21st Century Living
Independence means so many things, and it’s not just tied into an American holiday that’s celebrated every July 4th.
As an independent person, I am free to think and behave in such a way as to benefit others, or harm them. I choose to always benefit person-kind.
As the above photo clearly illustrates, we have much from which to choose in seeking to bless others. Pick all of the above fruit in one day, every day, or choose the one-a-day plan – whichever suits you and is most likely to become a habit.
May you pluck all that is necessary from this tree so the greater good can be accomplished near and far.
October 13th 2007, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.
If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.
Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.
What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.
But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.
Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.
That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.
Now almost fifteen years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,
my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.
If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,
please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.
Blessings to you today, and always.
I have never liked my given first name: Irene. Sorry, I know my parents meant well, but I’m not enamored by the name. Every search I’ve done for the name – Greek, Arabic, Irish, Biblical – all indicate that the name means PEACE. And human characteristics for the name are: intense, compassionate, generous, artsy, and creative. Okay, you nailed it Mom and Dad because I am all of those.
I wish I was less intense, but since that trait has been a part of me for sixty-nine years, I think I’m stuck with it.
I don’t mind all the other traits but intensity? Ugh. I’m not even going to provide the definition for it because we all know even the way that word sounds describes what it means.
And guess what’s really intriguing? My middle name, Frances, means FREE ONE. I love that meaning but I wouldn’t want to exchange my first with my middle name because I don’t think that’s a better option for me.
But if I’ve learned anything the past several years about the word acceptance, is that it doesn’t mean you agree with something but you certainly need to let what is, be; as in Let it Be.
So I will…let it be. I admire those who have changed their names, and for far better reasons than simply not liking their given name. I figure my parents felt it in their souls to officially name me Irene Frances so out of respect for their decision, that is what my moniker will continue to be. Now I just have to come to terms with it – be at peace with it – and carry on as I have for almost seven decades.
I know summer is upon us, but I’m still enmeshed in spring cleaning so I want to address that topic, but in a FAR different manner. I’ve been bored because the weather in Washington State has not been conducive to outdoor activities so every nook and cranny of our 2-story house has been purged beyond recognition – and it feels good.
You wanna know what else feels good? Doing spring cleaning on my soul: the me-ness that has existed for sixty-nine years.
Merriam-Webster defines soul as follows: 1) the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; 2) the spiritual principle embodied in human beings; 3) a person’s total self; 4) the moral and emotional nature of human beings.
I am very transparent in what I write on this blog, so if you’ve been following my blog and my stream of thought, you already have a pretty darn good sense of who I am. If I had to characterize the 2021-2022 timeframe for me, however, I would say that most of my new efforts have been directed toward kindness…toward myself. The other day, my talk therapist suggested I check in with myself each day by saying:
What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself today?
Oddly enough, that very day I said to myself, “I’m going to take care of myself today” – inspiration I received as a result of listening to a mindfulness podcast. If you viewed my post, A Dose of Serenity, you read about the phenomenon (to me anyway) of being open to learning a new lesson and then the lessons about that lesson start bombarding you. Well, I have been in the classroom of self-compassion for awhile now.
I am very hard on myself – demanding is more accurate – and more often than not I end up as my worst enemy. When I catch myself being so self-judgmental, I shift gears and talk to myself as I would a friend or loved one who is going through a similar situation.
The description I crafted for my online Facebook profile reads, Author, always ready to dish out kindness. I strive to promote truth and kindness wherever I go. Well, I guess my profile is a lie because I am always wherever I go so I’d best dish out some soul nourishment towards me on an ongoing basis.
Suffice to say that patience is a hard-earned virtue, and even more difficult when needed to be directed self-ward. But in order to have a productive soul spring cleaning, I need to gift myself with patience and understanding, and leave self-judging behind me where it belongs. That’s certainly my personal goal; how about you?
Such a sweet feline: Estelle Phalange, affectionately called Stellie. Our daughter’s household loved her, and we loved her as well – taking care of her when Stellie’s humans went on vacation, and entertaining her when we spent time with the grandkids at their house.
Stellie went to kitty heaven the other day, and she is greatly missed. As I said to our daughter the day Stellie died,
“Love is risky, but it is worth it.”
