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Monday, June 10, 2019

On mercy (and perfectionism) by Elizabeth Gilbert

"I absolutely failed at being the perfect caregiver for Rayya when she was sick and dying. As soon as she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I decided that it was my job to take care of her, and I intended to do it with excellence, honor, patience, skill, spirituality, grace, and unconditional love. I decided that being the perfect caregiver to Rayya was my soul's mission and the entire purpose of my life. Well, friends: I failed at it. Again and again, I failed. I was overcome by exhaustion, by my own grief, by anger at her for being an uncooperative and ungrateful patient, by resentment of anyone who disagreed with me about her care, by anger at God for letting her die. I fell apart. I fell short. I was humbled by the realization that other people were better at taking care of her than I was. My ego was shattered and my heart was broken when sometimes she chose other people to be with in her vulnerability, because they were better at comforting her than I was. Because they didn't need anything from her, the way that I did. By the end, I got so fragile, I became somebody who other people had to take care of, because I was such a wreck. So I failed at being Florence Nightingale. I failed at being an angel. And right before she died, I apologized to Rayya that I had not been better at y "job" of taking care of her. That's when she told me that I had it all wrong. My job on this earth was never to become a perfect caregiver. or a perfect anything. My job on this earth (according to Rayya in her last days) has only ever been to learn how to find mercy for myself. Mercy for the difficult -- sometimes impossible -- dilemma of being human. So for anyone out there today who is "failing" at being the perfect caregiver, the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect friend... please drop the knife you are holding at your own throat. It was never your job to be the perfect ANYTHING. Your only job is to find mercy - starting with you. Again and again and again. I love you all. .... Be gentle to you."