Joni Eareckson Tada is sounding an alarm about a very dangerous message in a film released this summer.
When I was younger, I was immersed in the present and assumed things would always be somewhat the same. I was taught to learn, seek goals, whether it be marriage and love, or job promotions and advancement. There were certain things that were just “the way things were” and life happened. I didn’t think much about anything further than the near future I could see.
But there are seasons to each life. I’ve passed through a few of them. I got married and had children. 46 years have passed. I am still living in that season but there have been others within. I lost friends who were too young. I lost a father. I lost a younger sister. I’ve had cancer.
In the beginning, there was a time of growing, learning what it meant to become an adult. I remember after my 2nd child musing that “I must be a woman now.” There was a time of independence. I decided to buy a car on my own, without my husbands’ help. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something without his guidance. I was very proud of my baby doo doo yellow Toyota.
There was a time of losing my naiveté and learning about life, and work and how others live in the world. I learned how to cuss. There was a time of brokenness, of emotionalism and a time of therapy. There was a time of spiritual seeking. During that time I rediscovered and found again my love for God and met Jesus.
That time began a journey in a new direction. I felt and tasted the presence of the Holy Spirit and wanted more. I met a community of Charismatic Nuns who became mentors and friends and lifelong prayer companions. I had a season of prayerfulness which forged a habit and love and dependence upon prayer which has sustained me and strengthened me, and taught me how to live the rest of my life.
Now I am in a new season. If it has to be defined, perhaps it is a time of aging, a time of disability, a time of learning dependence of a different sort. Through it all, I have used and been sustained by the prayerfulness I learned before. I am eternally thankful for that season of learning about prayer. I couldn’t have gotten this far without it and without my faith.
And as I look ahead, I also look behind. I can see some mistakes and some times when I was more seeking than I am today. I have learned a little about living with resignation, but still grasp onto the vision of hope and a better and stronger future. Perhaps now it is time to once again seek for more.
Two years ago when I had to quit work suddenly and “became handicapped”, I had to make certain adjustments and self realizations. I could no longer be self-sufficient. I could no longer be independent. I now had to rely on others for help. I had to allow home health care into my home to give me physical therapy and ongoing monthly care.
It was a huge adjustment. I have always been a hermit. I never had close friends. My sisters were my closest friends and I didn’t need anyone else. I grew up always feeling “on the outside looking in” and that people, especially women coworkers. would always judge me on my house, my furniture, and how clean or messy it was. My house was my sanctuary from the world. It was where I could go and be safe. It was never shared with others outside of family.
Now, I was required to let strangers into my house, and they were usually women. Already apprehensive at life changes and unknown waters, I now had to trust strangers with my personal care and my personal space. Years of increasing immobility had added to my procrastination and inability to “keep the house presentable” and in perfect working order. Years of neglect and compromises were now being scrutinized by outsiders. This added a level of stress and discomfort to an already anxiety-ridden situation.
I soon learned that most of these caregivers were kind, compassionate, understanding and empathetic. I began to relax my guard somewhat. And then a few months ago, my home health care provider decided to regroup and no longer wanted to continue that service. They merged with a new company and an abrupt and sudden new change began.
I was used to a certain level of care and understanding. Now, there were unknown changes in protocol and operating procedures. I used to know when the nurse came, that she would come back the next month, on a certain day and what time. She was assigned to me personally. She knew my house. She knew my quirks. She knew my body and what I needed and how to accomplish that.
When the changeover began, I was once again apprehensive until I met them and found they were just as compassionate and eager to serve as I was accustomed to. And then, I would get phone calls the night before telling me they wanted to come by. The nurse who came the month before was new each time. I had someone new coming into my home every two weeks and never knew who it would be. Sometimes they would know my routine and sometimes they wouldn’t.
My former nurse had taken extensive notes and made sure she transferred them to my permanent records. Everything about me, how we “did” things, and what supplies they needed to bring were all there. Each time a new nurse came, they were always surprised. They would bring wrong supplies and say, Oh I didn’t know that. I learned to retell everything I could think of each time I got that evening phone call. And still, they constantly didn’t know things or were nonplussed at the care I needed. I’m sure there is not a “standard” for each patient. It became stressful and frustrating to continue to never know who would come and whether they would be ready.
I mentioned once that I didn’t like not knowing ahead of time and felt like I was never informed about my own care. I said that the previous month, the nurse was so nonplussed at my way of doing things that were different from what she was accustomed to, that it was not a pleasant experience. That actually got me a steady nurse for maybe 3 visits. I began to count on my “regular”. Having a change of catheter once a month is an intimate thing and having someone who was used to me, my handicaps and my physiology made things easier.