What we love, we grieve. I am certain Stellie, and my kitty cat of long ago, Betty, are curling up together in kitty heaven, enjoying a sunbeam for eternity.
What a privilege it is to love someone and be loved by them. There’s a reason why there are so many dating/relationship services out there: we crave connection, and happily-ever-after is a worthy goal to pursue.
I’m fortunate that my current 26-year relationship (married for 22 of those 26) quite naturally fell into place. Girl meets boy on a blind date set up by a dating site; girl and boy decide to get together for another date, and…the rest is history!
No one disputed my choice of a partner with whom I held hands, smooched in public, and eventually enjoyed full intimacy. That is not always the case, whether a partner is of a different race, financial standing, or of the same gender identity. I experienced racial hatred when I married my first husband who is Chinese American. As a newly married couple, we walked hand-in-hand on a weekend outing in an Eastern Washington town where we were verbally accosted by a woman who shouted, “Thou shalt not mix races! You are an abomination to God!” I very unpolitely told her off and went on my way with my husband, enjoying the love we had already shared for more than eight years. That was almost 50 years ago, and I am still negatively affected by it. Many are harassed and abused in a similar manner because of the love they share with someone, harassment that takes many forms.
In the early 90s, I was privileged to work at a progressive Seattle law firm where one of my coworkers, a woman, was in a relationship with another woman. The two of them had certainly experienced discrimination but expressed that for the most part they had been fortunate. I asked my coworker how she and her partner had met. “Susan is who I fell in love with and she with me. It’s all about who you fall in love with.” That made sense to me and still does.
What also makes sense is living one’s truth and genuineness about who you are as an individual, and with whom you choose to share your life. Being who you are with someone else is rife with hurdles, regardless of your gender, but truly there is no other way to be. No ifs, ands, or buts – being safely and securely transparent in a relationship is a gift! What a privilege it is to live honestly, not having to pretend to be someone else, not living a cloaked identity just to be accepted by others.
I experience that freedom, and wish that same freedom for everyone seeking connection, love, and happily-ever-after.
May it be so.
Fear is such a natural response, isn’t it? My understanding of the fear response is that the brain sends a signal that danger is present so we’d better be ready to spring into action to protect life and limb from imposing threat.
But sometimes the brain sends a false alarm that is okay to acknowledge, but can probably be ignored. A home smoke alarm can detect burnt toast just as easily as it does a whole-house fire.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should ignore your fear intuition – it’s there to keep you safe – but sometimes that fear is misdirected. That’s what I have found to be true and let me tell you, as someone who catastrophizes far too often, I am well acquainted with unbelievable fear…fear that is simply not credible.
So what’s my recommendation to you? Well, it’s not a recommendation, simply a piece of advice that has helped me in the past and continues to calm my over-active nerves: make an evidence list that confirms – or disproves – messages of danger that routinely come your way. Review that list when the same nagging worries and fears threaten to displace your peace and then make realistic conclusions as to whether or not that heightened sense of imminent danger is valid.
Your over-active fear response may have as its catalyst physical sensations in your body that you’re certain have you headed to your death bed posthaste, even though those sensations have all been medically checked out to be benign and have yet to send you to your grave. Or maybe you’re convinced you’re about to lose your job, even though you just received a stellar job performance review. Or you’re convinced that if you eat that itsy bitsy cookie, you’ll gain no less than five pounds as a result. Ugh, there are so many possibilities of incorrect danger signals that can steer a person off course; only you know wherein your fear lies.
I know not your fear, but I know fear, and it’s an emotion that gets far too much attention and credence.
So the next time fear threatens to impose on your peace of mind, decide which of these characters you want to embody and then act accordingly. Personally, I’m trying to get more intimately acquainted with the character in yellow, so that’s going to be a more appropriate direction for me to follow.
You know how when you need to learn a specific lesson, and you’re open to learning that specific lesson, input regarding that specific lesson starts coming at you from all directions? Maybe that’s just me, and if it is, I’m okay with that. The lesson I have had to learn as of late is that control is fleeting, and for the most part, non-existent.
We have so little control over most matters, it’s best to only spend energy on that which we can control.
