One of my favorite go-to books is The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. When my boundaries are being pushed, this little book reminds me of important philosophies to follow so I don’t skid off into the ditch of regret. The Agreements are not only helpful as important tools to use and remember in everyday life, but also to use them when we are the all-important caregiver as well. As you go through your day, think about them and the sacred work we do with our loved one.
The 1st Agreement is, Be Impeccable With Your Word. This is Self-Accountability 101; not an easy class to attend on a daily basis. “Use the power of your word in the direction of Truth and Love,” writes Don Miguel Ruiz. When I think of this statement, it provides a better compass to move forward in caring for Mom or myself.
The 2nd Agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally. Simple and easy enough, right? Yeah right. To me, this is the most elusive principal. It’s like herding cats, especially when it comes to caregiving. It finally dawned on me how stupid it was to take offense by someone not in control of their processing and discernment skills. It’s as preposterous as taking personally something an alcoholic says in a drunken stupor, or an addict says while in the throes of a psychedelic trip.
Then I realized that it’s the same principal in dealing with the average “Josephine/Joe Blow” whose perspective is entirely their own from a lifetime of experiences I know nothing about, and those experiences have nothing to do with me. “What others say and do is a projection of their own reality,” Don Miguel Ruiz writes. This Agreement stands true whether we are a caregiver or not. It is permanently driven home to me on a daily basis whether I am caregiving or just trying to get through the day as an ordinary person doing “life.”
The 3rd Agreement, Don’t Make Assumptions. How can I possibly make assumptions on a moving target as unpredictable as dementia? The 2nd Agreement applies here in that everyone’s perspective is entirely their own from a lifetime of experiences I know nothing about, and those experiences have nothing to do with me. Why assume anything knowing this principal? When I read or watch a great mystery thriller, the story takes me on a ride that shifts my beliefs and assumptions from one character to another, especially as more evidence and information presents itself. What I thought and believed in the beginning turns out to be inaccurate and totally different in the end. We don’t know what we don’t know until we know, and even then, we probably still don’t know. Bottom line, assuming has proven time and again to muddle my life. “With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life,” writes Don Miguel Ruiz
The 4th Agreement, Always Do Your Best. “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are tired as opposed to being well-rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret,” yet another wonderful quote from Don Miguel Ruiz. Well said.
What Is True For Me: The silver lining of these Agreements if followed, has put me in a place of zero regret. Zero. When I was married to an alcoholic, who I eventually divorced and who eventually died from his alcoholism, I knew of these principals, so I left no stone unturned dealing with him and that disease. I did my best under any, and all circumstances, and subsequently when I finally left him, I never had one regret. Not one.
But I guess God and/or the Universe thought I still had some learnin’ to do because these Agreements came barreling in to my world for a second time in the form of Alzheimer’s. Glad to say I won’t be looking back and saying, “I could have done better or…,” after Mom has passed away. No. I do what I can, the best that I can, because I know self-judgment and regret are an awfully heavy cross to bear.
*The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, can be found for purchase with an Amazon link in the Book Section of “Resources” in the “I Forgive, You Forget” website.