Sunday, August 29, 2010

Do Nothing

     So many of us are caregivers, and many more of us are worriers.  We want to be able to fix the world:  men have no proprietary edge on that. When we can't fix what is broken, we take care of it in the best way we can. There is healing in being able to do something, anything, to make the situation better. In my case, caring for my sister means baking cookies and sending cards and eating breakfast with her when I visit. Those things won't heal the cancer, but they help heal the soul, both hers and mine. And that's about all we can ask for, since we aren't really in control of the universe.
    Caregiving itself is a heavy task, one I'm happy that I needn't do on a 24/7 basis. How do we refresh ourselves when the energy we have been giving to others depletes our own reservoirs?
    Martha Beck in the September issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, writes an article titled "Lying Low," the gentle art of surviving when things fall apart. "If nothing's working for you, if you feel as though you're pushing against the grain, the most productive thing you can do is nothing." Step four in her article is to "Rest like you mean it." I breathed a deep truly relaxed sigh after finishing her article.
    When there is nothing to be done, do nothing, and then bake cookies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Do You Do?

What do you do when there's nothing to be done?

When Guillain-Barre Syndrome struck my grandson Brody, I would have done anything to make it go away. But there was absolutely nothing I could do. His mothers stayed with him in the hospital to work the magic of their nurturing; his doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists tended to his medical needs. I stood on the sidelines and watched him suffer. My heart froze and splintered into a billion tiny fragments. I tried to bargain with The Universe, but she ignored my plea to transfer the illness to my body. My life hung suspended as if a pause button had been pressed, to be released only by a sign of improvement in Brody's condition. I tried another bargain: what if I offered my life in exchange, would The Higher Power heal him then? A flood of emotion lifted my spirits at the moment that I realized that I loved sweet Brody so much, I would die for him. It wasn't plausible, but I was willing, and somehow that gave me hope.

Now, almost three weeks later, Brody is on the long, tiring road to recovery. There are many ways I can help him now, and that heals my heart. Life goes on and "normal" continues to redefine itself day by day. But in the background the same question lingers:

What do you do when nothing can be done?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paths Past and Future

So. We are now at that age when we have decided it is our turn, time for us to do what we want. Finished playing the second to spouse, family, job. 
The first task is to determine if we still remember how to put ourselves first, how to allow our desires to come to the forefront. Stop forever compromising for the benefit of others. And that is no easy task.

Then, if we are going to do what we want, we have to figure out what that is. Really. Not what someone else wants, not what we think we should want, not what we have always done. Then come the questions. Where, and with whom?

Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of living someplace because that is where the spouse is happy? Am I the only one who finds herself a completely different person, with different interests, than she was at the time she married that person? And is mine the only spouse who never changed? When you contemplate the next chapter in your life, can you think of wonderful things to do, but really really don’t want to do them with that person? Do others simply hibernate rather than force a situation that seems to have only solutions that make (keep) at least one person unhappy? 

So, first, the question of where we live. What if I push my wants and then even I end up not liking it? Then we are both unhappy. What if I love it, but he is miserable?  It is such a huge responsibility to have to prove that it is the right move. 

Then, how do we find NEW things to do that we both like? Is it just selfishness that makes me NOT want to share, or is it the fear that he will drag down my joy? Is it so wrong for me to want a partner that lights up over the same things as I do? Of course, the spouse would like nothing better than for me to light up over the things he loves ... so are we both chafing at the same bit? Or do men just get used to having their way and never feel regret if we are tired of the ride?

Finally, if there is a way to prevent this growing apart over the years, it is a moot point now. Great to share with the children so they can stay in step with their partners, but not helpful for us. And is it even possible, or is it a gender and societal issue? Relationships always require some compromise, but I wonder if there are couples out there who have traversed the child-raising years and are still HONESTLY walking together on the same path.

More importantly, are you out there, like me, finding yourselves with very little intersection, but discovering a way to come back together? I would love to hear your solutions.

                                                                                    Guest post

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Boundaries of Life

During a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, a sign titled "Boundaries of Life" caught my eye. 

What are the boundaries of life? What boundaries do we set for ourselves and those around us? Do we allow others to encroach on what we need for a rich life? Sometimes relinquishing our needs for others is necessary and the right thing to do, but often we have developed the habit of putting ourselves last, and not speaking out for what we need. We live above the treeline, in the barren places, when we could live in the warmer and gentler forests, nourished by the love of those around us. Our lives needn't be windswept and lonely. By sharing and being assertive about our needs and desires, we garner the bounty of shared visions and goals. We play not just a supportive role, but create a partnership of survival and growth.

Living above the treeline is not always our choice. Circumstances may force us to struggle.  Our version of snowdrifts, wind, avalanches and exposure can be illness, job loss or relationship problems. In the mountains, nature forces trees surviving at the highest altitude into twisted shapes called krummholz. We've seen these in the Sandia Mountains just east of Albuquerque where the tree grows with the prevailing winds. On the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, krummholz grows just below the treeline along the ground. The twisted horizontal growth occurs when the normally upright tree tip or leader is blasted by wind-driven ice crystals during the winter. This winterkill of the leader prunes the top of the tree and promotes fuller growth of lower branches.

When we are buffeted by challenging circumstances, we tend to hunker down, lying in the swales and depressions of our daily lives.  But we can still survive.  The winter storms will prune us and shape us, but fuller growth, even though in a different shape than when we began, will be our reward.