Being out of control really hit me hard when the pandemic first took off because there was so much uncertainty and very little information-stability. But my extraordinary husband and I came to the place of acknowledging that all we were in control of was how we handled our little corner of the world to keep us, and the rest of our family, safe. Fortunately, keeping our circle of family safe also keeps the rest of those with whom we come in contact, safe. A win-win situation.
In my corner of the world, health challenges (nothing serious, yet prevalent) seem to be bombarding me – disrupting my peace, displacing my calm, and spinning me into a mental health spiral. And keep in mind, mental health is health, so there is no separating the physical from the emotional.
I am doing what I can control: addressing my mental health which – quite naturally – positively affects my physical health because…
MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH
I would like to say, however, that wanting to fix others’ problems denotes a certain amount of caring – a lot of caring – for those with whom I entangle myself. But one thing I’ve learned the past two years is that I have to love myself first and foremost before I can spread love towards others. When I exhibit self-compassion, I gird my heart, my mind, and my body with the resources they need to flourish going forward. And yay, that means I’m more available for others!! Another win-win situation!
And one step at a time isn’t just recommended, it’s required. I leave you with this:
Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”
In 2019, an article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Please note that the linked post references an extraordinary non-profit that I am still a part of but no longer serve in a managerial capacity, having retired from doing so.)
I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?
I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.
At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.
Here I go again, relying on Dr. Bernie S. Siegel to provide some wisdom for your day, but what can I say, his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul catches my attention more often than not and when it does, I like to share the good stuff I find. The following is provided verbatim:
Parade of Life
Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now, and do it. – William Durant
Life is a parade. Sometimes we march along and realize we have passed by what we were looking for. What do we do? Stand there and drop out of the parade? March on with regrets? Feel bad about how we looked or that everything we wanted was on the wrong side of the street? It’s passed! Forget it and march on!
Sometimes our parade isn’t so pretty, and the crowd isn’t interested in us. If we drag everything we have passed with us, we will destroy the present. We have no future when we live in the past.
We even talk about past lives. Whether you believe in them or not, the same principle applies. If you are living a past life, you are destroying your present one. In therapy, people come to understand why they are acting the way they are and how the past is affecting them. They learn to let go, move on, and not sit in the same classroom year after year. They graduate and commence a new life.
To conclude, I, Irene Frances Olson, have this to say about Dr. Siegel’s comments:
The good news is that we can learn from our past, both the good and the bad, but if we stay cemented in the past and don’t move on? That parade Dr. Siegel talks about? It’ll pass us by.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get left behind.
My recent post, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support. When that is not the case, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.
THIS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING INFORMATIONAL POST, BUT IT IS A START.
CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.
Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you are experiencing. Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance. Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need. Easier said than done, I know, but a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s just one suggestion – one that could provide respite and community support.
DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
If you are able to leave the house for a meal, there is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner. If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home. Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis. Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way for them to do so. Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.
!!!ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!!!
I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your solo caregiver friend needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs. Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.
- Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.
- Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden? I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.
- Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers. I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself. (Especially needed for the caregiver not at liberty to leave their loved one alone.)
In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help. I know I’m being somewhat judgmental when I say the following, but I’m gonna say it anyway: The first example of help is an empty offer – an offer that doesn’t carry much weight. Why? It comes across as an expected social comment without any true meat on its bones. You’re basically doing the minimal amount of due diligence while forcing the caregiver to ask for help. In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out. If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night. Can you come over for a cup of coffee, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”
Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs. Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.
We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132
I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.
Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.
We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.
I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?
Part of what I’ve learned in my almost seventy years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.
- Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
- A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
- Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
- Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.
All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.
Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:
The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.
Here’s a post from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.
First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing. Now let’s address your dilemma.
When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age. Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs. What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?
I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do. aking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies. Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home. You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father. Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver. Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts. And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care. What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?
Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.
Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option? Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living. Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother. If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved. As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.
Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.
Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence. She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time. She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away! The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative. It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.
And I’m writing about it again, but I’m going to let Dr. Bernie S. Siegel be my mouthpiece on this one because he addresses the importance of making a difference in the lives of others in this excerpt from: 365 Prescriptions for the Soul. Here’s the selection verbatim:
Perhaps you have heard the story about the boy on the beach throwing washed-up sand dollars back into the water. A man walks by and asks, “Why are you doing that? There are thousands of them washed up. You can’t make a difference.”
