Simplicity in Action: Caroline McGraw

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.

Caroline

If you’re like me, you love a good simplifying story. You’re energized by reading about how others have cleaned their closets, ditched their sugar habits, and streamlined their financial lives. But even as you embrace the idea of simplicity, you probably fear of living with less in a particular area. Some of us hoard our Tupperware containers (I’m looking at you, Mom), and some of us stockpile enough paper goods to last a year or more (OK, that’s me).

But what about the intangible things that we have in abundance and take for granted, such as our abilities? Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to “be more with less” when it comes to having a disability. And I wonder, who among us would choose to have less ability? In other words, who would choose to need more help from others?

We might not make such a challenging choice, but in a sense, it’s been made for us. With or without a formal diagnosis, we all have areas in which we need support. No one is excellent at everything. In our own specific ways, we are all challenged to ‘be more with less’. And this can be very frustrating. We rebel against it.

I, for example, put myself through years of advanced-placement math courses before finally surrendering to what I’d known all along: math is hard for me. And while I may be competent at it, I will never be ‘advanced’. So why did I push myself? I stayed in advanced courses because my friends did. I wanted to be capable in the same way that they were, so I worked with a tutor and shed a lot of tears trying to make it work. Finally, in my senior year, I surrendered. I didn’t enroll in the advanced math course with my friends. It was such a sweet relief to stop pretending to be something I wasn’t.

And when I became a caregiver after college, I learned more about the freedom that comes with simply being who you are. In my recently released book, I Was a Stranger to Beauty, I tell a story of a man for whom I was a caregiver. We lived in the same house for two years, and I served as part of the caregiving team that helped him shower, dress, and navigate the world. You see, due to circumstances beyond his control, this man has very little mobility, speech, and independence. He relies on others for assistance in almost all daily life tasks.

This man lacks so many of the things that most of us believe we cannot possibly live without. And yet it’s also true to say that this man has more than anyone I’ve ever met: more peace, more acceptance, more love. Of course, he’s only human; he has hard days like the rest of us. But even so, he has real power, the kind that arises from connection and contentment.

In fact, this individual is a unique kind of counselor for his caregivers. I used to think that I was the only one who’d go to him when I felt beaten down or broken-hearted, but I found that other caregivers in the home did the same thing. In these times, he would lead me out of confusion and fear without saying a single word. Though my circumstances might still seem ‘hopeless’, I’d leave his side feeling like something essential had changed. And it had: he had put me back in perspective, just by being himself. And that, I believe, is the best possible gift we can give to one another, the gift of our own beautiful presence. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Visit Caroline at A Wish Come Clear and receive a complimentary copy of her digital book, Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive)! You can find her new book,  I Was a Stranger to Beauty on Amazon.

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