The presenter got my attention right off, “I’ve given up on motivating caregivers to care for them-selves. Even when that cancer or heart attack occurs, the majority of caregivers are still impervious to such talks!”
“Wow, I thought, this is an interesting approach!” I leaned back in my chair…looking forward to the dance. I like the dance. I get to use all my best strategies and tactics to avoid facing my issues: I’m attentive, ask good questions, smile, nod, participate, share a personal story or two, fill out the work sheets, do the silly exercises (that seems to impress some presenters), write down the requisite social supports that give the impression I am sincerely interested in making lasting and permanent change and otherwise look for things to include in my next presentation. Then I go back to my old bad habits: working and eating too much, exercising and sleeping too little. You know the drill.
I listened as she went through the usual litany: good nutrition, good exercise, good sleep and a healthy spirituality (usually with a huge dose of mindfulness these days). And after the presentation was over I went for the coup de grace’.
I stood in line and asked her to sign her book. She scrutinized me and asked my name. “John”, I said. Her eyes bored through me like a diamond drill. She quickly scribbled a sentence inside the cover and then flipped the book over for me to read what she had written. “Read it out loud,” she commanded.
I read, “John is your name and compliance is your game” signed Dr. Molly K
Then Ms. Smiley Face leaned forward and whispered way too loud, “You can’t fool me. I’ve got your number. I’ve given up on giving care for the caregiver talks to the likes of you. I know you, and I eat your kind for breakfast. When it comes to self-care you are totally helpless, hopeless…pathetic. It will never happen.”
“Wow”, I thought, “she is good!”
She kept the momentum, “ You get to choose one of only two options. You know about old school spiritual direction…obedience and all that.
“Oh no”, I thought, but deftly parried by nodding compliantly. (but she had me on my heels and she knew it) She had seen through my non-verbals and before I could strike back she barked.
“No…I’m making the choice for you,” I literally jumped backwards! “It’s caregiver boot camp for you.”
I hadn’t heard about caregiver boot camp before, but it sounded kind of fun.
“Not fun!” she snapped, verbally jerking me back to reality and lifting me off the floor by the scruff of the neck at the same time.
“Not fun?” I queried in a strangely pleading voice.
John Sippola, MDiv, has served as a parish pastor for 20 years and as a hospital chaplain for 15 years. A LTC Retired from the Minnesota Army National Guard, John served as the Family Assistance Center chaplain in Duluth, MN during the first Persian Gulf War. During that time, he helped facilitate a support group for spouses and parents, and co-led a support group for the children of deployed service members. As a hospital chaplain, he worked extensively with veterans in chemical dependency and mental health settings. From 1997-2000 John served as the Family Assistance Chaplain for the State of Minnesota. John is convinced that churches have a strategic role in promoting relational and spiritual wellbeing of returning veterans and their families. John is currently pastor of Elim Lutheran Church of Blackhoof in Barnum, Minnesota.