“Home” for the Holidays

What was happening? Describe the circumstances.  During the week between Christmas and New Years I was sitting around the table in the evening after dinner with my husband, our children and their spouses with the young grandchildren playing in the background. Nothing profound was being said, just reliving the same old stories and memories of years gone by.

How did it feel? I felt so complete like the proverbial chicken with her chicks gathered around her. Wholeness. At home. Peaceful. Contentment. The word “happy” is so overused and hardly means anything anymore but I felt truly happy.

What meaning do I give it? Coming from a family where I was the only child I have always longed for a connection with family members–to be a part of something larger. Also, having lost a daughter, I had the feeling that my remaining children and their families were all safe at that moment–I couldn’t ask for more.

What did I choose to do with the energy? What happened? I was so filled with emotion that I wanted to share my feelings with the family gathered around me. I tried to explain to them how happy I felt at that moment and how they were each and every one of them part of that moment. Unfortunately, I think my grateful tears left them uncomfortable and eye rolling at Mom’s mushiness!

–Gathering wisdom. What you learned about yourself.  Nothing really new. The experience just confirmed what I already knew about the importance of family and connection in my life.

–What did you do in response? After gathering my composure, I reminded myself that their response wasn’t important nor did it minimize my feelings. They are young. They’ll get it sometime later in life and hopefully will look back with fondness at that too. What was important was that I tucked that frame in time into my memory, which brought to mind the several times in Scripture where it is said of Mary, “…and she kept these things in her heart,” which also brought the connection I so long for.

Lunar eclipse

What was happening? I went up to the 6th story rooftop terrace of our condo to watch the recent lunar eclipse.

How did it feel in my body? It was exhilarating and solemn at the same time. I was in total awe of the universe and it’s Maker. I was aware of only the sky and myself. It made me realize how limited our vocabulary is because there is really no word to describe the wonder of it all. The order of it all. How everything was perfectly aligned, literally, to make this event happen. And I also felt so small in the vast darkness I was experiencing but at the same time I felt like part of it all.

What meaning did I give to it? It was a reminder to me how big our Creator is. If he/she can do things like orchestrate a breath-taking eclipse, surely he can help me with much more mundane things in my life. It made me thankful that I am part of the big beautiful universe—so much more than anything manmade. It also reminded me to savor sacred moments such as this to pull out and ponder when things get rough.

What did I choose to do with the energy? And what happened? I chose to “just be” in that moment. Just me and the universe! And the more I did that, the more in awe I was and appreciative for experiencing those moments of grace.

Gathering wisdom: I was reminded of how much I truly enjoy nature and how much it recharges me. Looking back I’m also thankful that I was “nudged” by the Spirit to go up to the roof since it was 6 flights up that I had to walk and I was ready to talk myself out of it. I need to honor those kind of promptings.

What do I choose to do now in response to my learning? I need to make time not only at my leisure but especially during stress to focus on the wonder of things in nature.

Overwhelmed, anxious then relieved, peaceful

  1. What was happening? I began my day by checking my calendar book to see what activities I had planned for that day. Instead of focusing on just that I looked over to the previous few days “unfinished business” and became overwhelmed. Chores, errands, phone calls to make, bills to pay…the list seemed endless…and I seemed so far behind.
  2. How did it feel in my body? I felt tightly wound, almost shaking. It felt like I was a hamster on a wheel—running and running and getting nowhere before I could even start.
  3. What meaning do I give it? I am project oriented probably because I like to be in control and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when the project is done. Seeing all of these unfinished tasks on paper made me feel overwhelmed, unaccomplished, worthless, like a failure.
  4. What did I choose to do with the energy and what happened? Being as overwhelmed as I was I couldn’t even focus on where to begin and although it seemed totally counterproductive, I decided to take a walk on a nearby nature trail. I began the walk very uptight, asking myself what was I doing here with so much waiting for me to do at home. As I continued on the walk I started to let go of that and enjoy the beauty around me. I started to BREATHE again. It felt as though my tension was actually leaving my body down my arms and through my fingertips.
  5. Gathering wisdom: I think I was given the message in childhood that the more you do/accomplish, the better person you are. (I am valued for what I do, rather than for the person I am.) Although as an adult I know better than this, that thinking is still a part of me.
  6. What do I choose to do now in respect to my learning? I need to remember to balance “always doing” with “just being,” have more realistic expectations of what I can do in a period of time and know my limits.

