Showing posts with label Mindfulness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mindfulness. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

All The Lonely People: The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Being One of Them When You Get Old

"All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?"

From the looks of things - how we treat our older adults - apparently they all belong in some sort of retirement community or worse, a nursing home.

Eleanor Rigby is not alone in her loneliness. 

 
 
Many people in the world are lonely, but being old and lonely is its own kind of loneliness.

As I age, I start worrying about where I am going to end up when everyone else is gone.  If I outlive Hubby and my friends, then what?

My mother ended up all alone in a nursing home where the underpaid staff of young people seemed to care more about standing around talking about their dates than making sure the inmates, er, residents had their diapers on. Hubby's dad ended up in a place where he was constantly hearing hard luck stories from the staff and giving them money.

But before we get to the endgame of loneliness, what do we do now while we still have our faculties and some ability to make our own decisions about how we want to spend the rest of our lives?

Is loneliness and ending up alone in an institution automatically our fate when we grow old?

I say no, but there are factors that can lead to a lonely life.

It's one thing to be old, retired and alone in the town you grew up in.  Even though your spouse and parents might be dead, you most probably have a network of friends that you have had since childhood.  But many of us no longer live in the towns where we grew up.  We have moved around the country, or even the world, chasing jobs, loves and adventure, in each place having to start over making friends and creating a supportive community.  But we did it.

However, as we get older, finding ourselves in a new town and having to start over gets harder and harder.  We might not have the resources that we had when we were younger or if we had stayed in our hometowns.  Many of us old folks move to be near our adult children and grandchildren, not realizing how difficult it might be to start a new life in a new place as an older adult.  When we were young, we could walk down to the neighborhood bar and when we left, we would have had at least one new friend.  But trying to make friends when we are in our 50's, 60's and 70's is not that easy. 

  • If you have a job, the potential for friendships is there.
  • If you belong to a church, fine.  Instant community.
  • If you have a hobby and can join a gun club or tennis club, perhaps that is a good way to make new friends.
  • If you have moved voluntarily to a retirement community and there are all kinds of activities you are interested in, then great.

  • But what if you work from home? 
  • What if you are retired and can't afford to move to a retirement community?
  • What if you have health issues that restrict your mobility?

When you move to a new place, your peers most likely have their own families and friends.  They are not looking to take on new friends.  Friends take time and energy.  Even if you have moved to be near your grandchildren, your adult children have busy lives and your grandchildren have their own activities and friends.  Unless you live with them, you can't rely on them as your sole source of companionship and social life. 

I volunteer as a counselor for seniors who are going through bereavement, health issues or big changes in their lives.  Mostly, they are women who are alone and some are sadly warehoused into nursing homes or some kind of facility where their adult children don't have to worry about them.  And these parents didn't go there because they wanted to.  They went because they "didn't want to be a burden" to their kids. 

 

 

My own mother, who was a beautiful proud woman, ended up in such a place and it is something I don't think I will ever get over.  She had a stroke that affected her brain and caused some dementia, but don't think she didn't know that she was alone and without her family.  She did.  And she was the type of person who would also have not wanted to be a burden.


My mother had a stroke which resulted in dementia and she ended up in a nursing home.  I won't go into the details about why and how that happened, but it did.  And I remember she didn't want to go, but at the time, it didn't seem like she was able to stay on in her home alone.

But let me tell you, she might have been confused about where she was or not remember much about the immediate past, but she did know she wasn't with her family.  She also knew her niece's phone number.  My cousin, my mother's favorite niece, who lived in the town where I grew up and where my mother lived her entire life, had spent a lot of time with my mother over the years and was very good to my mother.  But my cousin had to change the ring on her phone for my mother's calls, because my mother called her every day, sometimes more than once, to ask when she was going to come and get her. I don't blame my cousin at all for not wanting to answer her phone every day and have to deal with my mother, but can you imagine what it must have been like for my mother to call for someone to come and get her and no one answered?  If that doesn't wrench your heart, I don't know what would.

As I mentioned, I volunteer as a senior counselor. One of my clients is housebound because of some physical issues.  She not only has difficulty moving around but she has lost the desire to do anything at all.  She wants to work with me to figure out how to deal with her situation and to find some motivation.  She moved thousands of miles from where she had lived all of her life to be near her son and grandson but only sees them once a week.   She has mobility issues and rarely leaves her home which restricts her ability to meet people. What will she do with the rest of her life? 

