It has been a few days since I have been available to write. I am now home from my visit to Boston with my daughter and granddaughter. I loved seeing Boston with my daughter and have odd moments with my granddaughter who is in school at Brandeis. She and her assortment of roommates are a fun and brilliant crew. The way they are heading into the future is so vastly different than when I was their age. I hope that many groups of students think the way they do.
Ecology is critical to them. All of them are vegetarian or vegan. They care greatly about others and have compassion for those who suffer. I hope that this state of mind can flower and spread.
My generation was so consumer oriented. It bothers me to realize how much we raped the earth with little thought. It wasn’t a conscious thing but we just didn’t think that resources were limited. It seemed that there was an abundance…..and there was at the time. Now we have come to understand the consequences of taking without replacing. Native Americans (who I have now seen some call themselves First Nations) have a much closer link to the earth and understand how we are all connected.
We all need to learn to live differently. So many today see having more is important: a bigger house, more cars, more money….just more, more, more. The truth is that none of those things matter. People are what matter and community is key. When I am gone I wish to be remembered as one who loved.
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.
I have often thought about the difference between “feeling sorry for” and “feeling compassion for.” We can feel sorry for someone but it puts us in an us and them mode. We are outside the situation and see it from a distance. We are not really involved.
Compassion is a totally different things. When we are feeling compassion we can feel the pain of the other person. We are involved. We are connected.
When we have been through a similar experience, such as losing a loved one, we know how that is. We have had some of the same feelings and hopefully have come out the other side. This is not a time, however, to offer advice. When people need our compassion they just need someone to be in the same place. Listening, touching (if appropriate), being present in the moment are the most important things.
God uses our stressful experiences by given us the compassion to help others. Compassion is healing for us and others.
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 someone said something to me that reminded me of a profound truth that I began to accept late in life. Having attended college twice with two different degrees it wasn’t until my 40s that I finished my nursing degree. Working with those who were sick brought home to me in a different way that there are some things that we cannot fix.
I have a friend whose grandchild is suffering with brain cancer. It is tragic and I mourn for the struggle they are facing but I can’t fix it.
Right now I am watching three hurricanes in the Atlantic that could devastate some people already hit by another storm. I can’t fix it. I wish I could. I really want to.
We expect everything to continue just exactly the way we want and we are gobsmacked by something that we can’t fix.
While nursing I did learn that things that can’t be fixed can usually be helped in some way. The sick child still has cancer but thanks to medicine he is better (not cured) and has many people helping him and others with financial and emotional support.
The last hurricane has shown that it could not be stopped but many people have put their lives on hold to help. What was amazing to me was to see linemen from Houston here in Savannah helping to restore power to us. They were “paying it forward.”
I have learned that we can’t dwell on the fact that it can’t be fixed but instead concentrate on what is possible to do to help. That way we give of ourselves…….the most precious thing that we can give.
Understand there are things that can’t be fixed but we can help the unendurable be endured.
A friend called today about the effort of getting her very elderly and fragile husband out of the path of the storm. It started me thinking about the plight of those of us who are aging. So often society today is concentrated on the ideas of the young. Everyone wants to look younger. Many plastic surgeons live off of this. There is the idea that the old have nothing to offer. Let’s just shuffle them off to a facility where we can visit once in a while so we can live our lives.
When families lived together this was not the case. The elderly were respected for their wisdom. Those of us who have lived for a while do have insights that we never saw when we were young. Sometimes our vision is based on past experiences and is given to help someone not make the same mistakes. Someone once said that history is to remind us of what didn’t work.
It is a tragedy that so much wisdom is being lost. I remember spending time with my grandmother and learning so much about life and how to live it. Somehow we need to learn how to reverse this trend and appreciate the wisdom we can gain from those who have learned throughout their lives.
Many of us are finding ways to help by volunteering where our skills are needed and appreciated. I hope this trend continues.
Don’t lose the wisdom gathered by our older generation.
The last few days have been very strange. We have spent most of our time watching the path of hurricane Irma and preparing to leave. The Governor of Georgia declared a mandatory evacuation of Savannah. We were supposed to begin leaving this morning. However, the storm has moved so far west compared to its original projection that we are unlikely to get more than some wind and rain. So we are still here. The house is covered with storm shutters and feels very strange. As of today nothing is open where we are but most of the people we know have chosen to stay. We are not fools and have left several times for storms but essentially we would be driving west where the storm will be over land and still have high winds and rain. It just doesn’t seem logical to go toward the storm. Unless something changes we will stay. There will be some storm surge of water but we are not in an area for that to reach us.
All in all we are bored to tears. It almost feels like some apocalypse has taken place and there is no one left. It is eerie to see empty streets and stores and restaurants closed. Hospitals are open and some shelters but I doubt the shelters will be needed except for those homeless who will need escaped from the rain and wind.
With the world the way that it is I can imagining this sort of scenario. It is not a good feeling. Each one of us needs to do everything that we can to seek peace in the world. The sad part is that it seems to be religion dividing us. Religion being mandated by the most extreme factions. Sometimes I just want to cry over the hatred. I am learning to be more outspoken about following love. I suspect that I try to tamp down heated opinions but I feel called to step beg for love and compassion no matter what.
No matter your belief pray for the world. Pray for those in danger from storms, wars and any other disaster.