I was introduced to rule number six at a training for family care givers. The first half of the training was spent giving the attendees time and space to talk about the harder parts of caregiving. Many people there were frustrated because they felt like they should be more patient. Family member after family member talked about a certain repetitive behavior that drove them crazy and caused them to be short, or just feeling kind of tired and grouchy with the people they loved.
Others felt bad for serving meals that they felt like weren’t good enough, like frozen pasta dishes and hamburger helper. It was hard for them, and there were a few tears and a lot of guilt.
The facilitator thanked everyone for sharing, and told us, “If you only take away one thing from today, remember rule number six.” Rule number six, she explained, comes from a short story in a book called The Art of Possibility. I’ve included the story to best contextualize rule number six.
Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for the third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so… seriously.” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”
“There aren’t any.”
Caring for anyone, especially a family member is both an art and a science. Many families who are caring for a loved one are also raising children and working, often full time jobs. Remembering rule number six can help relieve the pressure and ease the guilt when we aren’t able to meet all of our commitments to the best. Studies show that caregiver quality of life is one of the single most important determining factors of achieving quality care. Remember to take care of yourself, and to be forgiving of yourself. Remember that made from scratch meals that are nutritionally balanced and consistent routine are important, but that your well-being influences all of those things. Remember rule number six. Let us not take ourselves too seriously and let us laugh together. Enjoy the company of our family and be open to reminiscing and letting humor sway our day to day decisions.