There are days when it’s easy to be an optimist.

These are the days in which your relationships are harmonious, when your work flows smoothly and according-to-plan. And all the while, you’re acutely, beautifully aware of the many blessings that surround you.

On days like this, I readily believe in grace. And, in the words of Byron Katie, “Grace means understanding that where you are is where you always wanted to be.”

And then there are … the other days.

A tough day of flea-fighting

The down days. The days that start with you over-sleeping, or maybe waking up bone-weary. The days when you come home to a house full of fleas or mourn someone you love.

On such occasions, I struggle to believe in grace.

I am an optimist: I believe that love wins, that “beauty will save the world,” that there is an indestructible spirit within us all. (At least, I believe this most of the time.)

But life, as you know, has a way of testing those beliefs.


This past week has been a time of medical procedures here at the McGraw house. A few days ago, I went in for my long-awaited scar revision, which went beautifully (thank you for your encouragement). And today, I took our kitten, Bootsie, to the vet to be spayed.

Since the procedure is operative, she could have no food after 9pm the night before. I also had to take away her water first thing in the morning. This was a real challenge for me.

Taking away my pet’s sustenance — even for a short time, even for a legitimate reason — was difficult. And, of course, it was made more so by the fact that she had no idea why I was taking her food and water away.

When I scooped her food back into its bag, when I poured her water into the sink instead of into her dish, she looked at me with confusion and bewilderment in her big eyes. It was easy to see what she was thinking.

If I had to translate her gaze into English, it would go like this: What are you doing?! This is NOT how things are supposed to go! This is not our routine! Why are you taking away instead of giving?

And it made me think:  How many times have I asked the same of God?

On my darkest days, I have asked: Why do you seem to take away instead of give?


Bootsie, asleep

In caring for our cat today, I experienced one of the more dreadful aspects of love: the fact that it can’t always answer when asked why.

Strange as it may sound, my heart ached at not being able to explain my actions to my cat. How can you explain to an animal that deprivation of basic necessities can fall within the realm of love? How, as a caregiver, do you explain necessary actions that appear heartless?

You can’t. You just have to be gentle with the one in your care. You just have to stroke your animal’s fur and carry them to the vet, or hold your beloved friend’s hands in yours as they undergoes an excruciating-but-essential procedure.

You have to summon courage and do the necessary thing, though it makes you want to weep.


I’ll pick up our cat from the vet in a few hours, though, and I can guess how it will be. Whenever I come back for her, she is always happy to see me.

And that’s the final secret, I believe. She can’t help loving me. I’m her provider, her caregiver. As long as I keep showing her the best possible care, she will trust and love me back … even on the bleak days, even though she doesn’t always understand my actions.

And today, I can’t help but think: there’s a great deal of hope in that.


Have you struggled with ‘dark days’ as a caregiver? Join the conversation in the comments below!


As mentioned in last week’s post, my new book, I Was a Stranger to Beauty, will be published by ThinkPiece Publishing.

Mark your calendars: the title is slated to launch on Monday, January 14, 2013!

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  1. Darris December 10, 2012 at 7:28 PM - Reply

    Your heartache is not at all strange . . . it’s empathy and it’s in every one of us to some degree. You seem to have a healthy dose. Something to remember is cats, unlike people, don’t hold on to “feelings”. They live in the moment. She experiences an overall sense of nurturing and love and will be extra grateful for that first meal ; )

    Our family is going through a tough time right now with a loved one in the hospital and in critical condition. It’s good to remember that when you feel you can’t do much or explain much, you can show love.

    • Caroline McGraw December 10, 2012 at 7:30 PM - Reply

      What a good point, Darris – thank you for that!
      My heart goes out to you and your family during this time – I hope that healing will come quickly.

  2. Metod December 11, 2012 at 2:49 AM - Reply

    Caroline, I find that one of the hardest things in caregiving is when we tend to blame ourselves for the rejection by those we care for and take it personally. As much as we try to help those in need, they might not see it that way…just like Bootsy did.

    I hope that you both are doing fine and there won’t be any medical procedures at the McGraw house for a long time 🙂

    • Caroline McGraw December 11, 2012 at 3:07 AM - Reply

      That is all too true, Metod – well said. And thank you very much for the well-wishes. 🙂

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