Once again, a new nurse called me tonight to tell me she was coming tomorrow for an assessment. I was immediately on the defensive. I asked ‘for what?’ And she replied ‘the “normal” nurse visit,’ though I can’t remember the exact term she said. I said ‘I was expecting a catheter change soon. not an assessment.’ She said, ‘that’s right.’ I then said ‘but that is not what you just told me.’ So, just to make sure she had seen my records and knew what to expect, I started asking questions. I made sure she would bring the correct supplies and she said yes and listed what she would bring. Well, that was wrong and when I corrected her, she said ‘oh I didn’t realize. I don’t have access to all of your records.’
I can’t tell you how comforting that statement was. The stranger who was supposed to come care for me, change out my catheter, did not have access to information I felt was need to know? In my frustration and anxiety I am sure I was a little short with her. Upshot? She ruined my evening for a couple of hours. It did cause me to make an online statement to the home health care agency about the changes and how the continuing uncertainty was affecting me as a patient. I don’t know if that will make things worse or not. Time will tell…
I had country music videos on the tv as background while I was on the computer. Tim McGraw’s new song “Humble and Kind” came on. It’s a really good one. I’m glad for him. Anyway, it made me flash back a few years ago to a work situation.
I worked in a multi-racial shop. It wasn’t something I noticed most of the time. I tend to notice someones’ morals or work ethic before I notice skin color. Several women were black, many were Mexican american and I realized in amusement that I was the only white person in the shop. But what was always special, is we were all just women. Mothers, sisters, aunts, wives, some the only support for their families, we were all just women working together to do a job to help our families. We all had problems with home or kids or how to pay the bills and all worked together and helped each other when we could.
The one time I felt odd, was when we got a new employee. She loved to begin speaking spanish with the others every time she went into one area of the shop. I could hear their words in the background but couldn’t understand. It made me notice for the first time that even though we all worked together towards a common goal, we were all very different. We came from different backgrounds. We were raised in different environments. And the language gathered some together into a clique and isolated others. It was an interesting observation of how “kind tends to stick to kind”.
My mind then jumped to when I was new to some of the employees and an oddity. I was older, in a chair, and obese. There was an air of distance or “hmm does this mean we are going to have to help her? That wasn’t part of my job description. or is she in that chair because she’s lazy?” It was uncomfortable for me, as if I had to prove myself to them.
I was the one who decorated the wedding cakes and did a lot of hand work; making fondant accent pieces or figurines, and this could all be done sitting down. I did frequently have to ask for help in lifting things, or getting things down off of shelves and sometimes tried to do more than was easy for me, causing things to topple and fall onto my head instead of asking too often. It was a balancing game I had to play and sometimes it added to my work stress. I had to ask for help to keep myself safe, but didn’t want to add too much to others workloads by asking for help too often.
I realized that always saying thank you was a huge thing. It was something I was always taught to do, say please and thank you and said it easily. It took a few months, but one day I noticed others also saying thank you for simple every day small things we tend to take for granted.
I realized that the very small things are what we tend to take for granted and also what can be valuable to others. Just a simple thank you can go a long way in showing appreciation for someones help in day-to-day things and show that we notice their contributions no matter how small.
A smile can lift a spirit. We never know what burdens others are carrying. Most of us try to leave our home problems at the door when we go to work, but they are still there stewing around. A smile of appreciation or a simple thank you can do wonders to make us realize we have more than just problems.We are noticed. We are appreciated. We have value. We are important.
And the simple courtesies work both ways. We can lift our own spirits by giving a simple smile to someone. That might be all that we can muster on that particular day, but we will usually get a positive response which can also lift our own spirits and soothe fragile emotions.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Open a door for someone. PIck up something someone dropped and hand it to them with an empathetic smile. Say excuse me. Say, oops sorry. Say thank you. And mean it. And don’t forget: someone is always watching you and judging you by how you treat others. Simple courtesies. The are catching and they will enrich everyone.
Just reading the list makes me roll my eyes. There is so much on the list that sounds impossible. And it addresses not just physical stillness but mental stillness as well.
For several years before I retired, I found it very difficult to sit still and just watch tv without doing something with my hands. At work, I was a wedding cake decorator. I was constantly doing something with my hands; making fondant accents, icing cookies, icing and decorating a cake, making candy. There was no such thing as being still and there never seemed to be enough hours in the work day to get everything necessary done.
When I spent my days off, I often felt odd, like I should be making something or doing something with my hands. Even now, I usually am making a rosary, or a piece of jewelry, or typing on my computer. It is only if I want to really concentrate on a new movie that I can just sit and watch.
