Turning the Chapter With Elderly Parents

This past Sunday my husband Dean and I went down to my parents’ house to do some much-needed work in their backyard.

My dad is 85 and my mom 83. My dad has been suffering with bad arthritis in his back for the last 8 years and can no longer stand upright. He spent his career as a longshoreman and until the last decade or so, had always been a physically strong man. Now he can no longer reach the shelf above the refrigerator to pull out the bottle of bourbon for their nightly Manhattan.

My mom has essentially become his caretaker since my dad is legally blind in one eye and can’t drive. She does all the shopping, cooking, and most of the household chores. She’s recently developed an issue with her sciatic nerve and is walking with great pain herself.

I’ve been lucky to have had an enjoyable relationship with both my parents and this new reality is heart-wrenching to watch. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about their physical conditions since the visit on Sunday.

Treasuring the Memories

I have wonderful memories of my parents visiting me when I moved from California to New England in my 30s. From Cape Cod to the southern coast of Maine to Montreal, we were explorers of a new world together. It was a time of sharing different pleasures that you rarely experience in the Bay Area. Like picking up steamers or lobsters for dinner, or just sitting on the front porch relaxing into life at the end of a long summer day.

When I moved back to California I was blessed to have the opportunity to buy a modest waterfront condo which became the foundation for many good times on my deck. We would enjoy each other’s company for hours as we watched the wildlife and the boats cruise by.

I’ll never forget the delightfully surprised look on their faces when I opened my front door to welcome them to their 50th anniversary party where 50 friends and family were waiting inside.

Accepting What We Can’t Change

This latest visit has been a reminder to me that we should never take anything for granted. Things change, and we need to come up with a way to respond to and deal with each new reality. Just like we’re living now in pandemic times. We want things to be like they used to, but we don’t have total control over it.

For me with my parents, the new reality is that my mother really needs some support. The quality of both of their lives is not good. I can pretend it’s not happening, or I can take action.

My parents live 30 miles away. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s an hour’s drive each way in brutal San Francisco traffic. I can’t quickly pop over to put the air conditioner hose in their family room window when the weather forecast points north.

I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I need to start to develop a plan to see that they get the care they need. I need to be there for them more. It’s a new chapter and I need to step to the plate.

Demonstrating Love in a COVID-19 World

After we finished our yard chores my dad was urging me to sit across the couch from him in the family room. Yet in a COVID-19 mindset I kept my distance, instead standing in the kitchen some 6+ feet from both my mom and dad.

Looking back I feel bad about my response. Who knows how many more opportunities I’ll have to share with the people who have been there for me my entire life?

We are living in a time where we need to adjust how we express love to the people who mean the most to us. I’ve begun to call them more frequently to demonstrate that I care. I’ve told them that I miss hugging them.

Next time I visit my parents I want to focus more on eye contact. If I can’t touch them with my body, I can connect with them from the windows to my soul.

Stay well,
Susan

Tapping Into the Energy of Your Youth

Yesterday morning after a visit to the gym I was about 3/4 mile from my home when it suddenly hit me that I had driven on that road thousands upon thousands of times in the 22+ years that I’ve lived there. With that thought also came the awareness that I have grown older here, and that my time left is that much shorter than when I first arrived in my neighborhood in 1997.

The Journey to 60

I will be turning 60 this summer. I was 38 when I moved in, single, active, and full of energy to explore whatever life had to offer. I had a corporate job that often took me to cities around the country. I felt blessed for a long time to have a stimulating job that enabled me to travel on an expense account, yet when I got into my mid-40’s I started asking myself questions about what I was doing with my life. With cats but no kids, I was looking to find more purpose in how I was spending my time.

In 2005 I left corporate life. It was ill-thought-out, but it brought me three years of spending my days feeling completely connected with who I really am. I had taken a two-year program which enabled me to get ordained as a non-denominational minister. I did spiritual counseling and performed over 100 wedding ceremonies. I was invited to give inspirational messages to underprivileged communities. It was a completely different life and I loved it. Until the economy crashed in 2008 and I felt forced to return to my roots in marketing. It was then when I started a business with the man who would become my husband.

The past ten years have seen us through some very good, yet also some very challenging times in our business. And I recognize that the way I have responded to being a business owner has often derailed efforts on my part to stay centered and in touch with a bigger picture of life beyond the business. Keeping up with work email in the evenings has certainly taken away from more soulful activities. But it’s all on me.

Reliving Younger Days

Over the last few weeks my husband and I have driven into nearby San Francisco and taken walks in the various neighborhoods he and I have lived in our younger days. It has brought me back to how I felt when I was in my late 20’s, both stimulated by the city energy and remembering the feeling of feeling energized by life. This has been a gift as I contemplate the big birthday and what I want to create that will follow. After all, so much of it is in our control.

