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Earlier this week I was thinking about making realistic wishes. I didn’t want false hope. When I picked something I could really hope for, I wished to see a cardinal. I wrote about this in a post a few days ago called Waterfall. Not a half hour after I made that wish a cardinal landed in a tree beside me. Of course I had the good sense not to wish for a penguin, which would have been out of the bounds of reasonable in my part of the world. Still, we don’t see cardinals every day, and one appeared.

Here he is in all his majestic red glory, perched in a small hackberry tree, a sight so lovely it can only have been arranged by Glenda, the goddess in charge of minor miracles for caregivers.

When I see this picture I think, “I need to carry a tripod with me at all times. I need to learn how to edit out the top of the t-post.” I want the pictures to be brighter, clearer, more beautiful. Self talk like this propels me to make changes and to improve my skills. I can do more with photo editing than before. I at least have a tripod, even it I don’t faithfully carry it with me.

If my self talk gets too critical, though, it works in the opposite direction of propelling me to make positive changes. Too much correction or criticism is deflating. We need some balance of constructive feedback to ourselves and a pat on the back, and it is hard to get the balance right. If we spend all day patting ourselves on the back, we have little motivation to learn new things or develop new skills.

Most of us wobble back and forth between being self critical and self indulgent. If you have trouble finding the balance that works best for you, that would make you normal. It is worth focusing on this for a day because making intentional adjustments in our self talk can help a lot in getting through the day.

A caregiver needs a lot of kindness in his self talk. Maybe today was the day you got a call from the assisted living facility. The manager called to let you know your father was found stealing items from other people’s rooms. You dealt with all that and now it is the end of the day. You don’t need self talk around how you could have done a better job for your dad. This was a hard day. Speak to yourself in a kind tone of voice. Say something appreciative of your efforts. Let yourself know how well you’ve done.

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