Stillness of mind is even more difficult. It is just not something that comes easy with most of us. Our minds are always churning and pondering and cogitating on something. To read a devotional or to read the Bible, or to pray, it is often difficult to quiet our minds and get rid of outside thoughts enough so we can concentrate on the present moment.
Even when I’m working on something, there is something else happening. I usually have the tv on as background, or music. Even when I nap I have music on. I remember spending time laying in the grass looking at clouds, but I was a child then. One of my favorite things to do was to take a long soak in a bubble bath. I miss those days.
Perhaps it is time to search for some stillness in our lives. We need to refresh ourselves and have quiet to gain perspective and to recharge. It is a way have balance in our day-to-day lives. Look for some quiet time, or at least some alone time. We need that to stay healthy and to stay sane. We are just as important as everyone else in our lives, and they will like us better when we can remain balanced. Stillness? I’ll have to try it.
This was prompted by The Sandbox Challenge
PARIS — The swollen Seine River kept rising Friday, spilling into Paris streets and forcing one landmark after another to shut down as it surged to its highest levels in nearly 35 years. Across the city, museums, parks and cemeteries were being closed as the city braced for possible evacuations. The Seine was expected to…
Balance? Everyone talks about it. It sometimes appears to come easily to others. Have a career? be a mom? spend time with siblings? take time for yourself? Give to spouse? Volunteer? Keep up with chores?
Sometimes we feel we are being pulled in a million directions. And something has to suffer. It’s a given. You have to learn to walk on those slippery step stones, taking one step at a time, shifting, and just keep from falling.
Everyone learns to juggle just to remain sane. I have compiled my list.
- Pray a lot. Make a prayer closet. Read a daily devotional. Always add something into the day to get you started and a place to deposit the junk of the day at night so you can get good rest and begin again.
- Stay mentally organized. (you notice I said mentally.) If you start melting down when surroundings get too cluttered, try keeping the clutter to a manageable level. Pick up after yourself. Put things in their proper place when finished with them. Keep your work area organized and periodically get rid of something that has accumulated and takes up space. It will make you feel better and lessen the stress and frustration.
- Pray a lot.
- Avoid drama. There will always be drama in your life whether it is at home or at work. Avoid the unnecessary drama. Don’t get sucked into the life drama of every single person you know. You can only affect what’s in your own life. Otherwise, it’s just gossip and some of it will be depressing. You can be sympathetic, understanding and can offer empathy without opening yourself up to be Dr. Phil or Father Confessor.
- Pray a lot.
- Smile. Smiling at someone will coax your own mood to rise. Tell someone they look nice today. Use simple courtesy like thank you and I appreciate that. It will touch others on many levels. It will smooth the mood of your surroundings.
- Pray a lot.
- Listen to calming music. Listening to rap or metal will NOT keep you calm. It is designed to agitate the senses. How about oldies or instrumental? Personally, I prefer Christian. I can get encouragement and be uplifted while I jam in my chair. Listen to something affirming on cd. I sometimes listen to the audio Bible. Anything that can become background and not stimulate you is what you are looking for. An oasis in the storm.
- Pray a lot.
- Learn to say no. Sometimes we agree to take on more than is humanly possible and we tell ourselves we’ll figure it out somehow. Too many ‘irons in the fire’ just causes extra stress. It’s hard enough focusing on the important things without stealing time and energy to stick somewhere else, especially if we dread doing it or recognize it’s going to be sloppy. It’s all important? Then you have to take a step back, decide which is MORE important and prioritize. Let others help you accomplish tasks. You are only one person and you have to learn what your limits are. You really aren’t Wonder Woman or Superman.
- Pray a lot.
- Make absolutely sure you steal some time for yourself. A bubble bath. A manicure. A steam. A run. A nap. You have to be able to give to yourself and get refreshed before you can give to others.
- Pray a lot.
What works for me might not work for you. That teeter totter some of us live on moves with every breath we take. You have to find out what works for you. Things will only get better when you strive for the balance.
This was prompted by the sandbox writing challenge.
I’ve always liked mirrors. I think they are clear and shiny and beautiful. They seem to add a lot to their surroundings, reflecting light and what they see. I see this beautiful mirror, ornate and silver-trimmed and admire its beauty. When I peer into it, an older woman looks back at me. She wears glasses, has short mussed hair with grown out roots and she looks tired. There are tiny frown lines on the forehead but not many wrinkles. There are drooping cheeks and jowls, partly from age and partly from weight losses over the years. She has never been beautiful, but pleasant to look at. Smiling always helps. The complexion is pale but still clear. She never could spend much time in the sun.
