Sometimes significant events cause us to stop and do it all differently. As I stand here in mid-life in the wake of observing the reality that my parents are aging, I choose to steep in the wisdom life has handed me rather than the vain, tail-chasing pursuit of any level of perfection.
There is something about seeing our aging parents and recognizing this is yet another hallmark of midlife.
I received a text from my sister last Thursday afternoon:
"Mom has fallen in the kitchen and hurt her left leg/hip. Ambulance is transporting her now. Will keep you posted."
We found out later that evening she had broken her left femur and had to have emergency surgery that night.
I traveled to the hospital and a few days later to their home in Alabama to do what I could to help. My mom is not one to complain for the sake of complaining and she is quite tenacious. She had muscle spasms through the night and needed help getting to the bathroom. I got up with her several times and was happy to be there to help her.
We got her into a recliner in the den during the day and her feet were cold so I sat on the floor to put her socks on. She smiled and said, "Well now isn't this an interesting turn. How many times in your life did I put your socks on for you?"
I get choked up even as I write that. It is a turn. All the years when I was a little girl she helped me get my socks and shoes on. It is yet another pivot-point I stand on here at age 48.
I look in one direction and see my baby boys now ages 21 and 18 and my precious little girl now taller than I and so mature at age 15. I look in the other direction and see my mother who will never be able to power-walk with me again and my father who is hobbling around more than ever, seeming more like an old man than the jubilant daddy I recall.
So, what do we do now? Here are some advising conclusions I have come to...
- Accept that indeed we are all living and we are all dying. Both living and dying are a process. Which will you choose to focus on? the living or the dying? I choose to focus on the living and make the very most of every day.
- Release the striving for perfection and reap the wisdom Life hands us at every turn. Spend your energy steeping in what you know, what you have learned rather than trying to reach some pinnacle of ultimate accomplishment
- Schedule time to call, write and go visit your parents while they are still here on Earth regularly.
- When you do spend time with your parents, let the time be focused on them unless they want to hear about you and your kids, etc. Reminisce with them. Remember out loud the good times. Ask them to tell you about their favorite memories. Ask them what you can do for them while you are there. Actively love them no matter how strained your relationship may have been in the past.
- Don't give up your own life to care for your parents. Share the duty with siblings, neighbors, friends, home health care. I have worked with clients who go from their whole life being about raising kids to caring for aging parents. There has to be a balance. Do your part for certain, but make sure you have a life of your own that you are living.
- If you don't have a will, living will and/or trust set up, now is the time. Wake up call. There IS an expiration date on each and every body and we are all going to be graduating from the physical body so get your legal stuff in order. While you're at it, be sure to talk to your parents about all this stuff. It may be difficult but it's important to get such business clear so you can all rest easy.
- Catch up on your I LOVE YOU's. Contact other family members and friends and tell them how much they mean to you.
- Stop fretting about those extra pounds you're carrying or those laugh lines or crepey skin. Life is now. Yes we are in mid-life. Sure there are a lot of natural skin care products, teas and practices to slow the aging process and feel more alive body, mind and spirit... but it's healthy to accept that you are aging and it's time to focus on the joy of every day instead of dreading what is to come.
It's difficult to see your parents aging. But it's a phase of our lives we can accept and work with gracefully. For me, seeing my parents through this difficult experience caused me to pause and let go of some things while embracing life as it is right now. I choose to focus on the LIVING rather than the DYING.