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.
Today I had another medical test to understand why I am low in iron. I decided to explore on the web if anyone is connecting this abnormality to stress, grief and anxiety and discovered that indeed this is on the research radar.
As a nurse I have long been aware of the impact of grief and stress on the human body. Until now I don’t think that the medical field has paid enough attention to how our emotional life is reflected in our bodies. We have not long practiced holistic medicine. It is critical to understand that we are complex beings and that anything that impacts us is related to our health.
I hope that the pendulum is swinging back and that the whole picture needs to be taken into consideration. This is not easy for those in the medical field since we have a specialty for every part of our body. We are blessed if we have a primary physician who puts all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Too often our spiritual life is not taken into consideration at all. How we consider our relationship to God or whatever spiritual practice is a key link in the chain. In a world where connection with the divine is shrinking we are likely to see more people with both physical and emotional/mental issues.
I have written a good bit about connections and feel strongly that having some connections with other human beings is critical to our well being. With so many of us loving dogs and understanding that they like being pack members should remind us that we are also communal beings. Throughout history we have related to other humans and lived in communal settings. Unfortunately, our current use of technology can lessen our personal connections. Technology helps us when we need to find connections outside of our local area but we also need face to face and touch.
I hope that we can marry the best of the old ways with the new and make a world where we don’t have to feel that we are alone. Also a world where the whole person is taken into consideration when examining our medical issues. Without these things we will see more of us suffering with depression, anxiety and stress related illness.
It is terribly hot and humid where I live and we are as housebound as someone snowed in. In the last week I have discovered how disconnected I feel from life.
Having lost my job/ministry was bad but connected with it was the loss of connections. The severing of relationships was the greatest blow.
I suspect that I am feeling what many people my age (76) feel at this time in their life. Suddenly you are not working and for me that was connection with people. Until I can better understand my next focus I am adrift in a world of loneliness.
I am just stubborn enough to say I am not done yet! I have not yet established a pattern for my days and seem to have little to look forward to. If anyone wonders what older people feel when they are forced to confront not being needed I can tell you. It sucks!
I do know that it is up to me to find new direction and since I do believe that God directs my ways I know that some answers will come. However, now I am befuddled and sad. I am sure that this is no fun for my husband as well. He is a blessing of support and love.
I think at this particular moment sadness is more prominent than anxiety. I am not anxious about what to do but still dealing with the sadness of loss. Having run Grief Support Groups I understand about grief and know that it is a process. There is no set time or pattern. Every person travels through it differently. I am finding my way and know that change will come. Nothing ever remains the same.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer in the Service of Compline it says:
“Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;”
At this moment I am wearied of the changes.
Since the loss of my ministry as a Parish Nurse I have become aware of how much we humans need to be needed. When we are adrift on our own there is a longing for some connection….something to make us feel as if we belong.
I have had periods in my life where I have experienced this longing due to circumstances beyond my control. The time spent alone and separated from any meaningful relationship is painful. Spending time with ourselves requires soul searching. Sometimes some uncomfortable truths about ourselves are uncovered. I think this is even more difficult when this time alone is forced upon us and not of our choosing.
It is even harder for those of us who are extroverts. Loneliness brings on sadness. I was raised as a only child and do need some quiet and solitude but as the only thing there is it is difficult to bear.
This is why I am concentrating so hard on change. I do need other people and my previous role provided a chance to be present with others and share their joys and sorrows. It was a powerful and empowering experience. It gave my life meaning beyond my own personal needs.
It is hard to take on doing the things we must do to change. Most of all it is hard to be consistent with them. Sometimes no progress can be seen. The thing is we have to continue long enough for what is change now will become a habit. Habits are hard to form and just as hard to break.
Anxiety also can be a habit. One that is high on the list of difficult changes. One that requires major effort to conquer. It may not be possible to banish it forever but just pushing it down to a minor irritation would be a blessing.
So the journey continues.
Today has not been a good day for me. The sky is sunny. the weather hot but I am sad. I am all too aware that it has to do with my job loss. The problem is that it is not just a loss of a job but that of a ministry. My position as Parish Nurse was everything I yearned for wrapped up in a beautiful package. It was my joy.
So now, I struggle not only with grief for the loss but with questions about what now. I find myself working to maintain a much too big garden and asking “Is this all?” After 20 years my connection with so many beloved people has been severed. My perception of who I am is disrupted. Life is a huge question mark.
I know that sometimes we just need to do nothing. I need to continue with my journey to change myself since that is the only thing I have control over. I will wait no matter how hard that is and hope for a door to open.