Nothing much has changed over the years, except life changes. marriage, children, work, successes, failures, new challenges, small forays into uncharted adventures for the timid at heart and time passages. The biggest change has been the graying hair. The glasses have changed. When she got married, they were black cats eye frames. That was 46 years ago. Now, they are a plain squarish oval in shape. Eyebrows have gotten crazy with spurts of temperamental lengths and direction. There are no bags under the eyes. Perhaps they just fell into the drooping cheeks and jowls and you can’t tell.
Close up is better. Backing off, you tend to see more. She never liked looking in the mirror. Mirrors show too much. Those things we learn to live with and become comfortable with jump out at us if we look in the mirror. Some are gradual but eventually they become part of the norm. Looking into the mirror would just point out things we might not want to see. Best to just take cursory glances to make sure everything is presentable.
There are great collar bones. She always thought she looked good with necklines that showed off the collar bones. But she was never comfortable with sleeveless. Somehow that made her feel naked and exposed. And if anyone came up next to her and wanted to grab her arm, she’d cringe. Too much sag and bagging hidden by the longer sleeves. A constant reminder of weight struggles and fluctuations and seeking to be normal. She never liked wearing form fitted clothing. Better to wear loose and draping, the kind that camouflaged. Never had great legs or pretty ankles. Long skirts are better and pants are preferred.
Now she sees years. Good for the most part. But all of a sudden, she couldn’t walk. Well, all of a sudden is not really true. First she began using a cane. Then she needed a walker. And then the day came when she could no longer walk very far and a wheelchair became part of the furniture. Gradual changes that crept into her life and nestled there until one day she thought “doesn’t everyone live this way?”
There was a cervical tumor. It was a surprise, but not a surprise. Tiny indications put the C word in her subconscious and rolled around in there until it seemed normal. Still, a tumor she couldn’t see or feel began chemo and extensive radiation treatments. She felt distanced, not quite part of the whole thing. It was surreal. As if she were hiding in the background and watching someone else. It began and ended quickly and abruptly, like being caught in a whirlwind, leaving confusion and bewilderment behind.
The chemo was mild. She didn’t lose her hair. She was almost disappointed. It would have been nice to have new hair come in curly or something. The radiation was interesting but painless. Pain came later. When the body complained about being “internally sunburned”. Changes in bodily functions and pelvic pains became constants. They just joined with the arthritis pain and became daily companions.
Mood swings visited once again. In younger days, they were constants but had been absent long enough to be unwanted and surprise guests. Now days were measured in pain and in mood. Sometimes the pain would rule the mood, sometimes the mood would rule the pain. It was never easy to figure out. Uncertainty would creep into the mix. Was the C really gone? There is more pain today. Has it come back? No, it’s just pain.
Her body was different now. Sagging and drooping skin were the most concerning. The knees that needed to be replaced had been put on the ‘to do later’ list. Things taken for granted in her youth no longer were true. She marveled at people crossing their legs, or walking up stairs or just walking. It would be nice to be able to get into a bathtub for a relaxing soak once again. She missed that the most.
The mind was still young and active though and couldn’t understand why now, when there was more time, it wasn’t able to accomplish what it wanted to do. The body was just not cooperative.
She decided it was time to dye her hair. Cover up the roots and make the hair look exciting again. Her grandmother had the most beautiful white hair in her later years. She always admired that. Maybe platinum blonde to cover all of the gray.
She took a deep breath. The ‘all right. let’s get this day started’ kind of breath. Undergirding the emotions with positive reinforcement. Changes have begun. Weight loss has begun. There are new goals to strive for. The journey is still ahead.
She turned away from the mirror. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
This was prompted by the sandbox writing challenge.
I began this 8 day challenge with ZERO expectations because I am handicapped, sedentary, have lymphedema which tends to hang on to fluids and weight like crazy and because I have been on a strict 1500 calorie diet for 2 years to help me lose weight and gain mobility. I just wanted to feel better after cancer treatments last fall. I weighed as normal on Sunday and began my 8 day challenge on Monday. After finishing 2 days on this challenge, I have lost 6.4lbs. It is a little surreal.
Life is full of new journeys, first steps and new twists and turns in our path. Sometimes interesting, sometimes painful, sometimes by design and sometimes they can be rude surprises.
This one is by choice. I have been watching a friend from church over the past couple of years. She lost some weight, and then her husband lost a lot of weight and I started watching in the background. I knew she was using supplements and a lifestyle change to health and feeling better. After my chemo and radiation treatments last fall, feeling good again is a sometimes elusive goal so I became intrigued.
I joined a Facebook group just for “” like me, and started reading success stories. People were losing weight, going off of medications, gaining energy, feeling better and just overall full of excitement. I decided to look into it and talk to my friend.
Upshot? I’ve started an 8 day “jump start” program to feel better, detox and maybe even lose a few extra pounds. All good, right? It’s day 2 so I’ll keep you posted.
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