Like many of you, I am terrified of talking in public.  While serving as ward clerk, I sat in on many a bishopric meeting, wherein the topic of discussion often was “who can we get to speak in sacrament meeting?” You know, not once did I volunteer.  Come to think of it, I don’t remember anyone else volunteering either. How can giving a talk in sacrament meeting be a blessing, you ask? Well, if you do it enough, chances are you’ll learn not to be scared. Not being afraid in front of large groups of people would be a plus, I think. You see, what I’m really talking about is adversity, or rather the opportunity to overcome it, can be a blessing. We’ve all been taught this sort of thing before. The scriptures give many examples of how people have been blessed or how we can be blessed by “enduring to the end” or overcoming adversity.

In my line of work, I have on a number of occasions had to serve as job foreman, with anywhere from one to a dozen other electricians in my charge.  Being a foreman is a job that I’ve never liked.  The raise in pay (usually a whole dollar an hour) never seemed to compensate for the added worry over doing the job right, along with the pressure of getting the job done on time. There are always problems with getting the manpower, equipment and materials you need on time.

My first experience along these lines was a real disaster. When the first phase of the new minimum security men’s facility at the state prison was built, the company I was working for at that time was contracted to wire it.  This involved not only the power and lighting systems, but also some very involved security, communications and life safety systems as well. My boss asked me to be in charge of four of the seven buildings.  Up to that time, I had had no prior experience on jobs of that nature.  In fact, I was still only an apprentice.  I consented and before I knew it, I found myself desperately trying to figure out all these systems that were my responsibility. I was reading from blueprints that were rain-faded and wind-torn because the weather was so bad. The general contractor was literally pouring concrete down our boots as we worked feverishly to stay ahead of them on the conduit work. One conduit left out or plugged with concrete would have spelled big trouble and a great deal of expense to correct.

I was so nervous and uptight that I found I couldn’t eat my lunch. I was actually sick to my stomach with worry. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was a nervous wreck. After a few weeks of this, I called my boss one night and told him I couldn’t go on. He would have to find someone else to take my place. He did and I got my sanity back, but I’ve regretted that I didn’t stick with it. What a tremendous growing experience this could have been for me had I been able to “endure to the end”.

Several years have passed since that awful prison job and I’ve been in somewhat similar circumstances a few times. Although I haven’t quit, I’ve never really gotten used to being a foreman and I avoid it all together whenever possible.

About a month ago, I was called into the office and asked to run a job. I thought, oh brother, here we go again. Next the boss starts telling me how important this job is because we’re looking forward to the people we’re working for to throw us a lot more work in the future if we perform well on this job.  That’s all I need, more pressure. One of the reasons I agreed to be the foreman was because he said we had three months to get the job done.

Shortly after I arrived on the job site, the general superintendent informed me we had three months to do the job, but that was two months ago. It took the lawyers, owners and engineers the first two months to get the paperwork done. We only have one month left!

That day, lunch was a little hard to get down. That one month is over in four more days. There’s a chance we might not finish on time. But whether we make it or not, I feel good because I managed to “endure to the end” and just did the very best that I could. The feeling that gives me is downright terrific. What a blessing trials and tribulations can be!

We’ve all had problems at one time or another that we thought at the time were insurmountable.  How did we handle it?  How about the times that we’ve given up?  How does that make us feel?  What a difference it makes when we persevere or “endure to the end” and win! Even during the times when we don’t give up and lose anyway, we still learn a valuable lesson. It’s not the end of the world! The sun will still rise the next day.

We should thank our Heavenly Father for this wonderful life He’s given us and all the problems that come with it. When we are faced with adversity, we should wipe the frowns from our faces and the tears from our eyes and with appreciation in our hearts for a God that loves us enough to test us to our very limits. With gratitude we should dive right in head first knowing that all things give experience for our good.

Note:

Scriptures and doctrine examples have been left out due to the length. If you’d like to read it in its entirety, let me know and I will email it to you. My email address: Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com

Our 36th Wedding Anniversary

Scan0053Yesterday we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. Sounds and feels like a long time until I compare it to my parents who have been married 65 years.  How can you live happily ever after? This is what I’ve learned from my experience and by watching others.

Physical contact is important.

I will never forget how much I missed physical contact with Mark for the three months he was in his coma. Sure I could hold his hand, but he was not capable of holding mine and I missed it! After my collarbone healed from our car accident, I was anxious to help the nurses and aides bathe Mark, rub lotion on him, and transfer him in and out of bed. I wanted so much to touch and care for him. I needed that closeness. The nurses and aides were willing to let me help and I loved doing it.

I’ll never forget the first time I slipped into the hospital bed lying next to Mark, hoping no one would care. It felt so good just to be next to him and since the nurses didn’t seem to mind, it became a routine. I have never taken for granted the need for physical contact since those lonely long months after the car accident.

