I have several friends who are going through really tough times. As we age there are some things that you don’t expect. We all picture growing old gracefully and walking off into the sunset together. It’s sad, but for most of us this is not the case. Many things can happen that change your world. They sneak up on us and suddenly you are in a foreign country trying to learn to speak the language and find your way through a maze.
I think one of the hardest things is when one person is well and the other is not. When I was young I never thought what it would be like to have to care for someone. What it would be like to be on call 24/7. Never to be able to go out for a meal or visit with friends.
Caregiving is one of the most stressful tasks on this earth. What if you are afraid to leave home because your spouse may fall while you are gone? What if the dependence of that person on you grows obsessive and you have to account for any moment away? What if every time you walk away to another room you are called again and again to come back. The person you love has turned into a demanding attention seeker. They have not done this deliberately but fear inhabits them and being alone triggers terrible anxiety. They did not choose this path. It was foisted upon them. Age happened.
When we are young we never see the anguish that can be aging. We can see all of this as a burden for us and turn away. Yet simple things can make a difference. Volunteering to visit for an hour or two while the caregiver gets out. Making a double recipe for dinner for your family and sharing it. Even words of understanding and encouragement can help.
While we are young we need to show compassion for those whose life is in crisis. In order to do that we first have to notice. The elderly can so often be ignored.
I have long been fond of this poem by Ogden Nash. It shows us how we are blind to those who are aged.
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when…
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.
The past few weeks have tested my ability to not lose my temper. It seems that everything that I have tackled has been complicated to deal with. Nothing has been easy. None of this has been life threatening but just plain aggravating. The world is getting so complicated that there is no easy.
I mentioned before about dealing with medical issues and that process has become so complicated that I am not sure that there is anyone who understands how it works. Doctor’s offices have now contracted out to someone filing the necessary paperwork to deal with issues that need preapproval or precertification. One more step to confuse things and send them out into the universe to disappear. I really feel sorry for the average person trying to parse the system.
Also today we took my granddog to the vet and he has lymphoma. That is a terrible diagnosis in humans and worse in dogs. Bottom line he may live a month at the most and will be sent to the rainbow bridge if he is in pain. For any of you who have pets and love them like we do this is losing a member of the family. I really think our pets keep us sane. It is so wonderful to come home to a house where someone is so glad that you are there. My dogs are my “blankies.” My favorite writer says blankies are an icon for God.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Dogs have all of those!
Recently I read an article about the factors that helped people live longer. It was a study by a group of physicians who found that the two most important things were not what I expected. The top of the list was being around people. Out and about doing anything that involved meeting with others. The next thing on the list was having a support system.
Usually the list is topped by things like exercise, diet, etc. It makes me think of how many people are completely alone. For people with social anxiety being with people is very difficult if not impossible. I home that some of the current research into anxiety and depression and the brain will find answers that will help.
It also means that those of us who have some understanding of mental and emotional problems must do all that we can to create better communication with others and foster clearer understanding. For those of us who struggle with both emotional and medical issues connected to these problems more understanding will help us to be a part of society and feel acceptance.
We have to continue to educate and remove the veil that has so long covered mental illness and made it like AIDS and Leprosy.
We too can live among others, have a wonderful support system and have long and happy lives.
Today I went to church with my husband. Our favorite retired minister was there. I always love his services as he melds the liturgy in different ways and it is always beautiful and meaningful. His sermon was wonderful. It is seldom that I take notes from a sermon but today I did because I wanted to think some more about the ideas and to share them.
He started by reading a short excerpt from one of his favorite authors whose name I didn’t get. The story was about a man who brought a newspaper every day from someone who was grumpy and rude yet this man was always pleasant and kind. “He said that he had no control over the grumpy man but did have control over himself and he chose to be kind. To return good for evil is a prescription for our own emotional/mental health.”
Pastor said ” we were created in the image of God and are called to behave like him. Life is not about how we act with other people but how we react.”
I found this to be very powerful. Too often we do react to the mood or actions of the person we are faced with. We return rude with rude, sad with sad, etc. The interesting thing is that if we do the reverse things change.
My father was not only a wonderful father but a unique man. I never heard him say something negative about someone else. People who knew him said the same thing. He always responded with kindness even with someone who was very angry. He told me that two things would happen….the whole situation would defuse or all hell would break loose. Either way he remained calm and kind.
We do have control over our behavior. I visit a physicians office where one of the employees was always a little brusque and not really pleasant. I made it my intention to make that change and spent time complimenting things (only genuine things and getting to know her. Be genuine for false is easily detected) and we now have a great relationship. I enjoy her and she always greets me with pleasure. A little kindness on my part well spent and a new relationship formed.
How we treat people makes a difference. We have to be genuine but we can be kind. I hope this is a step toward becoming the person God wants me to be.