Peace, Contentment, Happiness

A few years ago I moved into a new community, just before Christmastime. The move came after some extremely difficult years and challenging experiences. Everyone kept asking me if I liked my new home.  What could I say? In the spring, I had an answer.   Do I love my new place?  Let me count the ways…

Last night I went for my first walk on the trail that is right across the street from my new place.  One minute out of my door and I’m out of sight of my home and immersed in nature! The trail is beautiful.  You walk beside a small creek and through a park for quite a way, and then walk through an underpass/spill way for the creek.  You stay surrounded by nature as life and busy thoroughfares are left behind you.  Slowly you start to be aware that the water sounds have changed.  What was the eager gurgle, while the stream raced and wound its’ way over and around the obstructions in the creek bed out in the open park areas, has changed to a quieter peaceful murmur as it slides unhindered over the open concrete spillway, and echoes a little bit inside the metal underpass.  A little further along however, you are once again aware that the sounds of the water are changing yet again.  Now, it is the sound of falling water that you are starting to be aware of.  As you reach the end of the underpass, it is much louder and you find yourself standing at a lookout point beside a 20-30 foot waterfall!  I was so shocked!  I didn’t realize that the ground dropped off like that going down to the river at that location.  What a great way to unwind…all of those beautiful robins, cardinals, blackbirds, woodpeckers (noisy little fellow that he was!! It sounded like a jackhammer going off when he started drilling into that hollow thirty foot tree trunk!), seagulls, squirrels, the beauty and tranquility of the river itself and of course, all of those other happy folks out biking, jogging, running or walking, with or without their dogs.  The path then continues beside the river, winds through a bush before ending up at a park and suddenly I am immersed back into the hustle and bustle of suburbia.

The people are so friendly here.  I passed a number of people out walking their dogs.  Be they German Shepherds, Black Labs, Collies, Heinz 57’s etc., it made no difference.  They were all enjoying the treat of just being able to be out in the WARM, if slightly overcast, spring evening.  All had smiles on their faces and were quick to offer their version of a cheery “Hello”.  Whether spoken in English or Canine, it made no difference.  The message and the emotions were the same.  What a treat and what a beautiful evening!  One pair of ladies who were out for their walk had an older dog with them on their trek.  He looked like he was a mixed breed and probably was a cross between a Black Lab and a Collie, with the colouring of the Black Lab.  He was so old though, that all of the fur around his chin had turned snow white.  When he walked, he kind of lumbered along as he tried his best to keep up with his mistress.  You could tell that it was a real challenge for him, and he was trying so hard to hurry!  However, it just wasn’t happening for him last night.  He had that kind of “smile” on his face that dogs sometimes have when they’re happy just to be out and about with their beloved master or mistress.  As the ladies passed me by, they smiled and send “hello”, but quickly returned to their conversation.  Their faithful companion kept pace with them, albeit about 30 feet behind them.  I said to him as we passed, “They’re leaving you behind!”  He just “grinned” at me and kept plodding faithfully along behind them! I’m sure I heard him say when he looked back at me, “Yeah, but I’m not as young as I used to be and you know, it’s been one of those days.  My arthritis is acting up on me tonight!  They don’t mean to leave me behind!  It’s OK, sometimes we just like our own space!”  He didn’t care, he didn’t have to be “in their back pocket” to be content.  Just being close and out together, walking and enjoying nature and the beautiful evening, was enough for him to be content, and oh so very happy!

Now I wonder….what I will discover today, tomorrow, and the days after that?  What will I discover when I take a left turn, rather than a right turn?  It could be anything, but the most important thing, I’m sure, will be peace and contentment.  That’s because now I feel like I am at peace with myself and I am really HOME!  It may be a new community, but it’s HOME!

Exhilaration, Peace

  1. What was happening? I was driving over the causeway to Sanibel Island (my favorite place in the world!)
  1. How did it/does it feel in my body (then and/or now)? It felt exhilarating as I was moving from the mainland to the island, looking over where the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico meet. All of my senses were heightened. I could feel the warm sun and gentle breeze move over me as I drove across the bridge. I could hear the sea birds welcoming me to the island. I could see the beauty of God’s creation above and below me. I could taste the sea air. I could smell the freshness of life. I felt exhilarated and at peace all at the same time. It felt like I was “coming home” and so grateful to be there.
  1. What meaning did I/do I give to it? I think it was a reminder for me of how life is meant to be. Something joyful and naturally comfortable and taken in to the fullest.
  1. What did I choose to do with this energy? And what happened? I chose to spend the day in complete attention and mindfulness of my place in the beautiful sanctuary of this island. The more attentive I was, the more I was aware of all that surrounded me and how blessed I was to be a part of it.
  1. Gathering wisdom: The experience reinforced what I already knew but forget constantly—that I was made to be in the moment and enjoy all life has to offer NOW. I am not meant to be worrying constantly about what might happen or could happen. Doing so blinds me to all the miracles (large and small) that are happening at any given moment.
  1. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning? To try harder to be in the present, without worrying about what waits around the corner, in order to take in all the blessings life has to offer. I will try to use a mantra/word (Sanibel?) to bring me back to the present when my mind starts to race with worry.

 

Concern, Frustration, Peace

  1. What was happening? Describe the circumstances.

Where I live, there is an elderly lady I have come to know since she was widowed about 1 ½ years ago.  To some extent, she is a recluse.  We had lived on the same floor in our building for about six years and I had only seen her twice before her husband was hospitalized.  She did not seem to want or need to interact on a social basis with anyone.  However, quite surprisingly, she was quick to accept my assistance in the later stages of his hospitalization, just before he passed away.   This poor soul had nobody in her life anymore!  She was well advanced in years, she and her husband had never had any children, they were immigrants, and the only family that either of them had were a couple of nieces and nephews who still lived in Europe and were over 70 themselves.  She truly was all alone in this world.  She was very frail, with multiple health issues, though mentally competent and had a great desire to remain independent.

