Don’t Be Mad

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I have a soft heart. It may not seem that this brash, loud person is vulnerable. A friend whom I love, who is occasionally abrasive, but a tell -it-like -it-is person, keeps a part of herself hidden. She and I are alike in that we seem to be extroverts, but I found I’m really an introvert pretending to be an extrovert and always out there. We have loud personalities. We take up causes. We have loud opinions. Hidden underneath that out-there personality of my friend is one of the softest hearts I know that gets hurt easily. She keeps that hurt hidden.

Going through the transition of my husband moving into memory care has brought much soul searching. I’ve never lived alone. Acknowledging that I’m scared is hard. It’s a secret to be kept inside and I realize over the years, especially the last five, I have run on fear. Fear of upsetting the person I lived with, fear of upsetting my children. That fear came out of me as someone that was always whining, asking for help from my family, and in desperation it came across to others as a person to stay away from because I wasn’t pleasant to be around. By being opinionated and verbal about issues that weren’t mine, and taking up some other cause, I could hide my fear or put it out of my mind for a short time. My behavior distanced myself from people I love.

I was breaking inside but on the outside I was pretending, trying so hard to be this I’ve got this person to those around me that weren’t family, this social person, the perfect grandma and good friend. And I complained and cried. Why weren’t family coming home more often to see us and help, to ease what was happening. The Pandemic caused isolation and loneliness but when it was over the visits still were sporadic. I knew it was because of busy lives, but still I suspected it was the drama our life represented because of the memory loss, and me being completely emotional and irrational. Maybe emotionally they couldn’t handle what was happening either. Don’t get me wrong, if it was an emergency they were there immediately for us. Now having some quiet and alone time I pretty much accept it was me that kept them away for the small things, for more frequent visiting.

I have spent the major part of my life wanting people to not be mad at me. I can just hear Dr. Phil saying, “And how’s that working for you?” Looking back I tried too hard, came out as over the top, giving mixed messages and being wishy- washy in my actions. I am always being told by my family , “ Make a decision.” And yes I have been very outspoken. I will tell you right now that those who are caregivers 24/7 don’t think rationally either. They are too caught up in the drama of their lives.

I now see it wasn’t the situation, but me and my crazy personality that made close ones stay away. And it was fear that made me act that way. Fear of being rejected, of making the wrong decision. Fear that I would never get out of the nightmare, and fear of saying I felt I was living in a nightmare, not being able to say those words to anyone because the person I lived with really was living a worse nightmare, so what he needed is more important. His fear was there but not expressed as fear, but anger. Who wouldn’t be angry? So I felt my fear was not rational because I was fine, the healthy one. .

I suspect I am not the only caregiver that doesn’t show who they are to their families, doesn’t express their true feelings, and what they do express comes out wrong because the stress turns their ability to verbalize their emotions, making the words irrational. Not only are we fearful but angry. We keep that inside too. Caregivers compromise who they are, withhold their anger and sadness about the situation to keep the peace, and not have their families upset with them. And yet it isn’t working.

Family is love and that love doesn’t leave because of discord, but it may be hard for all of us to remember that. Our kids live in a world today that is very stressful. They are busy just trying to live and excel and don’t have time for all the drama we may bring to their lives. They have learned to set boundaries to protect themselves. And because of that, we as parents may not understand. Us oldsters were brought up in an entirely different world. We didn’t know about boundaries and stress reduction. We didn’t have media telling us to protect ourselves by staying away from toxic people. The mental health help was not there.

The two worlds of the younger generation and the older generation today are having a hard time, in some cases, understanding the dynamics of the world growing us up differently.

My generation didn’t know it was acceptable to put the toxic people out of our lives, even if they were family. If my mom would have known that she might have put my grandma out of her life. My grandma was always yelling. You can ask her grandkids, we never remember her smiling, but because she was family she was taken care of until she died. My parents sacrificed a lot to take care of parents and brothers because that’s what you did in the olden days. The nursing home and mental health weren’t options.

My mother wanted to teach in Alaska. She wanted to travel the world, but gave up her dreams to stay home and take care of her mother. Others did the same. Family came first. I always thought that was why she was crabby, now I surmise she was crabby from Caregiver burnout, not because she sacrificed her dreams. I did not understand how hard her life was. The generational difference. But the one thing I understood was that family was everything above work and even money. Both my mom and dad financially helped out family members when they had a need. Occasionally supporting them financially until they could get back on their feet. They helped both sides of the families. They helped friends. I still have my dad’s billfold with all the IOU notices from people he lent money to. Their brothers and sisters were the same way. Before her death my mom told me what she had wanted to do with her life, but that she did not regret giving up her dreams to help her family. I believe that. It was the caregiver burnout that caused the crabbiness and I didn’t understand. It was a different generation.

I think my generation has a hard time understanding the difference of today’s world and where the shift is. So we hurt, we hide it and we don’t make sense to our kids because they don’t understand that our expectations come from our past. And we don’t understand the world they live in and how stressful and time consuming the reality that is their life is.

We have a communication gap between what our hearts feel and what we say. If we choose to share, how we say it because of our emotions, it comes out wrong. Emotions that we keep hidden and don’t always recognize ourself such as fear.