If this post resonates with you, I would love to hear what comes up for you. Thanks for visiting.

 

Don’t Take Anything Personally

I joined a new health club a couple of months ago and am now settling into my routine.  I’ve recently discovered a class instructor who has become my favorite. Her classes are always very challenging, yet different, and she pushes us really hard. I always leave her classes with a great feeling that I’ve given myself a healthy workout that I can feel into the next day.

Although I do know the instructor’s first name, I refer to her as “Sergeant” when I talk about her with my husband. I call her this because of the grueling nature of her instructing style, along with an overall lack of warmth or compassion. While she has a good sense of humor, her demeanor is tough.

Yesterday was the Sunday morning after turning the clocks ahead. I was planning on attending Sergeant’s 10 am Total Body class and considered that I needed to go to bed early enough on Saturday night to feel energetic despite an hour of sleep lost. My alarm first went off at 8 am Sunday morning. I knew I had time to spare and made a mental note to snooze my alarm. That didn’t happen. Instead I woke up at 9:22 and jumped out of bed in a panic to make the class.

I got to the health club in plenty of time to make the class. Once the Zumba class ahead of us had cleared, I walked into the exercise studio with all the other women. We grabbed a step platform and weights. Sergeant got the music started and our time together began.

As we worked through the hour with cardio, weights, bands and core exercises, I felt a sense of joy that I was getting the workout I wanted. It was probably the sixth class I’d taken from Sergeant and I was thinking that it was time to express my appreciation to her and introduce myself after class.

Putting Myself Out There
After class ended and the exercise studio was emptying, I took a place behind a woman talking with Sergeant at the front of the studio. It was clear from their conversation that the woman had been a regular in Sergeant’s classes and that there was a fair amount of familiarity between them. When that woman stepped away, Sergeant turned her body away from me to focus her attention on the music she was disassembling. It struck me as odd. Hadn’t she seen me standing there waiting to talk to her?

I thought about tapping her arm or shoulder to get her attention, but instead I just spoke. I said, “I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your classes. You really give a great workout.”

The Surprising Snub
What happened next surprised me. Or better said, what didn’t happen amazed me. I expected a smile. I expected to see some type of facial expression or eye contact that displayed feelings. I expected to see that my outreach of gratitude was felt and appreciated. I experienced none of that. Instead I got a cold snub. It made feel bad.

I walked out of the exercise studio, through the health club, and outside to the parking lot totally attached to the bad experience I’d just had. I felt humiliated having extended myself and then being treated like that. I was pissed. If her classes weren’t such good workouts, I would have vowed never to attend them again. But they are, and I had to find a way to deal with my experience.

Don’t Take Anything Personally
After I got home and continued to process this experience, I was reminded of the second agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic book, The Four Agreements, in which he wrote—

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves…”

I was reflecting back on what I’ve observed in the woman I call Sergeant. First of all, I typically refer to people by their names unless there’s a particular aspect about them that is part of the story I’m trying to tell. Why would I ever expect that a woman I have named Sergeant will be warm and fuzzy to me? Duh!

I’m also suspecting that I may have encountered Sergeant at a time in her life when she’s not feeling particularly good about herself. She’s mentioned in classes that she’ll be turning 60 this year, that no matter how hard she works, her body is becoming “fleshy”, declares that she hasn’t gotten a face lift because it will mean too much time away from the gym, and so on.

The coldness I encountered is not about me. It’s about whatever is going on in her life that is preventing her from having an open heart.

The next time I see her will be through eyes of compassion rather than insult.

Are You Making the Most of the Days of Your Life?

Tonight I learned that my 51-year-old cousin has colon cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. She’s got a husband, two older kids and six months of chemo–I hear–in front of her. My cousin and I aren’t close friends but we share the bond of family and I love her. I pray that she will beat this incredible challenge and thrive.

I learned about my cousin’s condition on a phone call tonight with my mother. It reminded me of how vulnerable we all are, going about our lives thinking that we are free from harm–that something bad will never happen to us. I’m guilty of this big time and I know that this thinking gets in the way of me getting totally serious about taking total control of my life.

The Days are Numbered Mindset

I think that the biggest gift that we can all give ourselves is the constant realization that our days are numbered. I’m embarrassed by the fact that I am a native Californian who has never been to Yosemite. I’ve wanted to learn Spanish but I haven’t lifted a finger. There are so many other things that I’ve said I wanted to do that I haven’t followed through on. As I now feel the clock ticking, I see that everyday decisions make a difference in the quality of our lives.

