Life Changes Daily

Recently, we have had family members impacted with health issues.  My mother-in-law is dealing with progressive dementia.  Some days she’s her normal, dry-witted funny self.  Some days she’s burdened with hearing voices that don’t exist.  She believes they are real so for her, they are.  For us, it is worrisome, but often humorous.  We have to see it as being funny or we’d go nuts.

My aunt had a stroke several weeks ago.  She had been dealing with other health problems since January.  Once the MRI was performed, the doctors discovered this was her second stroke.  She is slowly healing.  I spent yesterday afternoon with her and my uncle.  I was delighted and humbled to find him such a compassionate patient nurse.  I was equally pleased to discover that she is slowly healing.  Their son-in-law was there to help them with their plumbing.  A neighbor couple stopped by to wish her well and offer phone numbers in the event that she needed anything.  Other friends called offering to bring dinner.  Her sister phoned to check on her.  We took a brief ride into the close-by small town for a birthday party for the 7 year old son of their neighbor.  The mother and grandmother came out from the party to hug my aunt and wish her well – offering a pizza and phone numbers in case she needed anything.  We then rode by the home of good friends who offered the same as the above to my aunt and uncle. 

In each case, the seen or the calling told my aunt they loved her and would be there for anything she needed.  My aunt is a proud independent woman, not used to needing help from anyone.  She has been the rock and the one who offers help.  She assisted her own mother with her health problems.  In the last two years, she was the nurse, hair and make-up stylist to her oldest daughter who had broken her back in a car accident.  She arrived every morning at her daughter’s house to get her up, bathe her, and get her ready for the day.  Food in tow, she was the epitome of the stalwart mother.  Now, she must accept the gracious nursing care of that same daughter, who has quit her job to stay with her mother. 

I had forgotten the tender loving care of country neighbors who are there, come hell or high water.  I was reminded of just how easy it is to lose your ability to be in charge of yourself.  I was equally humbled by those who so willingly gave of themselves.

Next to my aunt stood a basket filled with get well cards.  My aunt would definitely prefer not to be the recipient of any of this.  She would prefer to be the one giving the care, not receiving.  That is true of many of us.  Part of the graciousness of life is that we learn to accept what others offer and take it willingly, with love and appreciation.

I greatly enjoyed my hours with both of them, listening to my uncle’s stories about people I had known, and taking a picture of an ancestral home.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be in their presence.  I wish her godspeed on her journey to good health, and love to my nieces and uncle who are taking such tender care of her.  It was a good day for me to be there.  Family and friends are so important.

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Friendships as we get Older

I used to hear this from people and I would think, “How odd.”  But it is true.  Finding friends and keeping friends becomes somewhat more difficult as we get older.  I believe there are many reasons for this.  As our family’s grow, we often find that more time is spent with them (children, grandchildren, parents needing care).  Sometimes people’s priorities change which put you more out of touch with those same people.  Friends move.  Friends move on.  Yet, it is this stage in life when I want more friends.  I want more people-involvement in my life.  So I’m determined to find just that.

Last night we attended a “meet-up” event in downtown Greenville.  We went to Rey’s, a bar we had never been to before.  We didn’t even know it existed.  We met some interesting and very nice people.  Hopefully, this will become people we will see again.  I am seeking other such opportunities.  

Keeping social and keeping people in your life is an important component of health.  If you’ve found difficulties in finding friends, but have overcome that, please share how you’ve done it.  I believe we can all learn from each other and continue increasing our social connections and awareness, regardless of our age.

Build Your Support Base

Life can give you a lot of lemons.  Lemon crops tend to harvest themselves sometimes in one season.  I think we refer to this often as Murphy’s Law.  When the lemons come, and the proverbial lemonade does not follow, life becomes a little more bearable if you have a strong support system – people around you who will pick you up, dust off your hurt feelings, and urge you to keep going.  This personalized system can be an organization, your family, your spiritual home, your friends – when tough times arrive, your base needs to be in place.  You will survive it stronger and with more compassion if you have taken the earlier steps to make sure you have that system and there are people on which you can rely.

I am blessed with much when it comes to people who step up and support me.  This support exists because I have taken the role of being a non-judgmental friend, family member, wife, sister, daughter, and participant.  I have two sisters who step up for me and offer me ideas, suggestions, and compassionate perspective any time I ask.  I have spent a lot of time and effort (good effort) on being there for my older sister.  I have not done as good a job with the younger, a situation I am working on changing. I have two brothers who can say the kindest things to me.   I have three close friends who have been part of my life for many years, and we have taken turns being there for each other when life distresses with parents and children have almost torn us apart.  I have a new group of girlfriends I intentionally created to have an even stronger net and to be part of their net.  I have become involved with my fellowship in order to be a giver to those who need immediate care including a hot meal and a few words of comfort.  I have a spouse who listens and supports, an experienced and kind therapist who offers me objective advice when I feel that those who love me might not be so objective.  I have a minister/friend who loves us all through thick and thin, and understands that his flock does the best that they can in almost all circumstances.

“To those who are given much, much is expected.”  I think that one is often credited to Rose Kennedy.  I have been given much, and I do my daily best to return it in kind.  This does take conscious effort on my part.  Not everyone has the time or the resources to complete this kind of action.  Not everyone wants to.  I do this not out of altruism – I do wish it was.  I do it because I need the love and support from those in my circle of influence who have been through so much themselves, and who are willing to get my back when I feel that the troubles of my life are pulling me under.

I offer this blog to you because you, too, can create such a support system.  It begins with one person at a time.  One written card at a time.  One phone call at a time.  One shared meal at a time.  Build your community to be there to offer you love and compassion when you most need it.  Do it intentionally.  Live your life intentionally.  Love your friends and family intentionally.  The return on investment will make it so worthwhile.