Another Step Forward

In my July 2016 post titled A Second Chance, I reflected upon my daughter’s inability to continue working and need to move in with me following her surgery. I wrote, “The treasure I found is the ‘opportunity’ my daughter’s living with me gives. I am being given a second chance to extend love to her, up close and personal, in ways the immature self of my past was unable.

It is a bit of a miracle how well we have adjusted. My friends who watched me struggle in the early months are amazed at how my relationship with Nicole has evolved. I’m kind of amazed myself.

During my five months of struggle to accept our new reality, I realized that my relationship with my daughter was more important than keeping my home perfect. I intentionally let go of having my sanctuary in perfect order. That is something the immature me from my past could not have accepted.

To my delight, my daughter has worked to respect my need for order and beauty in my living environment. She is neater than she used to be and has voluntarily assumed responsibilities without my even having to ask. That has meant a great deal to me.

Then, about a month ago, she approached me and said, “Mom, if I could afford one of those walk-in tubs, would you let me get one?”

 

I knew she couldn’t afford it, but told her to go ahead and explore it. I thought her realizing that for herself was better than my nixing her request, something my immature self would have done.

And so she made a date with a salesperson to come talk with us. As I listened to his explanation of the benefits, my perspective started to shift. I thought this might work well for me, too.

As long as Nicole lives with me, I don’t have the option of moving into an assisted living facility. I’m not ready for that yet, but foresee the day when it might be a welcome option. The salesperson spoke about home healthcare aids having an easier time bathing frail, elderly people. That would address one of the issues I might face as I grow older.

The salesperson went outside and left us alone to make a decision. Nicole asked me, “What are you thinking, Mom?”

Later, as I reflected on our conversation, I realized that our relationship  had shifted from a hierarchical mother-daughter one to a more equal partnership.

I told her what I realized about how the tub could benefit me as well. Then I addressed the issue of finances. “This is how much money you have to put toward it. This is how much I could put toward it. The rest we would have to finance. That means we would need to reduce our monthly expenses.”

Her immediate response astounded me. “I’ll give up watching the Hallmark Channel.” That is a major form of entertainment for her. I suggested we visit some friends who have cut the cord with cable and explore alternative ways of watching our favorite programs. She agreed and we are in the process of taking this step.

I told her we could make a game of saving money.

I mentioned that she spends a lot of her grocery money on snacks, that they are expensive, and they aren’t good for her anyway. She is definitely her mother’s daughter. She loves potato chips as much as I did before a stent being placed in my heart in 2005 convinced me they were a luxury I could no longer afford. Nicole has not eaten a potato chip since we made this decision. Another huge decision for her.

The hardest thing for me to give up was having the house cleaned once a month. We decided to do it ourselves and we did a pretty good job working on it together. That is truly a miracle in itself. Still, I hope we will be able to add that back in after our other cost-cutting endeavors.

Nicole’s tub was installed last week. Here she is showing it off to Jacqui, who is living with us for awhile., having just returned to the States after a year in Taiwan. (And Jacqui hasn’t turned gray. She was being silly and wearing a wig.)

That tub is definitely evidence that my relationship with Nicole has entered a new phase. We have both shown evidence of maturing in our ability to demonstrate our love for each other. I am eternally grateful for this step forward on both our parts.

P.S.: I treated her to a bag of potato chips this week. I thought she had denied herself long enough. 🙂

And the Wisdom to Know the Difference

“Most of Jesus’ teachings are completely incomprehensible from a first-half-of-life perspective.”

 

Richard Rohr

In the first half of my life, I bristled whenever I heard The Serenity Prayer.

Niebuhr Serenity Prayer

Richard-Rohr_home-viewRohr points out that in the first-half-of-life, we have other developmental tasks to attend to and thus are unable to surrender and let go of the control we think we have to have to establish ourselves in life. (finding a spouse/job, making a name for ourselves, accumulating possessions) He also points out that we eventually have to let go so we can fall into our True Self–the best part of us that is always there but who we aren’t yet ready to meet.

I write in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, about my experience of learning to let go and the awakening to grace that came when I truly surrendered. I was forty-two when I embarked on the path of letting go and fifty-seven when I awakened. It is embarrassing to admit that it took fifteen years. It is an indication of how deeply entrenched my illusion of control was. Today I understand that holding onto this illusion for so long has its roots in the inattention and negligence of my childhood. But there came a time in my life when this coping mechanism no longer worked. I needed a new strategy to survive.

