I Better Say It Now Before I Chicken Out!

Eek, January 2017!  Is it a typical human stage?  An aging Boomer grasping for last ditch meaning to her life?  Am I alone in this?  Why is everything so hard right now, but really great in some ways?  Was it that damned poem I read as a young teenager that resonated with me so strongly? I’ve remembered it for over fifty years.  Did I “optimistically” shape my whole life around a frigging poem?  Was that really my defining moment? Dear God!

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My last blog was about Reflecting on our lives during the Winter Season, taking stock. I’m taking stock big time.  I know we’re just past the holidays and maybe I should be writing something innocuous and cheerful.  Frankly, that’s not where I am right now and if my blogging is to be worth anything maybe some readers who really could use some commiseration will relate to me and some good will come out of this for all of us.  The rest of you “cheerful ones” don’t need me now anyway.  Make your New Years resolutions and keep them.  I wish each of you the best year of your life!  Don’t forget to express your gratitude!

For those who are ready for a heart to heart, please read on…

What began as a quest to figure out what I believed life was all about (a good thing you would think) has turned my life upside down and “appears” to be a disaster.  Some of my closest relationships are hardly existent now and I’m more than sick about it.  It’s all my doing, a consequence of my wanting to get the most out of life.  This isn’t mid-life crisis, it’s “THE THIRD ACT”, the act in a play where the big stuff we’ve all been waiting for finally happens and everyone lives happily-ever-after.  All I want is for my life to have a great THIRD ACT with all the people I love happily sharing it with me.  I don’t want to die with only the history I’ve thus far written. It’s too boring for me to bear!  I can’t be alone in this.  Don’t others want to dance, sing, take risk and triumph!  Ah, the risk!  It’s been much more than I anticipated.  Scary for me, too!  But I’m doing everything I can to handle it on my own.  I didn’t know that lifetime affection for me would change, if I appeared to change some.  I haven’t changed, I’m still here, this has always been me, I just didn’t have the opportunity to take risk when others were in my care.  Wouldn’t you think they’d wish me well?

I’ve been a Caregiver all my life.  Responsible, reliable, generous with my time and money (I don’t think anyone I know would disagree with that).  Since I was very young people came to me with their problems looking for balanced advice.  At one workplace the staff assigned nicknames, they called me Mom!  I thought I had a good handle on things and my conservative lifestyle seemed to prove that out.  Safe.  Secure.

But, things changed when I went in search of something more meaningful than life as I knew it.  My husband died in March 2010, I was, at 62 years old, for the first time in my life living alone.  No parents, no spouse, kids grown and on their own.  Some people would find that depressing.  I found it liberating and filled with nothing but opportunity. 

I had never been religious, couldn’t relate to organized religion and all its rules.  But, when I finally had time to think, it occurred to me that life had to be about something more than a superficial existence.  It was time to figure out if I could feel something spiritual.  I started by reading The Inner Tradition of Yoga, by Michael Stone.  It was an eye opener for me. Since then, over 6 years, I’ve read on average two books a week. Most of them on the subjects of the Universe, quantum physics, spirituality and the teachings of Christ, Buddha & Mohammed.  All these subjects come together for me in a lovely way that has given me what I was looking for.   A sense of being part of something much greater than myself.  Something wonderful and inspiring.  In this sense my life is better and I’m more optimistic than ever. 

However, my quest has shaken my stable, safe life to its roots.  So much is better, but so much is awful.  I can’t say I should have done it differently, I know that everything is as it should be for me to learn lessons like everyone else.  Life throws tough times at us to make us stronger and all that.  My objective self always tries to observe myself from a distance, less emotionally attached.  But it really hurts right now.  I’ve learned that these relationships were never what I thought they were. Me living in optimistic lulu land, I guess.   I hope I’m wrong (there I go again), maybe others are hurting as I am and there will be a time to repair.  And the relationships will be stronger than ever as a result.  How else can I look at it?  Give up?  Not in me.  Patience.  I haven’t hit the ground yet! 

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

 – Maya Angelou

Here’s to all my lovely readers, CHEERS!  LETS HAVE THE BEST YEAR OF OUR LIVES IN SPITE OF IT ALL!  THE THIRD ACT is just getting started.  I’m planning on three curtain calls!!

Please let me hear from you if you’d like to chat with me about this subject or any other.  Email me at: patricia@caregivingcornerstone.com

Hugs,

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WINTER REFLECTION

Red cup of coffee and old book on wooden table
“…for experience, the only true knowledge…”
Herman Milville, The Confidence Man

Winter season, along with warm traditional Holidays, brings on the serious time of year, it seems to me.  Unlike Spring, Summer and Fall when we’re more distracted by happenings outdoors, Winter can be a time to curl up by the fireplace and take stock.  We gather the highlights, include the lowlights, recognize that we’ve another year of growth behind us and get ready to start afresh January one. No matter what transpired this last year, we’re coming into the home stretch of 2016 and we can chalk this and all our years up to “our” personal story. Our own precious history, always unfolding, full of the unexpected, rarely what we might have predicted it would look like at any point.

