One of the activities recommended in the seven-week writing class I took this fall was the creation of a “Ta Da!” list. I am quite obsessive about To DO lists, often rewriting them several times a week/day, but a Ta Da list is a different approach, according to my instructor. At the end of each day/week, make a list of what you did that day, that week, that month, and give yourself a pat on the back as you review it.
Too often we get overwhelmed by our “to do” lists, feeling like failures if we haven’t made much progress on them. Sometimes, the list grows as the day goes on, extending to unreasonable, unrealistic lengths. We put pressure on ourselves to do, do, do, which isn’t always a bad thing until the number of things we’ve crossed off becomes the only measure of success for our day.
Many of us are caregivers in some capacity – for children, pets, parents, spouses, siblings, neighbors, family, friends – and some may be juggling responsibilities for all of the above. I consider my husband a caregiver to his students. As a teacher, he’s exhausted when he gets home from work, and I know it’s because he cares so deeply about his students, going the extra mile to listen to their problems, support them in their struggles, and celebrate with them in their successes. It drains him, but he is making a difference, and he occasionally gets a chance to see returns on his investments, validations for his commitment of time and energy.
If most of your day is consumed by caregiving responsibilities, the hard truth is that you probably won’t be able to cross off each task/project on the catalog of chores. There is nothing wrong with setting goals, but if you set the bar of expectation too high, you’re likely going to be disappointed, which will eventually become another burden to shoulder, another challenge to overwhelm you. In that case, you might want to throw away the list, or at least set it aside until your situation changes. Instead, consider a Ta Da list, recording even the smallest victories you’ve experienced in your caregiving journey: “Mom baked a dozen cookies today” or “Grandpa smiled when his granddaughter came into the room” or “The doctor gave us a good report.”
We’re just days away from wrapping up 2010 and moving into 2011. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to sit down and record as many of the year’s accomplishments that come to mind, both great and small… and continue the exercise into the new year.