The boy picks one up and throws it back into the ocean, “I did for that one.”
Remember, by changing one life you change the world. Every action has its effects. So make a difference and help someone get back into the ocean of life. You need not risk your life carrying them through the surf, but find out what they need to get back into the swim. Then help them do it.
My first novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, released in July of 2017, speaks of the brutal protracted loss of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Caregivers for a loved one with dementia witness the gradual loss of someone they love over an extended period of time.
Once my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it took four years for him to leave me. I was devastated the moment he took his last breath on October 13th, 2007, but my heart was continuously ripped apart during the years leading up to that final breath.
48 months, 208 weeks, 1460 days, 35,040 hours, and 2,102,400 minutes of ongoing departures from my and his life.
The characters in my novel have a front row seat to their loved one’s measured departure from this earth. That departure might appear as more-than-a-senior-moment of forgetfulness; an inability to perform simple tasks; struggling to come up with the name of the spouse to whom a person has been married for half a century; or the complete change in personality from a loving spouse to an actual threat to the other spouse’s life.
Loss is a life event from which recovery has no prescribed length of time, but recovery does eventually occur. In time, we live a minute where we can truthfully acknowledge that during that brief snippet of time, we didn’t feel the pain and despair as deeply as before. When that happens, dear friends and readers, I encourage you to celebrate that moment because if you wait for the big events for which you might hold a celebration, you just might be waiting for a very long time.
Celebrate even the smallest of victories and joys that come your way. Doing so will guarantee you many more reasons to be grateful, to experience joy, and perhaps to even witness the life-giving feeling that hope can bring.
I wrote Requiem for the Status Quo to honor my father, other loved ones like him, and all those current caregivers who are just trying to mess up less today than they did yesterday.
Perfection isn’t possible, but when you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best.
I celebrate you.
Requiem is available where all books are sold, or readily ordered if not currently in stock. On Amazon, the eBook is $1.99 and the paperback, is less than $7.
Maybe it’s just my age, but the more I hear the word NORMAL applied to me, the happier I become.
That is not to say that everyone shouldn’t carry on being their unique selves – that’s a given – and my normal or unique ways may not at all resemble yours, but more and more, I’m relishing the concept of normal, especially as it applies to my health.
I feel confident in saying that each person reading this post has met with a doctor to get to the bottom of whatever pain or abnormal body sensation took hold of their body and mind. Whether tests were ordered and completed or the doctor simply examined you and declared you healthy and NORMAL, either way, you might have walked out of that experience with a spring in your step because medical science hadn’t assigned any dreaded diagnosis to what was your current way of being. If you feel every medical effort has been made to assure your well-being, try to relish the NORMAL designation, a state of being I highly recommend.
Granted, we also experience disappointment when what we’re sensing has no quick fix or pill to get us beyond what we perceive as a malady; it kind of feels as though we’ve been dismissed. But let me tell you, in my 60s decade of life, more often than not I bathe in the NORMAL designation and move on, prepared for what will no doubt be my next perceived illness or sensation.
Let’s face it, the longer I live, the more likely I am to experience dis-ease in my body. Normal sounds perfectly delightful in comparison.
You know how it is: something sticky gets on the kitchen floor and no matter what you do (spot cleaning the floor, wiping the bottom of your slippers) NOTHING gets rid of the sticky stuff that appears on your walking surface unless you do a thorough scrubbing & cleaning. (I know of what I speak as I had to do that just this morning.)
Life is like that as well: daily matters constantly go awry, what used to be the norm blows up into something unrecognizable, and what seemed to work before just doesn’t cut it any more.
Is it me who is at issue? Is it everyone else?
Let’s pretend it’s everyone else. Even if that is the case, there’s still nothing I can do to change everyone else so it’s up to me to adjust how I handle that very unlikely source of stickiness.
If it’s me, the onus is on me to figure out what is needed to attain a status quo with which I can once again be happy. If I don’t do something to change things up, I’ll continue to walk around with stickiness on my shoes, reminding me with every step that unless I get to the source of the sticky and eradicate it, I’m…well…stuck with it.