Having lived nearly seven decades, through some serious highs and lows, I could look back and say, “If I had the chance, I would change this or that and life would have been so much smoother or much easier.” I could, but I won’t.

I wonder how many Caregivers look at their current lives and say, “I’m really happy I get to do this.”  That’s a tough one.  When we’re in the midst of life’s challenges, few of us, I suspect, are stopping to say we’re happy about it. I remember saying to myself, “Why does it have to be so hard!?”  Caregiving is hard, it can be backbreaking and both mentally and physically exhausting.  No time for yourself or others you’d like to be connecting with. It seems to be never ending. But, you know you’re going to do it anyway.  You love those you care for.  You’re the best one for the job and you want it done right. But, HAPPY about it?  Perhaps GRATEFUL is the word.

It’s only now, with sixteen consecutive years of Caregiving (for three different loved ones) behind me, that I can see the beauty of it all. That took time and distance.  Today, nearly four years after, I’m GRATEFUL.  I’m grateful for those days that were so hard.  That took so much tenacity.  I know how strong I am.  I can handle tough times, new situations and emergencies. It took a few years distance and a long history of living to recognize that each seaming period of life had its reasons.  All my experiences were absolutely necessary and came along at the perfect time.  From childhood to young adult, to wife and mother, to business owner, to Caregiver, to blog writer for Caregivers, was just what I had to experience in order to be able to handle my story as it continues to unfold. 

Life is never a-piece-of-cake for long.  How boring would that be?  Even during great times, you still have to figure out what to do everyday and how to deal with all the people and situations that surround you.

Experience is life, I hope as you reflect during this Winter season you’ll give yourself the gift of feeling GRATEFUL for your own unfolding unique story.  I’d love to read it!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Kindness: Attempting To Walk In Another’s Shoes?

INDNESS: Attempting To Walk In Another's Shoes?

The word KIND has come within my purview several times in the last few days. Does it make sense to discuss kindness? I think it does. Will it change the nature of those who don’t understand that they are not innately kind? Probably not, it’s nature after all. What it might do, however, is soothe the hurt caused by those who are unkind. They often mistake kindness for weakness, or as a threat (people don’t like to be reminded of their shortcomings). Reinforcing that kindness is good and it’s right under any circumstances serves everyone well in the long run.

There’s no way to know if most Caregivers are kind. But, I’ll venture to say that most kind people are Caregivers. Kindness is akin to compassion, yet not the same. One who attempts to walk in another’s shoes and tries to provide what they think is needed for that person, with no benefit to themselves, is being kind (a type of kind that’s done when no one is looking). Interestingly, a kind person recognizes immediately when someone else is being kind, and they’re grateful. It’s the little things, like making sure another is included in a conversation. Or, that something they have accomplished is recognized by others. The instinct to notice that someone is being left out is compassion, doing something about it is kind.

In conversation with a close friend recently, I could feel his hurt that his children and siblings hadn’t shown up when he could really have used some help caring for his father. This is a man who shows kindness everyday in many ways, the ultimate Caregiver. He brings flowers to his wife regularly, just to make sure she knows she’s in the forefront of his mind. A sick friend gets chicken soup whether they want it or not, as soon as he’s aware they’re sick. When his brother needed him, wasn’t he always there for him? So why did his brother not offer to do something, even just be there for an hour so he could run some errands?

Who knows? Is it that the brother doesn’t get how hard it is, he just assumes that because you always take care of everything, you’d ask for help if you needed it? Maybe he’s selfish and just doesn’t care? Maybe it’s all of these. It’s too complicated, you’ll never figure it out. So how do you get past the hurt, the lack of kindness and compassion shown toward you?

In my experience, the best way to get past emotional pain is to recognize and greatly value your own freedom to be who you are and nurture it. Somehow you are that kind and caring person you would hope to be. Aren’t you the lucky one? Maybe you’re an old soul. Maybe the brother is a baby soul, just learning to crawl and has no clue yet that walking is the way to go. May I suggest that you do your best to let others be who they are. Let everyone be free to be who they are without your judgement; with its rewards, consequences and all. Everyone is living out their own lives as best they know how. It’s so liberating when you let go of being part of someone else’s actions!

Cherish freedom! Be happy you are who you are. This is what works for me when I feel hurt by someone else’s action or inaction. That is, after my heart hurts a little and tears start to well. We’re all human right?

Big Hug!


 

 


 

PS:  Serendipity strikes again!  The day I wrote this blog about kindness, I received the NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE below. If you would like to receive a personalized note each weekday, go to tut.com and signup. I’ve been receiving them for about seven years and they help me start my day on a high note!  I know Mike Dooley, went on one of his fabulous Adventure trips, the one to Italy in 2012. They’re cruising the Tahitian Islands in March!

NOTE FROM THE UNIVERSE

To touch someone with kindness, Patricia, is to change someone forever.

Heavy, huh?  That’s nothing.

Because for everyone you touch, you also reach everyone they will ever know.  And everyone they will ever know.  And everyone they will ever know.  And so, for the rest of all time, your kindness will be felt, in waves that will spread, long after you move on.

