I have just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air. This is a wonderful book written by a neurosurgeon/neuroscientist on his journey toward death. It is not as sad as you might imagine. He has spent his life searching for meaning and has multiple degrees from medicine to English. The book is full of wonderful thoughts about life.
Dying seems to be the thing that haunts us.Not existing is unimaginable. We can’t begin to imagine ourselves absent.There are cultures that live closer to it’s reality and have less difficulty. We love youth in this culture.Death is not acceptable. This brings to mind again those who want to be immortal. What arrogance?
Somehow having a beginning and an end feels right. I wish that we could turn loose of our fears. After all as FDR said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Most of us who struggle with anxiety and fear are usually not thinking about death but whatever triggers our fears.We truly see fear as the enemy……maybe not death.
This is where our faith and faith community are so important. We need the love and care to hold us up. It can be the difference in our lives.
For some reason I spent the last week stressing about taking a trip with my daughter. I wanted to go but there is something about leaving home that is stressful. Is it about leaving my safe place? I suspect that is part of it. Routine is familiar and comforting. Sometimes it is hard to get outside of our comfort zone. I have always been this way. The crazy part is that I enjoy myself when I go. Why do some of us have this problem?
So I got myself organized am now I’m visiting Boston with my daughter. I also get to be with my grandaughter who is at Brandeis University.my anxiety is suspended. So why all the drama?
It is interesting how change can send us off the rails. Most of us don’t like change and some of us are anxious when we have to accept it. The trouble is change is one of the true constants. Life never stays the same. Again I share the quote from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Since I don’t have it with me it may not be 100%: ” in the midst of all the changes and chances of this life I rest in Your eternal chamgelessness. ” please God let us live into this!
A friend of mine told me today that she is moving to be near her daughter. She feels that since she is aging it would be best to be near her daughter. She is moving to an independent living place. We talked about this major change in her life.
As we age there are many changes that come to us. We don’t think about this until we are at least in our sixties. We begin to realize that there may come a time when we can’t stay where we are. In the past when families lived near each other this was not such a major change. Now it seems that our children grow up and move away and we not longer have family where we are. I don’t look forward to having to leave my home but know it is a possibility. We all hope that we will age gracefully and maintain our independence but it doesn’t always happen.
Most of our lives are spent acquiring. We acquire spouses, children, homes, furniture and lots of other stuff. As we age we begin to divest ourselves. The next home may have to be much smaller and things will have to go. Children have moved away and have different lives although they are faithful.
The thing about divesting yourself is it’s the little things that get you. My friend has saved cards sent to her that are special and she is deciding let them go or not? It’s these kinds of choices that break us. The mementos of life….they carry so much meaning and to part with them is painful.
Sometimes when I think about this it’s as if most of life we have been on the way up and suddenly we are going downhill way too quickly. It is a difficult time. Maybe losing health, sight, hearing, and friends is too much. We are lucky if we are able to keep active until God takes us home.
In a previous post I mentioned reading the book Tribes. I have noticed lately that I am secure enough in myself to agree or disagree with someone. I have felt that way about the last few things that I have read.
Years ago I read a book about the PTSD that is being seen in our returning soldiers that was excellent. Being married to a military man (his first career) the book clarified for me many things that had changed in the handling of military personnel and that the changes were not good.
In the book Tribes the author suggests that if people who suffer from PTSD were integrated back into a loving community environment that it would be easier for them to recover. I am sure there is truth to this. Being accepted is critical to our well being. However, the way soldiers have been handled in Iraq and Afghanistan has created more stress than in previous wars. I think the PTSD is more severe than we have seen before.
Recovering from any traumatic event causes PTSD. If the event is sudden and ends quickly recovery is usually easier. Any of us have a big physical response to trauma. All of our fight or flight responses are activated with some major physical changes. Major amounts of Adrenalin are released, our heart rate increases, blood to areas of the body not needed is reduced and brain is super alert. This is what is supposed to happen in the short term but suppose you are in this mode over a long period of time. The body is physically stressed to the point where it is difficult to recover.
So what made this happen to our soldiers? In previous wars there was a front……an area where the fighting took place and units were rotated back from the front for rest and time to come down from the high. In the last wars there has been no front and soldiers are in danger no matter where they are. They are never free from the adrenaline rush. There is no place to rotate them to for rest. During Viet Nam soldiers served (usually) one year and knew that they would be rotated home at the end of that time. They were usually away from battle for at least two years before being sent back. (If at all) Many of the prime units used in recent times have been at war for an undetermined length of time. (usually shorter than before) They were brought home and may be sent back in a few months. Some of them 4 or 5 times or more. The time away from battle has not been long enough for any sort of recovery. This information is not hearsay. I have personal knowledge of this.
