Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Good Eye

I have been like the little bird
with one good eye.
As I moved to the feeder 
to refill the seeds
she didn’t see me.
So I poked her purplish wing
once, twice.
She hopped about to face me
with her one good eye
then flew away.

Even with two good eyes
I have only seen half
of what can be seen.
But year by year
my callow vision improves,
like veils being lifted away
one by one or
like a foreign language
that sounds like nonsense
until you learn it, speak it
understand its beauty.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

There is No Reality (The coming election year)

Many years ago I read a book by Dr. Phil.  (Life Strategies) This common sense book had a big impact on me.  In the book he gave some basic life strategies and two of them changed my thinking.  I think these are particularly pertinent in light of the political animosity that this country is currently experiencing and certainly will be in the coming year.

There is no reality - only perception.
 My first reaction to this was, of course there is reality!  But think about a time when you and another person have been at the same place at the same time but have interpreted what happened there differently.  It's almost like someone telling a joke and one person finds it hilarious and another person doesn't. No one is right and no one is wrong. It's just their perception.

Everyone's perception is colored by a lifetime of personal experiences and observations and it is quite common for two people to view the same thing in two different ways.  Just look at the way the bible can be continually argued. One of us reads a passage to mean one thing and someone else sees it another way.

Here's an example:
One of my friends has managed his rental properties for many years. In that time he has witnessed people sitting around watching television while collecting government assistance. So naturally what he has seen influences his viewpoints.

I spent 22 years teaching children living in poverty. I saw firsthand the devastating effects on their lives. I listened to the single mothers whose husbands had left them with no financial support for their children.  The mothers who wanted to help with homework or be at conferences but had to take a third shift job and weren't home for their kids - just trying to put food on the table. So my viewpoint has been highly impacted by years of seeing those situations firsthand.

Those stories are simplified versions of the problem - but even though I did not agree with him I could understand my friend's viewpoint based on his life experience - not mine.

We teach people how to treat us
This is a tough one to accept but I've found it to be true.  The premise is that you must take responsibility for how people treat you and react to you.  It's YOU, not THEM.  So if you feel like a doormat at home or work, maybe you have allowed yourself to be treated that way. Maybe you have even subtly rewarded the other person for doing it by giving them what they want.

The same goes for being ignored, disrespected or being treated in a rude way. What have you done to bring this behavior out in the other person?

So as we enter a volatile time let's remember that we will receive what we send out. How often do we criticize someone for being judgmental when we are actually doing the same thing to them? Everything goes BOTH ways for all of us.

Even though many of these problems seem to be human nature I know I am going to try to keep these truths in mind much more in the coming years.

It's all part of COEXISTING. :)  It's not my expertise - it's my ideal and hope.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Gift of Stressful Times

These past two years have been heartbreaking, revelatory and soul-changing.  It has also been stressful, exhausting and confusing.

I have been through several heart-wrenching and life changing times in my own life - divorce, depression, difficult relationships, stressful work situations - and yet I have discovered that a painful experience in your own life is nothing like watching someone you love going through trials.

Even after so much turmoil in my own emotional life I have discovered that being a daily participant in the end-of-life struggles of my beloved parents has been much more stressful.

I keep asking myself why I am not handling this better. Why it has completely consumed me and I cannot separate myself from what they are going through even when I am not with them.  My life revolves around their needs, physical and emotional.

The natural reaction seems to be to try to keep something of your own life intact.  Try to find stress relievers, a little joy amidst the sorrow.  That in itself is a huge effort and one that constantly gets slapped down as needs change, as unexpected crises arise.  You can never truly get away from your grief and concerns.

I began canceling out my own life because I couldn’t be counted on to fulfill any commitments. I did it willingly and said to myself - this is my life now and it’s ok.  I am grateful every day that I am now retired and yet that sense of constantly being torn between my life and theirs has not changed.

I feel like I am lost, unfocused and starting to slide into a depression.  Depression, I learned many years ago, happens when something is too much for someone to handle.
But this can’t be too much for me. I have no choice but to care for my mother now. I am extremely fortunate to have one other sibling to share the care-taking. How can it be too much when I am so willing to devote myself to this right now?

But on those days when I am off-duty I flounder. I still feel sad. I miss my father and want him back to help us through this.  We didn’t really have a chance to grieve his loss before we were consumed by my mother’s needs.

The stress comes not from chores and visits or from advocating for her welfare everywhere we go - but for making choices for someone else’s life. It is heartbreaking telling her she is once again going to the hospital or the rehab facility.  We spend a lot of time encouraging her and the rest of the time agonizing over how we will deal with the next need, the next change in plans.

There is not enough money to provide 24 hour a day home care and yet, that is what she needs right now.  Even though my father planned well for these years the money is quickly dwindling and we must make decisions about that as well. 

I believe what is needed now is to embrace this experience for everything that it is.  To stop the battle between her life and ours. Some of the effort is in trying to avoid the most difficult situations. Times of indignity and humiliation, times when nothing goes as planned.  

I have a praying family and I pray as well. Yet, one of my biggest life lessons has been that God does not make anything easier no matter how many prayers are sent up for you.  What will happen in this world will happen.  He does not make the elderly young again. He does not make care-taking pleasant. He does not heal the body when it is worn out. He does not follow our well thought out plans, or even give us what we are so sure we need ( which is usually to make it easier).

I have thought a great deal about prayer in these years because so many people say they are praying for you.  Even in my life-long faith I began to wonder what good prayer is when the situation never gets better or even clearer.  What exactly are we praying for?  We can pray all we want for someone to be healed, but if they have a life-threatening illness they will not heal. They will die anyway.

I have honestly not felt uplifted by prayer at this time in my life even though I have at other times. So what am I missing?  I am not blaming God for anything. This is life on this Earth and sometimes I long for heaven myself - something better than this.  Why is the journey to get there so difficult? Why do we never stop grieving those we have lost?

Then I think about how I have changed as a human being during this process. How much I have accepted, how much I actually have handled. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been tears (buckets-full)  or anger or frustration - but we have made it through so far.

We kept our Dad in his home until the end - and that was the plan. We spent two beautiful days surrounding him with love.  My mother knows she is loved and cared for and that we will do whatever we need to to help her through this transition in her life.  My own children are seeing and experiencing these years, which is something I never saw in terms of my own grandparents - and maybe they will do better than I have in the future.  I was given a beautiful, joyful grandson in the midst of the sorrow to brighten every moment I am with him.  He was and is a gift beyond measure and has probably saved me from true desperation.

I am more compassionate to others that have gone through these same trials (and most people have or will at some point since so many people are living longer). Maybe in the future I will be able to help someone else through the same thing.  I have a husband and friends who listen and care and when I am at the end of my rope. I have learned that my life is not really mine after all. Surrendering to what is has been an on-going learning experience for me in life. Service to others is something that is part of a rich and full life.  Compassion is a divine goal. Love is always the answer. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Harp of Love

This is a painting by my mother and favorite artist, Martha Vogel . It is called "Harp of Love."
Happy Easter to all.