In a couple months, I will be 69 years of age. I have had many opportunities to examine what’s what when it comes to emotional and physical quality of life. Each and every time such an examination takes place, I have the option of pretending nothing is wrong, of pointing the finger at someone else, or being honest with myself – and therefore with others – by making adjustments that will get rid of the gunk that insists on hanging around.
More often than not, I’ve settled on the third option and more often than not, such a plan has worked well to unstick my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.
Assigning blame to others or other circumstances rarely provides an actionable benefit.
At least that has been my experience. What about you?
Days. Weeks. Months. Years.
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER.
Impermanence could be interpreted as being 100% negative, but I don’t see it that way. Keep in mind, just as the good times don’t last forever, the same can be said for the bad times.
Caveat: I know that is not always the case as I have lost close loved ones to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other terminal diseases. Terminal conditions exist and are the epitome of impermanence. And speaking to the world’s current situation, wars are not easily “won” and they ALWAYS cause irreparable damage.
In this post I am primarily referring to the impermanence of everyday life with its minor sicknesses, aches and pains, emotionally rife periods of time, or any situation from which we want to escape. In most circumstances, the maxim “this too shall pass” becomes a truism, albeit rarely to perfection and not always on our timeline.
Where does the concept of hope come in? Or does it?
When the world experiences a multi-year dire global health situation and one country’s horrific and inhumane assault on another, the concept of hope does not seem remotely possible. But quite often, undesirable circumstances do change and that is the impermanence on which I am relying. Pandemics and wars will “end” but the lives that were lost and the damage that was inflicted are not positive outcomes. But this year I am endeavoring to nourish my hope quotient so whatever I can do to have success in that venture is what I am going to do. One region’s tragedy is every region’s tragedy so every region can be involved in doing its part to support those devastated by the current world condition.
That is why whether we are people who practice traditional prayer, or those who dedicate their energy in different ways towards healing, reconciliation, and recovery…
NOW IS THE TIME TO COMMIT TO SUCH A PRACTICE.
Will a change happen overnight? Probably not, but not trying won’t get us there any sooner.
The existential philosopher Rollo May maintained a different perspective of opposites, as stated above. I like his take on the love/hate continuum.
We aren’t necessarily meant to love everyone – love having a different degree of emotion depending on the situation – but not caring about a person’s plight, not giving them the time of day or a second or first thought seems cruel.
Merriam Webster defines apathy as follows:
- impassiveness or indifference
The Oxford dictionary provides this definition:
- lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern
And finally, Dictionary.com offers this take:
- lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving; freedom from emotion of any kind
Ugh, all those definitions leave me feeling emotionally bereft, and being on the receiving end of someone’s apathy would be devastating, wouldn’t it? The following example is extreme, but relevant nonetheless:
A man falls down on a crowded sidewalk and each person who encounters him walks over or around him without offering assistance.
Okay, like me you’re thinking, “No way would I do that, I would offer whatever help I could so I am not guilty of such behavior.” But what about the time I tried to avoid a particular neighbor because said neighbor always waylaid me in conversation for what I considered an interminable amount of time? Yep, I did that several weeks ago when an elderly neighbor turned the corner onto my street when I was at the curb to pick up my mail. With my head down I retrieved the mail and quickly walked back into my house.
Lordy I felt guilty, as I should have. I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, yet I didn’t allow this person an opportunity to engage in conversation with me – perhaps a much needed bit of socialization for her day. Five minutes out of my non-busy day to connect with someone…was that too much to ask? No, it was not. I have reformed since that time, seeking out opportunities to provide socially engaging respite for this woman and her canine companion. I didn’t like the Irene that previously ignored this neighbor; I don’t want to spend time with that Irene, ever again.
The cost of apathy is a far too high price to pay. I certainly cannot afford it.
It’s true, that we only get one chance to make a first impression, but can we improve upon those incidents when we perhaps fell short of rendering a positive one?
I certainly hope so.
At my age, I have known for quite some time the importance of getting it right the first time but that doesn’t guarantee perfection in presentation. Even as a published author with countless editors working on perfecting my two novels, edits still needed to be implemented before publication so that you, the reader, could have a smooth reading experience.