Another client was in a nursing home for people with dementia but did NOT have dementia.  Her health problems required nursing care but she had all of her mental faculties.  She had no one to talk to except the caregivers and her daughter, who visited once a week, unless she wanted to try to talk to one of the inmates, er, residents, a resident who thought she was on a vacation and her son was going to pick her up any day now or the guy who thought he was the king of Romania.

It seems to me that there were solutions for these people to be more of a part of their families rather than languishing alone. But what is surprising is that many people who find themselves in these situations wouldn't say they wanted their adult children to care for them even if they would.  As I said, the mantra seems to be "I don't want to be a burden."

From what I have seen, I am just appalled.  How can a loved one be a burden?

What has happened to us that instead of revering our aged population and spending time with them and learning from them, we would rather put them out of sight where we don't have to "worry about them." 

That is very different from how it used to be or how it is in other cultures where getting older was not a curse but something to be respected, where families looked after their aging relatives and learned from them.

My husband's parents took care of his grandmother.  She lived with them until her death and he remembers time with her fondly.  My grandparents lived across the street from us and my Dad went over there every day and fixed their dinner.  They both lived and died in their own home, and before they died they were able to interact with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



Sure, your adult children or loved ones are busy, but you were busy, too, when you were raising them, and now it's their turn if they have the means.  I know many people are struggling and don't have space for a parent or the financial ability to help.  I get that.  But I have seen situations where the ability was there but not the desire.  Sad.

Many of us don't want to be a burden to our kids or loved ones.  But did it ever occur to you that perhaps your kids and loved ones want to take care of you?  Maybe some of you have kids who now realize all you did for them and they want to return the favor.  Or not.

And if it's not, then for better or worse, for those of us who can't afford or don't want to move to a retirement community, I would guess that most of us want to stay in our own homes.  OK, if I am living alone, maybe I might fall.  Get me that alert thing that calls the paramedics. Maybe I will meet a cute paramedic.  And perhaps if my brain isn't what it once was, I might leave something on the stove and burn the house down.  OK, it's my house and I'd rather die that way than in a nursing home where I have no freedom and am treated like a prisoner for the rest of my life.

This is not for those of you who have the means and want to move to a retirement community where you have assistance, your meals, and when the time comes, nursing care. Good for you for making plans.  But those situations are very expensive and some of us don't have the means to do that nor do we want to.  Maybe we don't want to have to get rid of most of our belongings and move into a community where we don't know anyone, where there are rules we have to follow and we are treated like children.


Adult children this is for you:


Put yourselves in your parents' shoes.

How would you feel about being yanked out of your home, a home you have lived in for 25 years or more, to be placed in a strange place with strange people where you are not allowed to leave just because you have some health/mental/whatever problems that have become a problem for your children? 

How would you feel being put into a place where there are rules about what you can do, where you can go, what you can eat?

How would you like to be left alone with strangers, some of whom don't know what day it is?

Sure, you worry about your parent.  You don't want that call in the middle of the night that your parent has fallen down or set the house on fire.

But I would bet that if you asked your loved one if he or she would rather go to a nursing home or drop dead at home, the answer would be the latter. 

So before you stuff your loved one into a nursing home or someplace he or she doesn't want to be, I implore you to exhaust all options available in your community.  Your parents exhausted themselves taking care of you.  Now it's your turn.

Washington State is a leader in services for the aging population.  Because of what happened to my mother, I have become an advocate for "aging in place." I had the privilege of serving on the local Council on Aging where I was made aware of all of the services available to help people "age in place," i.e. stay in their own homes as long as possible, despite health and financial issues.  And before you say anything about how is this paid for and you don't want higher taxes and all of that, it has been proven that it is cheaper to provide services to help people stay in their own homes than to put them into an institution.
 
There are counseling programs that I mentioned earlier, companion programs, food services, senior centers, adult daycare, etc.  Find out what services and programs are available in your town that will help you care for your loved one, so your loved one can "age in place."

Now here is my message to my own kids. 



 
I may get forgetful or even suffer from dementia.  I may not be able to get around anymore, but I do not want to be warehoused.  I do not want to live amongst a bunch of other old people.  I DO want to be a burden so get used to it.  I took care of you and now it's your turn.

Besides, one of the main reasons I can't move into an old people's home is there wouldn't be enough room for all of my clothes.

