Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash
“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.” ~Author Unknown
Life is a tough road sometimes. We’ve all had our fair share of ups and downs.
Sometimes it feels like a journey of ongoing contradictions. One minute we’re celebrating successes; the next we’re mourning a defeat or loss of some type.
English journalist Henry James Slack described human life as “the source of deep suffering and gorgeous hope.”
Now there’s a quote I can relate to.
And the ways in which we suffered or fell short in the past year become more apparent as it draws to a close. This is when we reflect on our wins and losses and try to determine how to improve, despite the silent fear that we’ll fail again.
However, a new year always offers hope. The hope that we’ll conquer our worries and accomplish our goals. We’ve gained fresh wisdom through trial and error, so we restore our settings back to the factory defaults and try again.
Writing was one of my defeats in 2018; I’ve been away from my blog for a long time. With the exception of an occasional quote or photo challenge, I’ve been pretty much absent for over a year.
I could feel it happening shortly after I took the job and as my Mom’s health started to decline. There was a lot happening around me, both good and bad, that provided plenty of material to write about. However, the creative part of my brain took the last train for the coast, to borrow a line from Don McLean’s American Pie. I got too busy with the mechanics of everyday life.
We writers periodically hit dry spells, better known as writer’s block. Opinions vary about why it happens, but in my case it was a combination of fear and fatigue.
Adjusting to a new job means new people and building relationships. It brings us to different places and encounters and offers daily challenges that we didn’t have before. Despite requiring more time and energy, the overall experience has been positive.
However, watching your mother’s health deteriorate has the opposite effect. It also brought me to different places and encounters, and involved new challenges. Unfortunately, these responsibilities and their accompanying emotions left me exhausted and empty.
I didn’t want to stop writing, but I couldn’t muster the will or the words. This blog is supposed to be about self-reflection, learning from the past, and living more mindfully. However, I was just too tired. The analysis required to look deeply within myself and the situations around me had to wait for another day.
And yet, I was angry with myself. I felt that writing about my experiences might actually alleviate some of the sadness and self-doubt. Looking back I wonder if I was afraid to face the feelings in the same way we’re afraid to look in the mirror after a bad haircut. You know it’s there and you know it’s ugly, so better to ignore it until it grows back. Or, in this situation, disappears altogether.
I didn’t want my mother to go into a nursing home, but I knew that my siblings and I couldn’t take care of her any longer.
Mom lost her mobility, requiring a wheelchair and round-the-clock care. Moving her to a nursing home was a tough decision, particularly after watching my dad’s time in a dementia unit. She didn’t want to go, although she never said so. But, we knew, just as she did, that her care was beyond our capabilities.
I formed a mental list in my head of the pros and cons. The cons were obvious, but I promised to make regular visits and get Mom involved in the activities. Just when I convinced myself that “all would be well” the guilt would wash over me again.
And the underlying grief of this was knowing she was never coming home. I went through it with my dad and it’s a feeling you never forget. Like a death in slow-motion you watch your loved one fade away, grieving together, while trying to pretend it isn’t happening.
While all of this was occurring there was another tragedy unfolding. My ex-husband, who had a long history of alcohol abuse, was spiraling downward physically and mentally. Forty years of drinking had taken its toll.
I didn’t want him to suffer, but it wasn’t my choice. During the marriage I tried to convince him to get help, but the addiction was stronger than his desire to save himself. Eventually, I mustered the courage to leave, but it took a long time to work through the pain and repair the damage.
As humans we have a deep-seated need for a sense of control in our lives. Without it we are fearful, anxious and the chance for self-realization is unlikely.
Our own words and actions often impact the circumstances of our lives, while much is beyond our control. I could have made the effort to write something during this past year, but I couldn’t stop my mom from growing old.
Reaching our potential has much to do with choices and expectations. They must align with one another if we want to reach our goals. Being realistic about a reasonable timeframe is necessary. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Therefore, I’m going into 2019 with these thoughts in mind:
- The Serenity Prayer – Learning to accept what I can’t control, working courageously to make positive changes where I can, and knowing the difference between the two.
- Realizing there are important lessons to learn in all situations, even unfavorable ones.
- Understanding that strong boundaries promote healthy relationships, which can withstand the ups and downs of life.