Watching saves us

Last weeks post was about the dangers of Watching… and yet, Watching also has many saving graces. For you see,

Watching is like an electric fence.

We know Watching – like every situation – has its own peculiar dangers. As Watchers we may be more inclined towards bitterness, pride or self-entitlement. Like a fence, Watching keeps these temptations in close proximity.

And yet just as Watching keeps these trials in, it also keeps other trials out. Beyond our fence are temptations which we cannot as easily fall into. Of course there are holes in our fence, and we can climb it, but just like every circumstance in life, Watching narrows our experience. We are never tempted by every evil at once.

The difference with Watching of course is that often the temptations we face are ones which may not plague a non-Watcher. Similarly, the dangers we find less desirable are ones which others easily fall into.

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Watching can be safeguard.

I cringe as I write this, because it makes Watching sound like some unmovable, restrictive concrete barrier between us and the rest of human experience. Not so! Each of us, Watcher or not, have our own concrete barriers or electric fences.

The man who is happily married may be less inclined to cheat on his spouse than someone whose relationship is crumbling. On the other hand, the happily married man may be more tempted to rip off his company in order to gain a bit of extra money. In this way, his happy marriage is his electric fence.

Because we Watch, we may struggle less with:

Thankfulness.

When we are unsure how our Loved One will be when we enter the house, when we don’t know whether they will be doubled up with pain or not, whether they will be in the mental frame to talk or not – we begin to care less about whether we have a good time with them or the house is clean or there is nice food to eat.

When we almost lose someone we tend to complain less about their mess or their snoring.

As Watchers we have been taught never to take another person for granted – we don’t know how long we will have them for, or in what condition. As Watchers we learn that every tearless day is a gift and a blessing. Every painless moment something to treasure.

Sometimes for us, thankfulness comes a bit easier.

Contentment.

As Watchers we can find it easier to be content with what we have. Or perhaps our greed is simply smaller. After all, the woman who sleeps on the street is going to be more content with a tiny hotel room than the millionaire who lives by the water.

Perhaps comparatively we long for less expensive holidays, fancy dinners, even frequent ‘family’ time, because we know that simply being able to leave the house is a struggle for our Loved One. Having the right words to speak into their pain is hard enough, let alone having enough exciting events to write a Facebook status.

Having the time to watch a movie is a treasure, and so we dream less about a weekend at the snow. Is the man who only obsesses over buying one cow more ‘holy’ than the man who craves a herd of a thousand? Maybe not, but they are different struggles.

Sometimes for us, contentment comes easier.

Watching may have taught us:

The value of small gestures.

In a society where we are constantly searching for the best Christmas present, feel pressured to bring a ‘gourmet’ meal to a gathering, or feel ‘cheap’ if we only give someone a hug for their birthday, we Watchers have an advantage.

We have seen the uselessness of material possessions in the face of tragedy. We are acutely aware of their inability to take away pain, to alleviate suffering or even simply to last.

We are struggling with flesh and blood and tears. With bed pans and lines at the chemist and figuring out how to explain the health of our Loved One to distant relatives. In comparison, grandiose gestures seem somewhat shallow.

We have witnessed firsthand the value of a hug, a card, a prayer. A smile, a nod, a clenched hand or simply sitting in silence, closing the door softly, filling up the water jug – these are our frequent currency as Watchers – and what a different currency to those around us.

Tragedy is not an end.

This knowledge is a curious gift. Hard won and hard to dispense. As Watchers we are used to living after the storm has passed. We know what it is to weather it, and we understand what it is like to pick up the pieces for years and years afterwards.

This is the nature of chronic illness. When the crisis strikes, when we receive the diagnosis or realization, we keep living. Everything changes and nothing changes. We know that pain and suffering are not an end in themselves.

Yet to many without experience, tragedy seems to be the end. They cannot grasp living beyond such an event. They have never had to do it before, and so the situation seems overwhelming and impossible.

Why this is important

The importance of pointing out these unique safeguards is not to say they apply to every Watcher. We are all individual, we are all different. There are no generalities. And yet the truth is, we do experience life differently to non-watchers, and this is not a bad thing.

The truths we are in the position to learn firsthand are important and we have a duty to share them. Perhaps not always with words, lest we turn into preachers, but with our lives.

Let us learn from one another. Together we can build each other up – yet this begins with recognizing our unique situation.

Let us learn from others and may they learn from us as we respond to tragedy and live out each of our days.

// Have you experienced any of these safeguards? Would you consider them valuable? How could you share them with others?

Don’t be a silent reader, join the conversation and comment!

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

2 thoughts on “Watching saves us”

  1. I’m so happy I read this post today. As a Watcher, I often feel lonely, tired, sometimes hopeless, being surrounded by many non-Watchers in my circles of friends. As you have pointed out, sometimes I do see as being someone with a family member with a lifelong “disability” is like having a concrete barrier from those without the same experience. Yet your words have reminded me that we all have our own barriers, temptations and struggles. And there are many saving graces that we as Watchers can be thankful for. Being thankful because when we go home and find no one is crying… content over a simple, peaceful family dinner because no one is in pain… I think you described it perfectly that this all begins by recognising our unique situation. This barrier we have isn’t the end. We can learn so much amidst of all of these sufferings. Your words have encouraged me to change my mindset on being a Watcher. Thank you, thank you!

    Like

    1. No – thank you ‘Anonymous’! It’s so encouraging to me to know that perhaps my experiences and thoughts aren’t as different from others as they sometimes seem, and that perhaps they can be helpful to some one else. I definitely hold on tightly to the reality that unique does not mean ‘wrong’ or ‘abnormal’ – because the same God creates all situations and purposes.
      Your season in life at the moment sounds hard, and like many things, without a clear end in sight. I prayed for you just now 🙂

      Like

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