Mom and Dad 2014I still love to see my parents holding hands as they walk or sit on the couch next to each other. To watch my father help my mother out of a car, down steps, or out of a chair is endearing. They have grown in tenderness with each other over the years. It is clear to me that they love one another and appreciate the time they have together. I am grateful for their example.

Positive reinforcement is a must.

Mark is especially good at accentuating the positive. He always makes me feel wonderful.  He calls me S.U.G.A.R. and spells it as an acronym for Sweetheart, Unmatchable, Girl of my dreams, Awesome, Reason to live. He often reminds me and others who will listen what S.U.G.A.R. stands for. It makes me feel special.

I’ve also noticed when I tell Mark he looks handsome, he sits up a little straighter and holds his head a little higher. We all need and enjoy compliments.

Express appreciation for the other.

Mark and I 1995Every relationship is different. It’s not possible for me to have a relationship like my parents’, but I am capable of having a loving relationship. Mark and I aren’t able to travel to far away destinations and even a romantic dinner and dance is difficult. But I can provide a special dinner at home and turn on some music so we can sway back and forth. I believe no matter where you are in your relationship, you need to appreciate it for what it is.

I feel blessed to still have Mark here with me. When a person only has a five to ten percent chance to live and no chance of coming out of a coma due to the extensive damage to the brain, you know every day is a bonus day. Those days have added up to twenty-four bonus years, which means I’ve been his caregiver for two-thirds of our married life. I believe by being his caregiver and advocate my love has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Happy anniversary to my hero, Mark. I love you!

 

Accepting Care as a Caregiver

IMG_0720I’ve been spoiled for the past two weeks. Friends and family have made the anxious recovery time enjoyable by bringing in meals, cookies, flowers and a visit. My brother and employer, Steve, not only spent the first night by my side, but has come every day to make sure I’m well and has covered much of my employment responsibilities. I’ve also had Katie’s constant watchful eye. All these blessings have helped me heal quicker and better than I expected. I was dreading the recovery time, worried that I’d be hovering over Mark, his personal aide and Katie. How could anyone else take good enough care of him? I’ve learned Mark can be in good hands other than my own.

When Katie realized I needed surgery, she immediately offered to come and help. I didn’t want to burden her, so I thanked her and declined the offer. She is a self-employed, busy, graphic designer plus she volunteers in four different organizations right now. Eldin, her husband, is a great supporter of Katie, but he is a busy bishop in addition to his full-time job. Since our son lives in Washington State, I didn’t feel it would be fair for her to carry this load on her own.

After interviewing three aides who weren’t able to fulfill our needs for one reason or another, Katie offered her help again. Being a protective mom and wanting to preserve the father/daughter relationship, I’ve never given Katie the opportunity to have the hands on routine of transferring her dad from the bed to the wheelchair, showering and other personal care tasks. I knew she’d be capable, but I didn’t want to add caregiver to her many other responsibilities. I realize now I was denying her the blessings that come from caregiving.

IMG_0695

IMG_0700IMG_0709In these two weeks we’ve learned a lot. It’s a joy to watch Katie and Mark interact with one another. It’s evident to me when you serve someone, your love somehow grows. I never imagine she could be more thoughtful and kind, but somehow she is. I never believe she would love us more, but somehow she does.I don’t understand why this is or how it works. It reminds me of when I was pregnant and I wondered how I could have room in my heart to love and care for another baby. When she arrived, my heart magically grew and right from the start, I loved her every bit as much as my first baby.This growing magic continues throughout life as different nurturing experiences arise. It’s a beautiful part of life.

Before the surgery, I paid two neighborhood boys to help move some furniture and make a separate bedroom for me in the front part of the house which was originally my office. In this room I can’t see or hear Mark and can completely rest without any worries. Since Katie is here most of the day and night I can relax, confident that Mark is cared for.

I hired a shower aide to come every other day for Mark. She also helps him with his exercises. This not only lightens Katie’s load, but keeps her from having to do the personal care which would be awkward for their father/daughter relationship. Having others who know Mark’s needs and understand his routine is a bigger relief to me than I had imagined.

I’ve worried for months about how I’d manage the care for Mark during my recovery time and so far it’s worked out much better than I anticipated. The planning effort was well worth it. What I’ve learned from this experience:

  • Mark can be in good hands other than my own.
  • Accept help from family and friends and enjoy the love that grows from it.
  • Nurturing is a beautiful part of life. Share the blessing.
  • Make it easy and comfortable for those who are assisting.
  • Look for the good and realize tasks can be done differently.
  • Appreciate the efforts of another, even when they don’t do things the way you do.
  • Having others who know the caregiver’s routine is a great benefit in case of emergency or for caregiver respite.

I’m enjoying and appreciating all the help we’re receiving. Many hands do make light work and it has allowed me to get the needed rest for a speedy recovery. To all my family and friends—Thank You!