I often find myself wondering about the economy of care.
How do we exchange care?
Particularly, how does the one giving care give it in a manner that it helps the one receiving it, while keeping in mind the ways in which one knows how to give care? Or we can also ask, how does the one receiving care, receive it meaningfully even if it is different from how they understood or wanted to receive that care?
You’re upset, you want to be hugged. The person you wish should care for you, isn’t big on hugs. What happens? Who concedes? Do you, the caree, insist on a hug, and are upset if said hug is not received, or does the carer overcome their aversion to hugs and hugs you the way you want to be hugged nonetheless, but also begrudging you your “demand”?
Several answers come rushing in, much like fools – find a balance, compromise is the name of the game, if you really love someone, these things don’t matter, and of course, what a silly question. But they don’t answer me satisfactorily – how do you care for someone in a manner that means something to them without impinging on your own comfort?
Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:
If the person is judged to be genuinely in need of care, then you suck it up and make an effort to understand how it is they need to be cared for, and give it to them, even if it discomforts you.
Assume that asking them to make concessions for your preferred style of caring would be a further taxation on their already compromised system – which is why they need care in the first place. (You can of course, at a later time, ask them to elaborate on how they would like to be cared for, such that you can be more efficient in your caring the next time. Or simply remind them that they owe you one.)
If they want to talk, you listen; don’t lecture. If they want to be left alone, you don’t prod because according to you, talking helps. And don’t say things like – “my parents did it this way or that, and I’m this way because of that this or that. And therefore you’re stuck with it too.” No. And definitely don’t rush to cheer them up.
You make a genuine attempt, over time, at learning how to be there for someone, and if you care, if you’re the carer, then you deliver.
And the same shall be bequeathed upon you whence it be your turn to be the caree. That’s equally important. The reciprocity is what makes it possible to endure the discomfort that you might undergo while performing an act of care that doesn’t feel natural to you.
Also, the very fact that there is someone who is willing to be discomfited for your betterment, is an act of caring and can help the caree feel supported. So be discomfited. And be comforted in the knowledge that should you be in need, this person hopefully, or at least someone, will suffer for you.