Having said all of this I know that the writer of the Tribe is correct is saying that recovery is better if there is integration into a community. Unfortunately, for most of the sufferers there is no community awaiting them. Many can’t find a job or have any major support system. Their trauma has also been so much more severe than previous cases we haven’t really learned how we can help. Work is being done but maybe too little, too late.
Wow! I really needed to say all of that! It has bothered me for a while.
Anxiety and stress and difficult for any of us to handle. How much more so if we were exposed to life threatening events over a long period and then expected to return to normal over night.
Today I have been thinking about cause and effect. No matter what we do, or don’t do for that matter, there is always a result. It cannot be avoided. Just how much control do we have over the result of our actions? Sometimes I think we don’t have any and at other times it seems that I am definitely responsible for the outcome.
If we have anything to do with the outcome then we need to be careful. What I choose may have a result that affects someone else. Do I think about that when I make choices? Do I have a positive or negative attitude? It seems to me that having a positive attitude can change the outcome.
There is a difference between positive and negative attitudes. All of us have been with people who are always negative. For them, nothing is ever good. This can really wear on me and I don’t like being around them. Their negativity is just depressing. How we approach things is a decision that we can choose. I can get up in the morning and decide that it is going to be a good day and usually it works. Of course there are times when the day goes downhill anyway but not always.
We do have some control over our own mind. For those of us who have anxiety sometimes we feel truly out of control. It is hard to think yourself into a better place. Depending on the circumstances it may not be possible but that is what I am working on. Developing skills for handling bad feelings is a matter of training. It is just so hard to be disciplined.
Taking control of your own mind is a challenge but it is possible to do. It just takes consistent work.
Why is life today so stressful? I don’t remember it being like this when I was younger. I don’t know if the world has changed or I have. Probably both. Instead of hearing local news we hear news from everywhere and the focus is on the sad, tragic, violent and horrible things. Seldom do we hear about something nice. The one good thing to come out of the recent disasters from hurricanes to earthquakes has been the stories of people helping each other.
I have been listening to the book The Tribe by Sebastian Junger. I have ordered the book. It is interesting to find something that follows my own thinking so closely. If you have read any of my previous posts you know I am concerned about how disconnected we all are. There are many reasons why that is so. People move for jobs away from family. Very few people live in towns small enough to know most everyone. Both parents work changing the family dynamic. Communication has changed from primarily face to face to email, internet, social media, and texting. A lot of people do not know and may not have seen their next door neighbor. Our circle of people has grown exponentially smaller. Most of us do not have a wider community that we belong to. As I have said before this may one of the most critical aspects of a church if it is truly a community.
This loss of community has removed the glue that we need to hold ourselves together. There is no way of knowing (since there is no data) if the incidence of anxiety, depression and related problems was as high when we were more communal. My suspicion is that it was not.
Here in the USA we rush from task to task. People work longer hours and get less pats on the back. We are accessible 24/7. I wonder why everyone isn’t anxious. Maybe those of us who are are the ones who get it.
If you suffer from anxiety etc. try a find a community where you can be accepted and find belonging. I have the feeling it will help.
As I thought about things that can’t be fixed I realized that there is another issue for us.
The trouble is that so much of what we have learned over the years is that many things can be fixed. If we have an infection medicine invented by science may fix it. Science has learned to fix many things.We see science as the fixer. If we have an accident in the car that is not a major crash the car can be fixed. As a people who want everything fixed and with as little distress on our part as possible we are impatient to get it fixed.
Ironically we are a society that fixes few things. If my cell phone breaks maybe I will turn it in to get recycled or maybe I will just throw it away. Most of our small electronic things will be trashed instead of fixed. There is hardly anyone who runs a fix-it shop today. We see things as disposable.
What a scary thought. Just how much of our world is disposable? We don’t cherish things as we used to. We have so much that each item is of little importance. Our solution is to just throw it away and get another. Where are we headed with this kind of thinking?
Are we going to become disposable? Are we moving into the era of 1984 and Soylent Green. (If you haven’t seen or read these do so) As we grow older and are perceived as having nothing left to give will we just be ended and recycled as in Soylent Green?
There is already an issue of the elderly using a large amount of funds for medical problems. Will we be ended so that money can be saved? Already this has come up for discussion. (not ending the elderly but curtailing available medical help) I am concerned about where we are headed.
Are we disposable?