Muchas gracias,

The Universe

Don’t ask what happens on a bad day, Patricia. 

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Don’t Forget the Music!

I’m sitting at Starbucks, my home away from home, thinking about what I can write to share with you that would be meaningful, maybe helpful. The song “WE ARE FAMILY” by Sister Sledge is playing. I’m reminded of a scene in one of my all time favorite movies, “BIRDCAGE”, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (best John Wayne imitation ever) where all the disparate characters in Mardi Gras style costumes file out of the nightclub in a conga line singing “WE ARE FAMILY”. They are people who would never be friends or even speak to each other if they could avoid it, but suddenly they’re thrown together and through the chaos are somehow able to become friends. The music and the party atmosphere bring people together. Not unlike a gathering of family and friends at a holiday dinner, sometimes!

The music is still playing and I start to picture my own families faces dancing in a conga line. They’re all laughing and singing, really enjoying themselves. The friends and neighbors who always joined us at our holiday dinners join in. I imagine everyone gets out of their chairs, my husband and me, too. He would have been in his transfer chair in the later years, but his grandson Ty would have danced him through the line. What fun, I can see everyone singing the words we all know, “WE ARE FAM-IL-Y.”

Then we all break out into just dancing with each other. All different ages and styles. My daughters are dancing together. My twin granddaughters and their little brother are dancing as a trio. My sister and her husband are joining in. I dance with one of my husbands daughters that I hadn’t really bonded with because we live across the country from each other. I can feel tension melt as we smile, dance and sing together. What an ice breaker! Why didn’t we do this before?

How right it would be to remember, as a caregiver, to make a point of enjoying the gathering yourself. Often, it’s all just work on the holidays for us, with the satisfaction being that everyone else enjoyed themselves. Delegate more of the tasks, people are happy to help. Plan ahead, do something so that you get to enjoy the loved ones in your life now, not years from now when there’s time. Maybe.

As I visualize the many beautiful faces of my family and friends in that conga line, I’m looking back at my life, smiling and loving each one of them. Think I’ll go buy that album. Maybe you’ll join me and have your own conga line this year.

WE ARE FAM-IL-Y!

Hugs,

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A Handpicked Family!

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

– RICHARD BACH author of, “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”

A few years ago, when my blog was new, I received a call from a reader who wanted to discuss her plans for creating a retirement home of her own, one where she could live for the remainder of her life. Since that time, I’ve heard from many women, it’s always been women, who have similar concepts but with interesting variations. People are so creative, it’s wonderful to observe. They’ve been inspired, often, by being a caregiver for someone else and wanting to keep their independence for as long as possible, as well as experience joy and companionship in later years.

That reader, from Virginia I believe, told me her husband was 5 years older then she and the likelihood of her being a widow one day was high. She was thinking about gradually converting her three bedroom house so that it would be suitable to bring in two more people who were of similar age and lifestyle. They would be like family for each other and share expenses to make it easier for all, while enjoying each other’s company. A private bathroom adjacent to each bedroom would be the greatest out of pocket expense to start. She could begin the work now, taking her time making improvements, therefore, keeping costs down by being flexible with completion dates. Once she had her two residents carefully chosen, as need developed, they could hire outside help at a much lower cost than if they were paying for services individually. She wanted to discuss any necessary improvements or pitfalls she might not have foreseen.

This sounded like a great idea on several levels. The one that stands out for me is the friendship that could be developed between the residents. I’m reminded of the 1980’s comedy television series, THE GOLDEN GIRLS. The writers were fabulous at showing the good hearts of very diverse characters. The four women became a family in the truest sense of the word. Fiction, but quite believable.

Loneliness is one of the most difficult aspects of old age. Everyone around you is young. Your friends pass on and there’s no one left who remembers things that are fond memories for you, like the popular music and movies from your generation. They didn’t share the historical events of your life and can’t reminisce about old times. The joy can go out of life prematurely.

This type of arrangement could be complicated. I’m not ignoring the potential problems I’m sure we can all come up with, but coming at it from a most positive angle at the start and preparing long before the need arises seems like a great idea if it appeals to you.

Another reader, a young woman in her 30’s!, told me she and her group of four best friends from high school, all professional women who had been meeting once a year since for girls weekend out, were thinking of buying a property together that they could convert to an upscale retirement home for themselves one day. Some of these girls had had personal caregiving experience with parents and grandparents. They are already a family.

Another, a seventy year old woman, recently widowed, was in transition currently. She and her affluent friends were looking for a property in a location they saw as perfect for their retirement, where they could socialize (for them near a golf course) and be close to shopping, restaurants and movies.

Creative people feel a need and fill it. It doesn’t matter what age or economic bracket you’re in, it is really nice to have friends around. It makes life worth living. I wish you joy in your Creativity!

Hugs,

 

 

 

Feel free to send me an email with some of your creative ideas. If you have questions, I’m happy to answer your emails. Our FAQ section answers a few common questions and my bio will give you information on my professional background in case I can help you in other matters.

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