Even more important than making sure my novels convey what I intend for them to say, is the way I present myself to you so that I respect you and your time – whether a 325 page novel, a 3 minute conversation, or a 3 minute blog post.
On a personal note, I know I have left horrible, lasting, first impressions of which at the time I was fully aware. I also know that there were – and are – other times when I obliviously missed the mark and stuck my foot in it.
Other than my earlier-in-life missteps that got in the way of me leaving a positive first impression, there are times when distraction or inattention were the culprits for me leaving a sour note in the minds and hearts of those I encountered.
That personal realization helps me to better understand the actions of others with whom I come in contact. Everyone is going through something, and some of those somethings are more serious than others so it’s no wonder words, actions, and attitudes are affected.
As observers, it’s all about leaving judgment behind and letting compassion and loving kindness come to the forefront as needed…
AND IT’S ALWAYS NEEDED.
Words hold so much power: power to harm and power to heal. This post is about words that have the power to heal.
I am a writer with two published novels and close to 1200 blog posts and I still have to carefully choose my words in any given situation. I don’t always get it right, but the healing goal is always the same.
The other day I found myself at a local Urgent Care clinic; the non-urgent reason for being there is immaterial to what transpired there. My appointment completed, I walked from the treatment area of the clinic through the front office area where three delightful women held court to greet – and say goodbye – to each person who found themselves in need of medical treatment when primary care offices had no available appointments.
One of the women said, “Before you go, can I just tell you something? When you walked in here, I couldn’t help but notice how much you look like the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Wait, let me find a photo of her for you.” The photo she found on her cell phone was this one:
She also held up the photo to her fellow front desk peeps and they all agreed and said, “You really do look like her! Wow!”
Now I know the resemblance, if there is one, is quite a stretch, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt far better than my body was allowing me to feel at that moment.
Later that evening I relayed my experience to one of my sisters-in-law and she said, “I’ve always thought there was a resemblance but I didn’t know if you’d be flattered or not!”
Double whammy of healing statements, all in one day!
Our words have the power to heal and the power to harm; the other day I was on the receiving end of healing words. It’s sobering to realize that all words are just a different combination of the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I am now even more committed to putting those 26 letters together to form words that uplift, encourage, and yes, heal. I guess the bottom line is:
We can all be healers.
I don’t like when that happens.
I am not advocating badness for those I don’t consider good, but I absolutely DO advocate that lovely people should have it somewhat easier. Don’t get me wrong, I know that life isn’t always fair and that we have to take the bad with the good, but gosh darn, it’s difficult to witness.
Family members getting sick recently, and friends and acquaintances facing health and economic struggles are just a few of the recent situations that have come to light in my little corner of the world. At this writing, I am reeling from what happened to our family members a couple weeks ago, and recently, to the wonderful pest control worker who takes care of our home’s needs. Just the other day, John told me that he missed work for several weeks because he suffered a stroke while under one of his client’s homes. He was lying on the ground under a house when it happened!!!!
This gentle soul was rescued, obviously, and while I am gobsmacked by what happened to him, I celebrate that he has recovered, that the stroke didn’t occur while he was driving and therefore putting others at risk, and that he had the distinct privilege of being able to talk to me the other day about what happened to him.
He lived to tell the story!
And now I have told you the story and I will leave you with John’s words of encouragement about life in general:
Recovering from devastating health issues sure do make a person appreciate the life he’s been given. I’m grateful for so many things now.
May you appreciate even the smallest of victories that come your way. Through the good and the bad times in my life, I know I certainly have.
Writing is oftentimes about myself, but always with the intention of making a difference in the lives of those who take the time to read what I put out for public consumption.
This, my 1,173rd blog post, is the briefest post of all time for me; a post that is intended to make you feel noticed, let you know that I care how you’re doing, and to assure you that I sincerely hope you are well. I reside in the United States, in a semi-decent sized town in Washington State, and I’m glad you are following this blog that I started more than ten years ago. It takes time out of your day to read my ramblings, whether those ramblings are about the two novels I’ve written, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO and A JAGGED JOURNEY, or just my take on life.
