Neighborhoods Have Rhythm

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Neighborhoods have a rhythm. Most of us don’t realize it because we get comfortable as we are part of the process.

We have been residents of this neighborhood for thirty years. There is comfort in knowing at a certain time garage doors will open across the street, one at a time around the same hour, and our neighbors will pull out of the garage separately to go their own way for coffee, coming back an hour later.

There is comfort in knowing what time our neighbors on the other side pull out of their place to go to work. We worry if we don’t see it or their cars are in the driveway at the wrong times.

There is comfort knowing another neighbor pulls into his garage after a night of work getting home safely.

Without being nosy it is just the rhythm of the everyday life of those we know and love.

Soon we will be elsewhere, getting used to another way of life and I will miss the things that give me comfort in our neighborhood. We watch out for one another without being overly invested in each others lives.

A few years ago I got a call from a neighbor wondering if we were home. There was a strange man walking around our house and they wanted to know if they should go out and see what he was doing. Just recently a neighbor contacted me about a strange car at the other neighbors. Usually this time of day they were gone. Did we need to be concerned because a stranger got into their garage?

Who would have thought ordinary comings and goings would bring me sadness. As I sit here this morning and watch the normal meanderings of my neighbors I am thankful for these neighbors, their friendship and their caring. Living in a new place with a new window in a new neighborhood, I will view new scenery but at the same time I will imagine the images of my past home; the garage doors opening, the neighbor’s leaving for their jobs and the neighbor home safely from his travels. I will be in a new space but the space in my heart reserved for these people that have shared our lives and our neighborhood spaces will always be there, always remembering the friendship, the kindness and the caring. Excuse me if that brings a little tear to my eye.

Appreciate the normal hum of your neighborhood. Take time to breathe it in and appreciate the people that are part of that. They may contribute unknowingly to make your life richer.

“When one neighbor helps another, we strengthen our communities.”

Jennifer Pahlka

I’m Not Okay! I Am But I’m Not.

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Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty.
Appear as you are. Be as you appear.

Rumi

Photo by Jan Tancar on Pexels.com

I would guess my title is confusing. I haven’t written much about caregivers but I suspect there is so much they are not saying.

I’m not a stranger to working with someone whose memory is failing them. Being an only child I was the one to see that my mom got the care she needed. She was not very accepting of this care and didn’t like me very much until her last years.

My mother-in-law also had memory loss issues. My sister-in-law was the one that alerted us to the fact and so we tried to help with our mother and mother-in-laws care.

My sister-in-law, after taking care of her mother, also needed care and her husband and family stepped up and loved her as she was. Sadly we did not step up as much as we could have. We were one of those people who weren’t sure what to do so we stayed away, much to our regret now that we are wiser. I also think we were tired from my mom and my mother-in-law’s situation and deaths, and our way of coping was to stay away rather then to watch another family member struggle. We were not okay though we appeared to be.

My brother-in-law went from being a very capable person to one that could not navigate life on his own. My sister-in-law, his caretaker, tried to take care of him but she got tired and as a result, had a hard time making decisions about their life.

We tried to help in all of these situations. We were aware but we didn’t want to overstep, although occasionally we did, because we saw how tired their caregivers got and so we helped make some decisions.

The difference between that and my caregiving duties now is that for us or me, it wasn’t 24/7. I could leave the situation but in each instance, those family members that were caregivers never complained and would always say they were okay. It’s like a shame to admit we can’t always handle things on our own when we are caregivers. We become tired. Our decision-making is occasionally made out of tiredness because we can’t think about one more thing. Reaching out to others seems like a weakness and there is the fact that family and friends do not always know what to do or they feel uncomfortable.

There is also the guilt if we have to put a loved one in a facility where someone else cares for them. The reality I have seen is that tired caregivers aren’t always the best people to care for the people they love. A wife goes from being a wife to being caught up in the chores of making meals, juggling doctor appointments, seeing the house is safe and keeping their place of living clean. They become a mother not a wife. The world for both of them becomes lonely.

We are blessed as when we reached out we have been receiving wonderful support. My children help when they can and my daughter saw that I was too tired to find a place to live where things would be easier for us. She took charge and that was what I needed for us to make a move. It was hard to trust that job to another person, even my daughter.

Though my kids are supportive they haven’t been able to be here much because of distance and busy schedules. Appearances short term can be deceiving, hiding from our family the reality of what is actually happening on an hour to hour or daily basis. Family might think they know what we are going through but unless they spend days with us, they don’t, just like I didn’t get the full picture with all the people in our family that have had this issue before us. I didn’t live it all day and all night on my own like they did. It is mind-blowing and a wearing, bone-tiring job. There I said it. It is tiring.

I know my kids think I complain too much. I vent to them and I probably shouldn’t, and they give the only response they know how to give and most of the time that is: “It’s going to be alright.” And it is,and I don’t know what I expect them to say at that moment.