My experience in the second-half-of-life is that surrendering is an on-going process. It is something I find myself needing to do over and over. When I am under stress, as I have been these past few weeks dealing with my daughter’s health crisis, I revert back to trying to seize control. Before long, the toll it takes on me and on my daughter finally wakes me up again to my need to let go and surrender.

Last evening I pondered this. Yesterday, when the home healthcare nurse heard crackles while listening to Nicole’s lungs, I pointed out that she hasn’t been using her spirometer as often as has been recommended. The nurse empathized with Nicole about people being on her case. This morning during her occupational therapist’s  (OT) visit, her oxygen level was low. It was recommended that when she first gets up in the morning, she may need to increase her level from one to two liters.

incentive-spirometer

To me, that means we are going backwards. Rehab had hoped she would be off oxygen during the day before she left their facility. They got her down to one liter. Now, it is needing to be increased for at least part of the day. I gave my daughter a little tough love this morning while in her presence I had a conversation with her OT about my caregiver role.

I asked, “How should I respond to this? Do I need to harangue her (control…stress on our relationship) OR do I need to accept that it isn’t important to my daughter to increase her chances of living longer by doing all that she can to strengthen her lungs which her disease is in the process of weakening.

The questions I ponder are: Do I need to accept that living longer isn’t her primary motivation? Do I need to let go? Do I need to surrender to the possibility I might outlive her? In the bigger picture, would that be a better outcome? I am her only family and her only support. How do I practice taking care of  myself as I experience the pain of watching her make self-destructive choices and the chaos of another possible healthcare crisis?

At forty-two, detaching with love became my challenge. Between forty-two and fifty-seven, I practiced disengaging from the chaos surrounding me and wasn’t always sure I was doing it with love. At fifty-seven, my most spiritual experience in life came when I succeeded in letting go with love and surrendering to a higher will. The gift of grace received at that time changed my life.

At almost seventy-four, I once again struggle with what actions and attitudes of mine constitute detaching with love and surrendering to a higher will. My True Self knows the answer. I must be quiet enough to hear the still small voice of wisdom within.

~ ~ ~

I just heard my daughter’s timer go off reminding her to use her spirometer. And I heard her using it. When the opportunity arose this morning to have that tough love conversation with her OT, I took it. I think that was my True Self’s wisdom.

8a35f-smiley2bsun2bfaceThank you, Universe!!

Making a Difference

I think most of us need to know we make a difference. It gives our life meaning and purpose. In my professional life, I had opportunities to make a difference almost daily. Recently a chance encounter reminded me of one such difference I had made years before. I was reading a book and not paying attention to the other people in the car wash waiting room when a young man approached me saying, “Don’t I know you?”

It took me only seconds to recognize one of my favorite former clients. The session I facilitated for him and his family is among my most memorable. He proudly told me he is twenty years sober, saying, “I can’t believe the life I have now.” It was clear he continues to embrace quality recovery. And it is gratifying to know I played a small part in launching him into his amazing new life.

Today, in retirement, with my conscious-eldering focus on “being,” it is not always so easy to know if being who I am makes a difference. And so I was thrilled to learn this week that I did.

The Angels

Our Angel Group

Our Angel Group begins our meeting with a meditation. The one we used a couple of weeks ago referenced surrender. A new member asked, “How do you surrender?” Two of us shared powerful experiences we’ve had surrendering during trying times.

This week, during our time of sharing gratitude, our new member relayed the compelling experience she’d had as a result of hearing our stories. When she heard about the peace that came over us, she decided to surrender an issue that had been troubling her. Tears streamed as she shared about the peace she, too, had found. I was deeply moved to know my sharing had made such a difference…in my favorite way…up close and personal.

I write about my experience of surrender in my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, and believe my story will make a difference, especially for those going through a difficult time. It is usually our painful challenges that bring us to our knees. That was certainly true for me. And my awakening to grace came as a result of the gift of peace that allowed me to relinquish the illusion that I had any control over the circumstances I was facing.

We humans are funny that way…thinking we can control the uncontrollable. I had a serious case of that kind of faulty thinking. Even today, after having experienced the miracle of grace in that situation where I had no control, when an uncomfortable circumstance triggers my desire to take charge, I need to remind myself that the only control I have is my response to whatever it is that is happening.

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As another member of The Angels pointed out, surrender is something we need to do over and over and over.