THANK YOU FOR READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.
BE WELL. STAY WELL.
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.
In the far too distant past, we can all remember how long it took for a special occasion to arrive, whether it was Christmas, a Birthday, or the beginning of summer vacation. It seemed as though time C-R-A-W-L-E-D when we were lots younger than we currently are.
But now? My husband and I will be discussing a past event, trying to decide on when (what week or month the event took place) so we consult our calendars to discover that the event in question occurred more than a year ago.
How did that happen? Why can’t us 60-something-year-olds discern the passing of time better than that? This post from Scientific American sheds a light on this phenomenon. I’ll let you read that post and this one from Harvard University to acquire a better understanding. But here’s a quote from the Scientific American post that seems to summarize what happens as we age:
From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.
The truth of the matter is that we’ve lived longer, we’ve had a heck of a lot of experiences as a result, so we look at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. The Harvard post puts a more neurological spin on the matter:
People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.
I guess that means that the older we get, our brains aren’t firing as rapidly as they used to. Well, duh! When I’m trying to remember the title of a book, an excellent book that I deem the best book I’ve ever read in my entire life, I may not remember the title of it because I have read 1000s of books in my sixty-eight years.
The bottom line, dear friends, is that our brains are older than they used to be and due to the wealth of experiences we have lived through, there is far more data to weed through to land on the most accurate in-the-moment response. Assuming there is no disease process going on in our brains, is that a problem about which we should lament or be concerned?
No. Why? Because aging is a privilege. Just the fact that we have lived long enough to be struck with the phenomenon of inaccurate time passing is something to celebrate: I’m here, but people I love who passed before their time are not. Those dear people would probably give anything to have the opportunity to complain about this confusing, mixed up passing of time.
On their behalf, I will try to do my level best not to complain about my age, or anything having to do with aging, ever again. I will most certainly fail, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die trying.
A person most definitely acquires knowledge and wisdom throughout the span of her or his lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that someone far younger can’t contribute appropriate wisdom in any given circumstance.
The less experienced, less rehearsed attitudes of children may very well prove more accurate than the somewhat tainted knowledge my sixty-eight-year-old self may have racked up.
- AN INQUISITIVE MIND. Our 4.5 year old grandson asks my husband and I questions that surprise us again and again. “Why are the leaves on the ground?” My husband adequately explained the reasoning as the fall season was newly upon us. “Look, Grammo (that’s me) there’s a tree that fell.” I explained that the massive amounts of rain we had experienced caused the roots to give up because the dirt was so wet. “The tree roots gave up, Grammo?” “Yes”, I responded, “and the strong wind we had a few days ago really helped to cause that tree’s roots to let go; to give up.”
- HEALTHY IMAGINATION. The other day, my husband and I were playing outside with that same grandson, and his 1 year old sister. Because of the aforementioned rain, we had various-shaped water puddles on our driveway. “Look Grammo, that puddle looks like an umbrella!” And it did, which was far more of an imaginative description than what I came up with: a mushroom.
- HONESTY. Granted, a child’s honesty can cause embarrassment to the adults within the scope of her or his straightforward statements, but for the most part, I’d rather be on the receiving end of clarity and transparency, than deceit disguised as courtesy. A few months ago, I had minor skin cancer surgery on my nose. When our grandchildren arrived for their weekly grandparenting care, I sported a bandaid on the tip of my nose. My grandson said, “Why do you have a bandaid on your nose, Grammo?” I told him that I had a cut on my nose, not unlike what happens when he falls down and skins his knee. “Oh, does it hurt?” My response, “No, it hurt a few days ago but not now. The next time I see you I won’t have a bandaid on my nose.” To which he said, “That’s okay, I don’t mind if you do.”
- COMPASSION. A couple years ago, I was having a difficult time putting together pieces of a puzzle with my grandson. “Lucas, I don’t think I can figure this one out.” His response, “Yes you can, Grammo, you can do it.” And I did. Additionally, my husband and I were playing outside with our grandson a little over a year ago. That morning, my back had decided to give me a tough time so I wasn’t as active as I would normally be. Our grandson wanted me to step up onto the deck with him, to which his Grampa said, “Grammo’s back is hurting so she isn’t able to do that today.” Our grandson didn’t miss a beat as he reached out his hand to me and said, “Here, Grammo, take my hand, I’ll help you.”