I think the gist of what I am saying in this long diatribe is this: I try to be positive and most days it works. I suspect that is true for most caregivers because we know what our loved one is going through is much worse. But there are days when we just want to shout to the rooftops “I am not okay.” But we don’t because of the response we get from others. We need our loved ones to understand we need for them to let us to not be okay for a moment, an hour, a day, so we can pull ourselves back up and go on with all the details our life now entails that we don’t want to do. Let us have those times and don’t feel uncomfortable when we feel that way. It will pass. We just may need to express it out loud. We’re not looking for sympathy we need to let it out and not bottle up unhealthy feelings.

I had a recent phone conversation with a person that has taken care of their loved one for a long time. Their children want them to move to somewhere where there is more help. The kids have given them brochures, telephone numbers etc. to no avail. The children have given up and said there is nothing more they can do and have resigned themselves that this is not going to end well.

In talking to their person recently, that is the caregiver, I said, “You’re just too tired to make any of these decisions, aren’t you? The thought of finding a place to move and then actually moving plus trying to tell your loved one is overwhelming.” They broke down and said, “Yes.” So the children and the parents are at an impasse because the children don’t understand this and the parent can’t communicate it. I imagine there are many scenarios like that.

If you’re reading this, take away from it what you want. I’ve found help through an Interfaith Caregiver’s group in my county and the VA , because my loved one is a Veteran. There are also county services you might qualify for and if you’re a Senior Citizen, the Senior Link Line is a great resource too. I know you’re tired, but reaching out to one of these might bring you some respite.

Don’t forget bout family and friends. They can’t help if they don’t know. Our kids, our extended family and friends, plus these groups have kept us going. God brings blessings when our tears fall. It’s okay to not be okay, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Minnesota Senior Link Line

Interfaith Caregiver’s

Alzheimer’s

Some of these are Minnesota Link’s but most states have their own resources.

Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

Have you ever played Follow the Leader when you were a little kid? A person is appointed to lead, and whatever they did you were supposed to do without question. It was a fun and harmless game. But what if the leader of the child’s game would have jumped off a cliff? Would you have followed or would you have questioned whether that was a good decision to make? Basically in the rules of the game you were to follow without question.

I have heard parents make the remark about their children that their child is a follower rather than a leader and it worried them.

As adults we still play the game but it is real in what we call the game of life. The dictionary defines leader as: the person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.

At some time or other we have all been part of a group in school, college, our workplace or in our social and personal life. It has been said birds of a feather flock together. The phrase has been in use since 1545. It means those of similar taste congregate in groups.

I find that to be true in my own life. I tend to migrate to the authors, readers, compassionate, caring groups. I have been led astray during my lifetime when I hung around those who were critical and belligerent about almost everything. It is very easy for me to be that way, especially when the only ones I am with lend to that category. During those times I did not like myself very much, and I have to watch that I don’t get sucked into that abyss again, because we feed off each other. I followed a leader that led me down a path I couldn’t feel good about.

I was reading Max Lucado’s book “In the Eye of the Storm” and that is what brought about this blog post. It zeroed in on my thinking about what a good leader is. Of course, Max was talking about Jesus, which brought me thoughts about where I have been the leader and also a follower.

I don’t think I have always been a good leader. In my younger years I could have been the bully, bullying people into volunteering for things they didn’t want to do. I have probably mislead them on judgements that I now know are false when it comes to other people and my opinion. Thinking back on it my problem was insecurity and so if I judged someone, I thought it might make me feel better about myself, only it had the opposite effect.

Life is a learning curve when it comes to leadership and following, whether you in grade school, high school, college or being an adult.

Bullying is big in the world now, not just in school but our society, and to change it we have to start in our homes and in our schools. We have to look at our actions and how we are leading our families, our friends and organizations. Little children aren’t born with hate and judgement in their hearts, we teach them that by being parents who do not monitor our behavior. We teach them that by allowing social media and television to give them the message if we treat others badly it is acceptable.

I think of when the Bunkers and All In The Family, first came on television. Of course it was funny, but was it really funny the way Archie treated Edith? I never did like the Honeymooners even as a child, because of the way Ralph treated Alice. Because of what I was seeing I accepted it in my own life, laughing off the jabs when it hurt inside. Isn’t that what we were expected to do?

Here is what I think leadership is NOT. Being a leader is not leading by making others feel less then, belittling or threatening. It is not leading others to mimic the same behavior in our society. It is not leading by fear. Leadership is not building a group that stands for anything even related to bullying.

A father and mother lead their family not by prejudice, hate and fear and bad behavior; they lead their family by teaching their children respect, integrity and trust for themselves and others.

Being a follower you can become a leader if you see you are following behavior that harms others, and make the decision to not accept the behavior of the person you are following. I know many good people that follow a leader whose leadership is harming others and make excuses for whatever reason I do not understand.

We can whine and moan and berate the things that are going on with our children, but we are not going to change it or stop it unless we as adults show that leadership by denouncing bullying as being wrong, and quit making excuses for it on any level from the top to the very bottom of the rung.

Are you the leader or the follower? Is the person you are following teaching you integrity and compassion for others, or are they urging you to jump off that cliff from a place you may not be able to come back from? The choice is yours.