Learning about my cousin has given me the desire to want to see her life dreams carried out. At the same time it has inspired me to focus on my own. What are they? What are yours?

 

The Wisdom of Age 55

I celebrated my 55th birthday three months ago. I didn’t expect the number itself to have the impact that it has. I think this particular birthday so far has been the one that has had me soul searching like no other.

Turning 55 has been a wake-up call that reminds me that there is an end to my life. I can’t continue to neglect thinking about what I want from my life because I realize now that the days I have to achieve it are numbered.

At first I responded to this revelation of 55 from a perspective of defeat. But as I sought the advice of others whose success I respected, I realized that it is never too late to fight the clock to get what you want. Just like I was in and out of college a number of times before I finally decided on a major that I stuck to, maybe I’m just someone who needs time to figure it out.

As I’ve been trying to sort this all out, the one thing that stands out is that it’s not going to get sorted out without my attention and energy. Giving my life up to chance isn’t going to work as I set my intentions on creating a more meaningful life experience.

My response to the wake-up call has brought a key benefit —

It has made me look at what I want from my personal and business life in a new light. After evaluating what I don’t like about things now, I’ve been able to put a clear new focus on what I’d like to accomplish immediately.

I feel very excited. Try it for yourself.

A Commitment to Reclaiming My Youth

jefferson starship

I celebrated Labor Day at the Sausalito Art Festival, where Jefferson Starship closed off the entertainment festivities for the weekend. While this particular festival is a world class art show, my boyfriend, Dean and I make our decision on what day we will attend by the music schedule.

As the day approached, I had been contemplating why the bands of my youth still held such appeal to me. While I looked around at the crowd today, many of whom were older than me, I got more in touch with the answer. The music is a part of our history.  As we gathered there in Sausalito, it was like we were reclaiming a part of our soul. For that one hour while the band played, my heart felt an elation beyond the every day. It touched the spirit of what I felt in my youth–optimism, hope, joy of life, and most of all, a connection to those around me. We had all experienced a lot of life since we first heard those lyrics, yet despite all the changes, somehow the music reminds us of who we once were.

The Lesson

As I sit here on the morning after, I still feel a hightened sense of peace and aliveness. This experience has inspired me to strive to bring all parts of myself into my daily life so that the most precious pieces can live on and continue to touch me.

10 Life Lessons from My Dad on His 74th Birthday

Today is my father’s 74th birthday. I recognize how blessed I am to be able to share it with him, and I don’t want to wait until he’s gone to reflect on what I’ve learned from him. In no particular order:

  1. Give help without being asked.
  2. Hard work really does pay off.
  3. It is possible to create a new life in foreign land.
  4. You don’t have to hold a college degree to be intelligent and educated.
  5. Love is expressed by what you do, not what you say.
  6. Having someone you can count on is one of the greatest gifts in life.
  7. What’s inside is more important than what it looks like on the outside.
  8. A strong commitment will keep you going when the road gets rough.
  9. Don’t ever assume you know how a person will respond.
  10. Don’t take  your blessings for granted. Life can change in an instant.

49th Birthday Revelations

I turned 49 seventeen days ago and its impact has been settling in. I expected it to be a mellow landing, with a stronger thrust to hit with the big “50”. I guess I was wrong.

On the exterior, I feel great. Some of the workouts are harder than others, but nothing noticeable to even mention. It’s my interior that feels this one. I’m not going to live forever; in fact, I now see the precious value of the decades ahead. Part of me wishes that I could grab the past back just to gain more time. Yet the other part senses that the greatest jewels in life lie ahead.

My 30-Year High School Reunion: A Party for My Soul

I went to my 30-year high school reunion on Saturday night. Actually, I did much more than just go to the reunion. I was a part of the four-person committee that made it happen. So I had the privilege of greeting every person as they walked through the door. That in itself was an amazing experience. It set the tone for what I took away from this monumental event.

During the evening I talked with a number of people who had been classmates since kindergarten. I spent some longer chunks of time with women I’d been close with during our junior and senior high years. I chatted with some classmates that I don’t recall ever talking with in my youth. There were a couple of people with whom I exchanged a warm hug and that was all. We had a DJ, dancing, and karaoke, and it was a lot of fun. But to me, it was very sweet.

You see, I feel like I picked up some precious pieces of my life that I had somehow dropped along the journey through my adult life. I feel like I have rekindled the spark that remembers where I came from. I don’t know why that means so much to me at this point in my life, but I guess it does. Somehow I now feel like I can move forward again with a new fervor. I don’t understand intellectually, but I’ve surrendered to an instinct that I’ve just taken care of a need of my soul’s. And now in a funny way, I feel more complete.