I don’t have any additional statements of worth that will top that latest anecdote, so I’ll close by saying:
Length of years is no guarantee of a well-developed life; it’s the development of character that provides a richness of worth. May curiosity, imagination, honesty, and compassion be your and my selected traits now, and going forward.
The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.
That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.
Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:
- Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
- Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
- Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.
That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.
But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.
- INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
- ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
- DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.
Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.
And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.
Being whole and experiencing wholeness is something I need to figure out for myself so I consulted the Oxford dictionary that defines wholeness as follows:
- the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole;
- the state of being unbroken or undamaged;
- good physical or mental health.
Okay, so I’m not whole, but I absolutely know I want to be.
Being whole, for me, is a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.
This brings to mind another definition – cooperation:
- the process of working together to the same end.
That works for me because if mind, body, and spirit – however that may be defined – work together toward a goal of wholeness, that is what appears to be needed in order to attain that state. Let me tell you, at this point in my existence I am VERY willing to cooperate.
And I think it’s important to understand that those three elements – mind, body, spirit – are not separate. They all work in tandem to bring about the best outcome for our well-being.
When we work on one, we’re working on all three elements:
- Exercising to work on the body, and maintaining a healthier diet, affect the mind and spirit.
- Choosing to have some sort of meditative time – however that may look for each of us – nourishes the body and mind.
- Learning something new and being exposed to new experiences no doubt will benefit spirit and body.
There is no separation because all three are attached, right? Yeah, you can’t touch one without affecting the others. And that’s a good thing because we only have so much time in each day to improve on matters so it’s a good thing that even one effort addresses all three aspects of our being.
May you figure out what works for you to attain WHOLENESS in 2022.
I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!
This 2nd post of the new year provides you with my quarterly column in the online publication, Grandparents Day Magazine, based out of Adelaide, Australia. My byline, In Your Corner, addressed the topic of how every effort we make can benefit others. I hope you enjoy: Big Things Come in Small Packages. And believe it or not, the topic is not babies. Check it out.
Several years ago a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of setting a New Year word – not a resolution. My 2021 word was:
EQUANIMITY: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
For what may seem obvious to many is the fact that that single word – or way of being – really resonated with me leading into 2021. But did I always succeed at upholding that word? Absolutely not, but having that as my daily, or hourly, goal certainly benefited me more than not.
My word for 2022 is more or less from the same word family but some may argue it is the antithesis of equanimity:
HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
It’s far easier to abandon all hope – yet more difficult – than it is to cling to it. I decided to raise a banner of hope for me, my loved ones, and the world at large, regardless of what that action entails. Doing something with an eye to a redeeming new year is that to which I am committed. As I said in my post Hope + Action = Winning Combination, just wishing something to be true doesn’t quite take care of the hope function; we have to do something while hoisting hope onto our backs.
What you do to activate and maintain hope and what I do are individual efforts and may not look at all similar to each other, but that’s the beauty of the hope commitment: what I do supplements you and what you do augments me.
BE WELL AND STAY WELL IN 2022 MY FRIENDS.
CELEBRATE EVERY GOOD THING THAT COMES YOUR WAY, REGARDLESS OF HOW SMALL, BECAUSE EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS – DON’T YOU THINK?
A recent AARP magazine post spotlighting Michael J. Fox, star of Family Ties, Back to the Future, and of other popular, noteworthy fame, answered a reporter’s question about how he had managed to pull himself out of a dark place where he landed after recovering from a 2018 spinal surgery to remove a benign tumor wrapped around his spine; having to learn how to walk all over again as a result of that surgery; and falling at home four months later, shattering his arm in the process. Keep in mind, for over thirty years Mr. Fox has suffered from what is currently an incurable disease. He knows there will be no cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime, but remarkably, he was able to admirably respond to the AARP reporter’s question.
I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.
And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism.
You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.
For this, my last blog post of the year – also my 1,166th post – I will simply say that I am inspired by the above words; I am humbled by them; and I accept the challenge these words have presented.
That’s all, but it’s enough. See you in 2022.