But mainly, all of you "kids" out there, I want to save you from regret and guilt, which I guarantee you will have if you send your parents away against their will and they let you, because they "don't want to be a burden."  I live with the regret and pain every day that I couldn't save my mother.


Now, you old Baby Boomers, this is for you:



Whether you are or will be in your hometown in your own house when your spouse and most of your peers have died and your kids (if you have them) have moved away or you are all alone in a new town or assisted living facility, how do you cope with the loneliness that might accompany moving to a new place or suddenly being alone?
 
Whatever our circumstances, as we age, how do we keep living the life we deserve to live - a full one that brings us joy?

First of all, do what you can to plan for the inevitable, to decide what you want to do and how you want to live out your life, especially if you can't really make the decision for yourself, and make sure your kids or loved ones know what your wishes are. 

Find out what services are available through your local Senior Services or equivalent.  Even though you are alone and might not know many people, try to avoid being isolated. If you are able, volunteering is a good way to stay connected with people.  If you don't have one already, get a computer and learn how to use it.  Sign up for Facebook so you can talk to your children and grandkids or friends online, but don't "friend" anyone you don't know (beware of being scammed.  If a handsome stranger in a military uniform 30 years younger than you wants to "friend" you on Facebook, sorry.  He's not interested in you.  He's in a sweat shop somewhere overseas and just wants your money.  Don't fall for it). But reach out. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. There are all kinds of ways to stay connected.

But in the end, even if your living situation is to your liking, at some point you will probably find yourself alone and feeling lonely. 

As one great sage from "Real World New Orleans" said, "I am never lonely because everywhere I go, I am there." 

I know.  He wasn't a sage.  He was just a kid on "The Real World," and I think he stole that from Buddha or some other famous person, but that doesn't matter, the sentiment remains the same.  As you get older, it's important to remember that your true self is always with you, that you are your own best friend, so it's important to enjoy your own company and to recognize the joy that exists in your life. 

Your thoughts might tell you that you are old, alone and lonely, but you are not your thoughts.  Your thoughts will sometimes tell you things that make you sad, that tell you that you don't matter or what's the point of your life?  But those are just thoughts. Thoughts come and go. They are not you.  

You.  You will always be you. No matter how old you get, how wrinkled, how infirm, if you are at home alone or in a nursing home, you will always be you, and your very existence matters and is the whole point.  No one and nothing can take that from you.  Your body may have changed and gotten old, but your true self is still inside there, the person you have always been. 

No matter what, you are still YOU, the you that can choose joy.

When my clients in the counseling program are struggling with health issues, getting old, circumstances that they can't control, I try to convey that to them.

And I tell myself that too.

Even though I am old and can't do all of the things I used to do... Even though I am far from my children and grandchildren and get lonely and sad at times... Even though I don't know what the future holds...I remind myself that I am still me.  I will always be me, that person who can find joy in little things like a nice big bowl of gelato or a particularly good episode of the British soap opera I watch or a moving figure skating routine or reading a good book or relishing a great movie or watching the antics of my dogs or looking out my window and noticing the sun peeking through the trees, reminding me that I exist.

In those moments, I know I can reject the negative thoughts that come and go and choose joy instead.

I can also reflect back on my life, and when I do that, I am reminded of the person I was and will always be and there is also joy in that.

I will always be the young girl who loved her parents and had a happy childhood,



and who wanted to be an actress.




 


I will always be the woman who raised two successful children she loves,



who had a long and happy marriage to a man she loves,



who loves her grandchildren,



who had a successful and satisfying career,



who likes to dress up her dogs,

 

who finds joy in movies and books and food and fashion,



who writes a blog, and who has always tried to do the right thing and be a better person. 

When I am aware of all of those things, I feel joy and that joy I feel is my true self speaking, that part of me that has always been there.

My true self says,"You did good, kid (I know that's bad English but I don't want to be correcting my true self when she is saying something nice to me)!  And you are still here.  There is still more joy to be felt and life to be lived. You might have some bad days but, just remember, there is always tomorrow, and tomorrow might be filled with joy. Who knows? But you want to be here to find out, don't you?" 

And likewise, no matter where or how you end up, you will always be the person who lived and loved, who lives and loves, who feels joy when you think of all you have done and the joy you still feel in little things.  You may be old, but you will always be YOU and those moments of joy are glimpses into your true self reminding you that YOU are there and will always be there, and you will never really be alone.