At the beginning of our interactions, she was overwhelmed with the situation that she now found herself in, and she eagerly accepted any and all assistance that I offered her…..interacting with the funeral director, taking her to various appointments, and handling all the various things that needed to be done to finalize his estate….pensions, income tax etc.  As time went by, and things with his estate were eventually being finalized, I sensed that she was gradually withdrawing from me and trying to once again claim back her independence.  This was a good thing, but the resulting solitude, not so much.  A very positive step forward though, was when she accepted the fact that she needed to appoint a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, so someone could make medical or personal care decisions on her behalf when she was no longer capable of doing so. Not surprisingly, it was me she asked to do this for her, as she really didn’t have anyone else she could ask.  Any of the friends that they had had earlier in their life had either already passed away, or were mentally or physically incapable and already in nursing homes themselves. I was happy to accept this role for her, but it is a bit of a two edged sword!  I am happy to know that there is something in place to ensure that someone will be able to make appropriate decisions for her when she is no longer capable of doing so.  However, she is a stubborn lady.  Occasionally, she opens up a bit to tell me how she is doing and the help she needs as her physical limitations escalate.   So, we talk about the things that can be put in place to help her out.  She agrees, and we put it in place with the various social agencies.  Then, she changes her mind and she cancels everything.  And so the cycle continues.  Her personal health and safety are a concern, but my hands are tied.

2. How did it / does it feel in my body (then, and/or now). Describe specifically or poetically. Include impulse (what I felt like doing). Name the feeling.

It is so frustrating and aggravating!  This repeating cycle of complaints, problem solving, meetings with social agencies to put things in place to facilitate her on-going independence, and then her cancelling everything is so extremely exasperating. I feel so angry for my wasted time and energy.

 3.  What meaning did I / do I give to it? Includes how it fits in a current relationship, as well as recurring past patterns.

This change in our relationship where she now has withdrawn a bit and now has this recurring pattern of having me make arrangements for her care and then her immediately cancelling everything as soon as it is in place, has definitely affected my own perception as to my role in her life.  Apart from the frustration of knowing that she is making her life more difficult and painful for herself, it has also resulted in me feeling a need to withdraw substantially from our day to day interactions.

4.  What did I choose to do with the energy?  … and what happened… Consequences can include how I felt as a result of my choice, as well as implications for others.

Upon giving it very serious consideration, and discussing the situation with friends who are in the health care industry and social agencies, I came to the understanding that this is far from an unusual situation with independent seniors who are experiencing deteriorating health, while still maintaining their mental functionality. Part of them knows and accepts the limitations that they are facing, but a part of them still wants and needs to resist the necessity of reaching out to others for help!  As a result, they are constantly fluctuating back and forth in their decisions.  I decided to respect my own physical and emotional needs and not allow her to waste my time and energy, yet still look out for her when she really needs my help.  As I result, I chose to back off dramatically in our interactions, leaving it entirely up to her to contact me if she wants or needs something.  By backing off, it reduced my frustration substantially, I have no feelings of guilt, and it has helped to protect my own personal energy levels, and to be at peace about the entire situation.

 5. Gathering Wisdom: What do I learn about myself? How does the learning fit within major themes in my history? How does it relate to my life purpose? What does it tell me about a specific present relationship? What is unfinished?

In retrospect, my immediate response to jump in and help her in her time of need was a very typical response for me.  I am a person who wants to help people in whatever manner that I can.  However, from a variety of life experiences, I have come to understand that although many people may need help, not everyone is actually prepared to accept the help that they require. It is also important to remember that they have every right to make their own choices as to how they want to live their own life, while they have the mental capability to do so.   As well, as my own health situation has changed dramatically since I agreed to help her, I have come to the realization and acceptance of the fact that I need to protect my own health and energy levels.  This has to be my top priority.  So, it is not only ok, but imperative to have taken the steps that I have to alter our relationship. There are social agencies and organizations that can provide her with the care and assistance that she requires.  So, if I get them involved, I am still caring for her without me taking on the responsibility myself. A perfect solution!  I have finally learned, and accepted, that it is perfectly ok to finally put my own needs first, without guilt, and that if I don’t care for myself, nobody else will.  How freeing this is.

6. What do I choose to do now in response to my learning?

As a result of my altered circumstances, and my deeper understanding of my appropriate role in my own life and those around me, I have chosen to reduce my interaction with her and have changed how I see my responsibilities, not only in her life, but in everyone else’s as well.  Now, the onus is on her to approach me with her requests for assistance.  I will set the wheels in motion for interaction with the appropriate support agencies, but then I will back off and allow the professionals to interact with her without me.  When the time comes that she is no longer capable of making her own decisions, and she really requires my intervention, if I am able to assist her, I will.  If I can’t, I will ensure that there is someone else to take on that role, and be sure to respect my own physical needs and limitations and back off without guilt.