Caregivers have so much fear hidden inside of them. Their world is changing. The people that love them don’t always see that their needs are getting lost in the abyss of whoever they are taking care of. A caregiver wakes up in the morning, if they’ve gotten any sleep, and puts one foot in the front of another and takes a step, and occasionally that one step is all that is holding them up. If you know a caregiver ask them what they fear. Do they feel their security is gone and they no longer feel safe? If they are that tender hearted person with a brash exterior, you may have to read between the lines because if they let all the hurt out that they are hiding, they might break. Or they may be that soul who doesn’t want to make anyone mad for fear they will disappear from their life and they will be totally alone, and so the decisions or words they speak may come out as complaining or whining, but really it’s a cry for help, for you to help them be who they are. And love them anyway.

Sunday Morning Prayer Thoughts

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I can’t imagine a life without prayer. It may appear to others that I have let my prayer life lapse. I haven’t been to an actual church service in the last few years, partly because of Covid, and partly because of laziness and disillusion with the structure, meaning the business side of churches today. Yet, I rarely miss a Sunday of online service.

I have a prayer app and a Bible on my phone that I try to use each day. It’s where I store my prayer list. My bookshelves are full of Christian books, although I am almost scared to use the word Christian anymore because of the way it is bandied about with political affiliations that twist the word, and turn it into something I do not recognize when I think of prayer and relationship with God.

I might appear to others and even my family as someone who has lost faith. I used to be an avid churchgoer, dedicated volunteer, and tried to do everything the right way in the eyes of others. That’s just it—the eyes of others. For me the pandemic helped slow me down and examine my unease when it came to church and prayer.

I found I loved the beautiful worded prayers of others, in person or in a prayer book. I get anxious because though I am a writer, I can’t make up flowery prayer on my own. Panic sets in if someone asks me to lead prayer. I babble. I’m insecure and the words don’t reach my heart.

I realized that my frustration with church was about the business dynamics and the structure. We spend more time and money on pomp and circumstance then we do on educating our children with programs and outreach to the community. It costs money to belong to most churches, and if you don’t have any, it’s occasionally hard to participate in activities or listen to the pitch for money when you can contribute little. I once was told by a church council President that my views didn’t matter because I didn’t give enough money. Imagine a homeless person walking into a church service with their old clothes and see what would happen. Would they be welcomed? Would they feel out of place?

It’s scary to share my insecurities. They’ve always been there. I just sucked them up and became part of church communities. When our life changed years ago I saw things differently. A change in our lifestyle because of circumstances changed the dynamics of our church life. No one intentionally made us feel bad, and many had no idea, but we couldn’t contribute like before and there was always an appeal for money to make the building better, or activities cost so we quit going to the activities and pulled back. We felt the shame of not being able to heed the call as we had in better days.

Back to prayer. We had to rely on and believe God had this. That’s all we could do. That’s all we can do in our lives. Prayer is what kept us going. It wasn’t the flowery prayer but just the simple prayer from our hearts that would be uttered over and over in different ways through the day. It was the two or three of us in conversation over coffee about God and prayer and taking the time to pray with those people, that kept us going. It was the simple prayer, “Help me, Lord.” It was others praying for us.

I may not be in church each Sunday, but prayer in my day never ends. I find myself uttering small prayers throughout the day, prayers of thanks, of blessing and gratitude and asking for help. I guess you could say it’s prayer without ceasing because it’s a habit. It’s where I turn. I suspect there are many others like me.

I know I need church community. My best friends over the years have come out of that community and will again once I settle in my living arrangements so I can find a church home. Church community though can be so much more than a building or a denomination. We have church community here, where we live in Independent/Assisted living. It is not unusual for someone in the dining room to ask for us to pray, or at an activity. If someone needs prayer another resident might come to our room, or we to theirs to pray for someone. This is another kind of church community.

I chose to share my thoughts because I felt someone might be feeling the way I have, and to let them know they are not alone. Your prayers matter and they are heard, no matter if they are rote prayer or a muttering as you’re walking down the street. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a sacred space or in a homeless shelter. Your prayers are heard.

I am not a religious scholar, just an ordinary person so I can’t tell you if what I’m saying is right. They are just my feelings. And now it’s time for online service with my old home church. Have a beautiful prayerful day.

Hear The Whispers Of The Elderly

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What’s on my mind? A catch-22. Most seniors at some point in their life are going to have to move into a care facility. Care facilities are expensive. It costs a lot to run them and retain good staff.

The life of nurses and nursing assistants are hard and grueling. Long hours, low pay, always short on staff and hard work.

Almost everyone depletes their funds unless you are very wealthy and eventually are forced to rely on government help. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the government to put more money toward these facilities so the monthly rent could be lower so people could afford to live in the facility and get care and not have to go on assistance? I’m not a finance person but it seems to me they might save money by putting it at the top end and helping facilities survive and helping keep the elderly off assistance.

Now that we live in a multi-level care facility, independent/assisted/memory care, I see an entirely different side of things. Our seniors should not have to worry about what’s going to happen to them financially and physically when they are going through health problems. I am old enough to remember the tv show Naked City. It opened with the line “There are 8 million stories in the naked city and this is one of them.”

As I talk to people I could say the same thing about people living in care homes across the United States. These stories get lost in all the politics. This is one of the things we should be protesting about. This is one of the things we should be fighting for. This is who you should be fighting for. The voices of the elderly in homes is silent because they can’t take to the streets and picket and let their cause be known because every day those who live in care facilities are just trying to survive. The young young ones don’t seem to want to take to the streets and speak for them. It seems to be accepted and gets talked about quietly but nothing gets done. And then there’s the paperwork but that’s another blog.

We live in a society where those who shout loudest win. I’m asking you to hear the whispers of the elderly.