So when you are feeling old, alone and lonely and wonder what's the point of getting up each day, tap into that core of your existence, your true self, that space inside you that has experienced joy, and despite your circumstances, can still experience joy, even if it's just a snuggle from your cat or watching your favorite TV show. Choose joy. Remind yourself that every time you feel some joy, no matter how small, it's your true self, YOU, reminding you that you are alive and you are still and always will be YOU and no one and nothing can take that away from you.

Hopefully knowing that, even though you are alone, you won't be lonely.

Now go tell your loved ones you are so looking forward to their taking care of you!

Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of


"The Handmaiden,"
 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

   
and the latest on


"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 
 I Die Project."
 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer










 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How Self Aware Are You...Really? (Rosy the Reviewer's "Happiness Trilogy, #1)

No, this isn't one of those quizzes you find on Facebook like "What Kind of a Flower Would You Be?" or "If You Were a Kind of Pasta, What Would You Be ?
(I think I got rigatoni, but not sure). 

No, I am really asking the question.

I reserve my Tuesday blog posts for a rant when I feel one coming on.  And this Tuesday, I feel one coming on.

I blame it all on Oprah. 

This whole self-awareness, living in the present, self-help thing.  I used to poo poo such things, but now I meditate regularly and am taking not one, but two courses by two of her anointed ones: Brene Brown and Brendon Burchard.  I will check back in with you in a couple of months to see if I have achieved "better personhood."

All of that is to achieve more self-awareness.

Why is that important?

Because, in a nutshell, when you are self-aware you will be happier and so will the people around you.

I talk about it a bit in my blog post "A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator" that I wrote back in 2014 - how most of us live our lives in a bit of a fog, living our lives, but not really being aware that we are living our lives, you know what I mean?

But there is more to it than that.

Self-awareness can take several forms. 

I have divided the concept into two realms:  one, the realm that includes getting in touch with your true self, that silent observer within, and two, being aware when you are being a dick, pardon my French.  I should have said "dique."
 
Let's start with the first one.

How often have you suddenly realized you were picking your nose in your car at a stoplight and then wondering if anyone noticed and thinking, "What was I just doing?"  How often have you been at the supermarket and realized you didn't remember putting those two gallons of salted caramel ice cream in your cart?

Because that, my peeps, is how most of us walk around. 

NOT self aware. We walk around with our heads in the clouds, our noses in our phones and our brains on hold.  Once in awhile we "wake up," and realize where we are and we might be present in that one moment when we realize we are picking our noses at a stoplight, but basically we mostly live our lives thinking about the past or the future or whether or not there will be another season of "Keeping up with the Kardashians."




Self-awareness is not the same thing as self-consciousness. 

Self consciousness is when you realize you are wearing jeans to a black tie affair or when a giant zit appears on your nose right before giving an important presentation at work.

Self-awareness is defined as "the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals," and it happens when you slow down and take the time to be present in the moment.

When you are self-aware you are aware of your inner true self, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs that govern you as you move through life.

And what is your true self? 

Your true self is that silent observer (some people call it the soul) that looks out through your eyes and notices that you are observing. All of those thoughts that run through your brain do not constitute your true self.  Your true self exists in those spaces between all of those thoughts. That's why meditation can be so helpful in becoming self-aware. When you quiet the thoughts and spend some time with yourself in the stillness, you become more aware of your true self.



But if you don't have time to meditate or it scares you, you can achieve the same thing by stopping yourself periodically during the day and thinking about what you just said, by noticing what is happening right in that moment.  What did I just say?  How did the listener respond? 

You can also spend a few minutes each day noticing sensations as you move around, touch objects or savor your food.  Taking a walk in a park, noticing the rustling leaves and the blue sky (unless you live in Seattle, then it would be gray sky) and the feeling of your feet touching the ground. You can also listen to soothing music or go for a run.  Anything that quiets your mind.


Or you can decide to greet your friends, loved ones and colleagues whole-heartedly, being present with them and giving them your whole attention.

Eventually as you become more aware and mindful, you are not just living your life, you are AWARE that you are living your life, but not in a self-conscious way. You realize that you are conscious, that you are part of the whole and that is where happiness lies.

And that is the whole point.

But the quest for self-awareness can also be all about the self, which is not necessarily a good thing and leads me to "Self-Awareness #2, which is really all about being self-aware of your actions and how they affect other people.

How often have you heard someone say..."I am self aware enough to realize..." That has become a catch-phrase for "I know what I am doing" or "I have it all together."

When I hear that I want to say, "Really?  Are you self aware enough to know that you are often not a very good friend?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were just condescending to that waiter?  Are you self-aware enough to know that you were insensitive to your spouse when he shared something with you?  We should change that to "I am self aware enough to know that if I say I am self aware I am probably not."

This form of self-awareness, or lack thereof, falls more into the consideration and courtesy realm, but I realize that it takes self-awareness to know when you are pissing other people off, which hopefully would lead you to stop doing that.  Now you could say that you don't care and if that's the case, I hope you are self-aware enough to know that you are that kind of person, someone who doesn't care what your fellow humans have to endure when you are around.


Here are some things that show a lack of this kind of self-awareness:


  • Talking on your cell phone at the gym
 
 
 

---When you do that, are you aware that everyone in the gym can hear you arguing with your mother or begging your parole officer for another chance -- and that it is very annoying?

I'm not even going to get into talking on the cell phone in your car because I think that's a lost cause.  But I want to know...who are these people you are talking to that you can't wait until you see them?  I hardly ever get any calls that are important, and when I need to make a call, I can certainly wait until I get home.  I don't have to let the entire gym know about my new outfit or what a chump my husband is (not you, Hubby, I'm just using that as an example).  And why do people talk so loudly when they are talking on a cell phone?  It's like I am back in the 50's listening to my mother talking long distance.


  • In a very crowded parking lot, you get in your car, your brake lights are on and it takes you forever to pull out.

---When you do that, are you aware that people are waiting for your parking space?

What are you doing in there? Talking on your cell phone? Fiddling with your seat belt?  Picking your nose?  Just get in your car and get the heck out of that space so someone else can have it.


  • Always being late

---When you do that, are you aware that you are basically sending a message to other people that your time is valuable but theirs is not?




  • Driving slowly in the left lane

---When you do that, are you aware that you are not only holding up traffic but being indifferent to other drivers?

My mother didn't learn to drive until she was 65 and that's a whole different story.  But I remember her saying during a discussion about how awful it was when someone got into the left lane and stayed there even though it was slowing traffic.  My mother responded, "I don't care.  I'm there and I am going to stay there."  My mother was not very self-aware.



  • Riding your bike on the sidewalk

---When you do that, are you aware that in most states this is against the law (yes, in most states it is.  It's the equivalent of driving your car up over the curb and onto the sidewalk - now you wouldn't do that would you)? 

But it is also annoying as hell when I am out for a walk and have to hop off the sidewalk as a bike comes barreling past.  Little kids I understand, but it seems to be a common practice for adults these days too.



  • Putting your coat/purse/shopping bag/whatever in the seat next to you at a crowded Happy Hour bar/seat on a bus/anywhere where someone might need a seat.
---When you do that, are you aware that others might want that seat and that if they do, they must say to you, "Is someone sitting here?" at which point you will reply, "Oh, do you want to sit here?" which might prompt a person to say, "Yes, bitch, why do you think I am asking you if someone is sitting there?"  So don't risk it. 


Now it's your turn.  Fill in the blanks...I might as well let you in on this rant too.

What actions by other people leave you shaking your head and wondering how someone could be so unaware of how their actions affect others?

__________________________________

__________________________________



And then I guess we have to ask ourselves, are we guilty of those things too?

Because we can't change others.  Oh, I like to think that my little blog might have an impact on people and they will be called to action and that's why I write it.  I write it to express myself and to hopefully make people think about some things.  But in the end, we can only change ourselves and the more self-aware we become about our own actions, the more likely we will be to change our behavior, which in turn will make us happier and in turn those we come in contact with. Self-awareness starts at home.

How often do you hear someone say "I am self aware enough to know I can sometimes be a jerk?" 

Now that person is self aware.

The bottom line is that self-awareness will lead to happiness: yours and those around you.

Thanks for indulging me in my little Tuesday rant.  Must be the holiday let-down, the cloudy days and the fact that the Seahawks lost in the play-offs last weekend.  I will try to be more cheerful next week.

However, I am self-aware enough to know that I can't promise.



 

Thanks for Reading!

 

See you Friday

 

for my review of the new movie

 

"The Revenant"


and 


The Week in Reviews
 (What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
  
 and the latest on
  
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."
 
 
 

 
 
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer