Reflections

 

I’m not making New Year’s resolutions again – reflections only.  I’d like to say 2018 was challenging, pushing me to become my best ever.  The truth is 2018 was a roller coaster ride with some Ferris wheel spins.  Most of the time I felt like throwing up.  

As Martin’s rare form of dementia has progressed, so has my grief.  So have the number of household jobs I’ve taken on.  If anyone wants to know how to fix a dishwasher, shimmy into a crawl space while on the lookout for spiders and snakes, get the broken front door handle replaced as the air conditioner is also being replaced or negotiate with the insurance company after your husband’s been hit by an errant driver while bicycling (Martin escaped with ‘just’ cuts and bruises), let me know.  I can do all of that and much, much more.

I am and always have been a planner, keeping calendars with events months in advance, carving out time for my pursuits.  Now, nothing can be planned even when I plan it.  Calendared events are never a sure thing.  There are certain situations which cannot be handed off to a helper, like the huge thud in the attic as the air conditioner blows up or the overflowing dishwasher or the leak under the sink.  You don’t say, “Well, I’m off to the gym.”  

As time for myself continues to shrink and well-meaning people ply me with advice (I’d rather they just listen), my retirement life is not what I envisioned.  But, it is what it is.  I have no choice other than making the best of it.  

Despite all that, I’m looking forward to 2019.  A clean slate.  A fresh start.  2018 is almost over.  Out with the old; in with the new.  Time to let go, forgive, move on.  

Everything that could possibly be replaced or repaired in the house is done.  When Martin had to stop driving last summer, I traded both vehicles for one new car.  I’ve said goodbye to fake friends, grudges, bad habits, doubts and anything toxic.

Speaking of toxic, toward the end of 2018 I further adopted additional natural remedies for managing stress.  Supplementing meditation and mindfulness is Solfeggio music.  What is Solfeggio music?  It’s music based on ancient chants using the frequencies of the universe and your brain to achieve harmony and balance in your body.  I listen to it daily for hours and hours.  It not only relaxes me, it also relaxes Martin and our cats.  It is now the background music of our life story.

Slipped inside my pillow case, a muslin bag filled with dried lavender buds and hops makes for a restful night.  Diffusers filled with lavender and patchouli water scent the air.  I’m back to my daily walk, rain or shine.  When I worked, I treated myself to a monthly massage.  Why I discontinued that ritual just because I left the daily grind is a mystery to me.  It’s been resurrected as good for the body and spirit.  

Rituals and routine are good for us.  They provide a sense of stability in an unstable world.  Routines reduce stress and anxiety.  They minimize the need to plan, especially when life seems out of our control. Through routine we maintain good habits.  Rituals, like having a bowl of good luck lentil soup on New Year’s Day, not only mark the passage of time, but also honor our cultural heritage linking us spiritually to our ancestral past.  Rituals connect us as family and community.  They can turn an ordinary day into an event.

Lastly, I go into 2019 with my sense of humor mostly intact.  Life demands a sense of humor, especially when faced with a heavy burden.  Humor not only eases your mental stress, it can have profound effects on your physical health, reducing inflammation in your body.  Surround yourself with happy people who support your happiness as well as your struggles.  I have a friend with a quirky sense of humor, where he and I will be laughing at something when no one else sees the humor.  One needs friends like that.

Goodbye 2018…Welcome 2019!

  

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34 comments on “Reflections

  1. I’ve never been one to make New Year resolutions. Reflections are the way to go…but after a glance back…forward with great expectations.

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  2. Kathy, best wishes for 2019. Thanks for sharing your life with us. As with just about everyone, many things in our lives are not what we would have chosen – but it’s the life we have. Making the most of each day is what we have to do – and you’re showing us how. Take care.

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  3. I enjoyed reading your reflections, 2018. Life is not easy, but we have to keep moving forward and be grateful for the little things. Thank you for the gift of your blog.

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  4. Wishing you a very Happy New Year.
    May your troubles be happy ones this year.
    Always enjoy your blog as it is a tonic for me. Our troubles are very similar.

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  5. Hi Kathy,

    This is a very good post. Thanks! I’m doing some things also to calm myself for 2019. I am listening to more classical music (esp cello concertos), more candles, less Instagram – I just (today) deleted a ton of people that were stressing me out with their perfection and cleaning and organization tips. More Bible reading this year – it got put on hold with building the house that is STILL NOT DONE.  (Hoping we can get in in Feb or March.)I thought we would be in the house last July!  I am going to think more contented thoughts. Loved what you said about HUMOR – yes so important. Also, plan to read 19 books in 2019, but like you said, can’t necessarily plan everything – but it is something to shoot for.   I also have a new routine and today was my first day – up at 6:55, bible at 8:30, tidy up at 9 am to the YMCA at 9:30. I’ve been operating by the seat of my pants due to the house and travel – not happy living that way at all.

    Love, Renee

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  6. Hello Kathy, I don’t often visit your blog but received your email so I clicked and here I am. It is difficult living with your loved one when they are going through something you can’t control or help. You have some helpful strategies in place for your own well-being. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t make NY resolutions but rather just work on my Life Plan and trying to live each day the best way that I can. Take care and I hope to visit your blog more in 2019. xx

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  7. Thank you Kathy for you thoughtful and honest reflection of your year . Caring for a loved one is definitely a winding road which requires constant adapting too. I’m so glad you are seeking and finding what keeps you calm and reduces your stress . Will be thinking of you both as 2019 begins .

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  8. Kathy, I remember reading Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (about gender and moral reasoning) in the 1980s and being struck by her observation that the most difficult moral lesson for women in our culture is that you can’t take care of other people if you don’t take care of yourself. I’m glad to hear that, faced with the stresses of caretaking, you are also making it a priority to take care of yourself. Wishing you and Martin the best possible 2019.

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  9. My writing skills are nearly as good as yours but I want to let you know this blog made me feel better. I had to retire early as my partner got sick. The plan was for me to take care of him until he passed and then I would go back to work. I was in my fifties when I left the work force and wasn’t ready to but wanted to honor the promise I had made to him. He is still with us in body but he has changed so much physically and mentally that some days I dont recognize him. His life has gotten much smaller and much more filled with pain and sadness and unfortunately so has mine. I hope in the coming year that he finds the peace he is looking for and find the joy that I pray for each night.
    ________________________________

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  10. Kathy, You have had a tough year! I finally retired this past year and am still trying to find my way, although I think 2019 will provide me with the space and time to do so. Happy New Year and thank you for the blog posts you’ve been able to do.

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  11. Hi Kathy,
    You have had a challenging year, yet are dealing with it all with grace. Life is unpredictable, and the only thing that we can control is how we respond to it. I know for myself that flexibiilty is key. Best wishes in 2019 and I hope you find peace and joy in your journey.

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  12. Kathy, you have been an inspiration to me for many years…one of the “the friends I’ve never met” in this life.
    You have met these latest challenges in your life with grace and courage.

    Thanks for blogging.

    Tom

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  13. Ditto your 2018 thoughts. Good riddance.

    It was my first year of feeling old (something I never thought would happen.

    I’m not sure I’m wired to ever find mindfulness but I also discovered meditation and Solfeggio.

    Her’s two you might like: (copy/paste into Youtube)
    * Activate 01 Qi 1 With OM Mantra & Powerful Drums ➤ Solfeggio 852 & 963 Hz
    * Pineal Gland Cleanse & Open Third Eye | Solfeggio 852 & 963 Hz ➤ Native Flute & Drums

    The other thing i’ve been doing for a few years now is the epsom salt bath. I prefer Dr Teals, either the Lavender or Spearmint. Add a 1/3 cup of baking soda.

    I like the Japanese Kayurgi Sandalwood incense sticks.

    Unimaginable 10 years ago, but now these things are part of my weekly ritual.

    Best to you!

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  14. I hope 2019 is easier for you. Try yoga as it really helps in many ways. If it is too difficult to go to a studio there are a lot of good beginner DVDS.
    Diane

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  15. Enjoy your retirement blog and the way you have been sharing the yin and yang of life. It’s been almost 5 years since I retired, mainly to help out my husband who no longer travels much due to his decreased walking ability. He did encourage me to travel to Hong Kong this past year with my sister in law and we made it happen with a back up of friends, nurse on call and new iPads that allowed us to “face time” each other daily while I was away. The point is, do think of your own well being which is just as important as your husband’s and do take a break now and then from the stresses of life with dementia (which is what we faced with my mom…and yes it is most difficult). Will keep you in my prayers and thoughts and wish you the best in 2019.

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    • Thank you for the encouragement, Mary, and sharing your story. You are obviously a caregiver as well and figured out how we need to make time for ourselves. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily care of a spouse or other loved one that we forget to feed our own needs. I send prayers to you and your husband as well as best wishes for a great 2019.

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  16. Kathy it has been a challenging year for you, but your love and devotion for Martin shines through. You are a strong and inspirational lady. I hope 2019 is kind to you

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  17. Your piece was inspiring and reflective of so many people who are wrestling with their personal challenges, especially dealing with medical issues of family members. You do have a way with words. Thank you for sharing!

    Like Kay (above), I, too, felt better after reading your blog. Although not on the same subject, I penned an article on New Year’s “Resolutions for Retirees” (See https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2018/12/26/resolutions-for-retirees/.) I always refer my readers to your website…

    Best wishes and “keep your chin up!” PKF

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    • Thank you Paul. Like you, I think I’m sticking to what I’m already doing as resolutions have proven hard for me to keep. So, keep it small and one step at a time. I got a chuckle out of your apology for the word “seniors”. I know so many who do not feel retired as they are so busy learning and doing and only feel “senior” when they look in the mirror. We must find a new descriptive word!

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  18. Dear Kathy , I have been following your blog since you started. I have alwys appreciated your honesty . I admire how you have shared your struggles with Martins illness. My husband has dementia too but is in complete denial , it isn’t progressing as fast as Martins.
    My husband has always been a very headstrong and demanding person and this condition makes it so much worse . We have lost thousands of dollars due to costly mistakes he has made by his confusion and stubbornness .
    Life is miserable now – I have reached out to family members and friends for help but havent received any , even our daughter , who tells me I should be more positive and less negative . I am mentally and physically exhausted from dealing with him for the last 5 years . I wish there were more places for support .
    It is a very lonely road to travel .
    Retirement is not the golden years , at least not for me .

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    • Cindy, My heart goes out to you as I have had the same experience you are going through. You are not alone. I will send you a private email as well, but am posting some things here as it may help others. Martin was in complete denial and difficult to deal with up until this last month when our oldest daughter and son-in-law AND his neurologist told him he needed to let me make decisions. I have both financial and health POAs, which I exercised in 2015. If you have not already done so, find a good eldercare attorney, let them know what you are dealing with and if your husband is still cognitive enough, drag him if necessary to give you power of attorney. Then, as my attorney told me, “Hand them out like they are candy.” I did that and told everyone that had anything to do with our finances that NOTHING Martin directed was to be done without my approval. Health POAs went to his neurologist and hospital, who I communicate with through MY CHART prior to every visit. My youngest daughter is still in denial. My oldest daughter is a rock and huge support. I had a huge problem with in-laws who were encouraging Martin to drive an hour and a half to see his mother at the same time I was trying to get him to give up his license. Some even thought I should take in my mother-in-law after Martin’s father died. With the help of my therapist and attorney, the in-laws were notified they either got behind me as a caregiver or I would cut off all their contact with Martin. I would keep them informed, but there would be no personal contact from them as their denial was harmful to him and me. It was only a month ago that they finally recognized his decline. First and foremost, take care of yourself. If you are on Medicare, it pays for a therapist. I see a therapist every other week. Go to your local Alzheimer’s office even if your husband has some other type of dementia…they can help with community resources and caregiver support. Contact your local hospital for programs for healthy aging. Greenville Health System assigned a caregiver coach to me for 9 months free of charge through a grant from The Rosalyn Carter Foundation. I also now get a massage monthly. Check with your insurance for discounted or free health benefits such as reduced cost massages or gym memberships. Create your support system. I understand how this is miserable. I planned on writing a book, but it seems every time I get going, Martin takes another leap in care needs and my frame of mind is not what is necessary to write. I wrote 10,000 words a year ago. It’s tough to write happy, positive thoughts when you are overwhelmed. I found that acceptance of this disease set me free to do other things. Practice mindfulness and meditate even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day. A gratitude journal may also help you get through this. I hope this helps. Love and hugs, K

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  19. Hi Kathy,
    Just found your blog this morning and have enjoyed reading the comments.
    I just retired 2 weeks ago from a 44 year nursing career.
    It happened within the space of one day, the result of a grievance arbitration hearing
    that had been going on for 18 months. The process is ridiculously slow here ( Ontario- Canada )
    I thought getting out of a toxic work environment was what I wanted but I have been
    at complete loose ends ever since.
    I was actually off work the past 6 months with breast cancer ( all is good now ) but that was easier to deal with than this !
    I just went back to work Jan.2 and was put back into a clinic that I had from all accounts (my sources) been told was not going to happen. So after my hearing I decided to settle and leave. What a mistake !
    I have been beating myself up ever since. I was so focused on “them” I didn’t take the time to think through what was best for me.
    Is one of the stages panic because that’s where I am at. It goes far beyond disillusionment !
    I am angry ( mostly at myself ) so hurt by how I was treated and so sad that such a
    long, hard career has ended this way.
    I don’t know who I am now.
    What did I do !
    Gail

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    • Gail, First let me say I am sorry you went through that and having breast cancer at the same time. I’m happy to hear your health is now good. Do not panic! It takes as much as two years to adjust to retirement, not two weeks. I am not a therapist, but it’s been my experience, and from reader comments, that those of us who did not leave work under our own steam have a more difficult time adjusting. I was in real estate and the 2008 downturn did not go well for me. I struggled at first then called it quits. My first advice would be to give yourself time. See a therapist, hopefully one near our age, and work on releasing your anger. Start a gratitude journal writing down at the end of each day what you are grateful for…this one helped me tremendously. Find a local college that offers courses for retirees and take a course. Step outside your comfort zone and try something new. You are thinking you made a mistake because work is familiar. It’s what you know. Start charting a new direction for your energy. This is a HUGE change. Your are forging a new identity and you would be doing that no matter how you left your 44 year career. See if there is a Senior Center in your community. Join a club, volunteer, make a story board of what your retirement would look like if you could do anything you wanted. Rid yourself of any self-imposed limitations such as your thought that you made a mistake. You had a successful career; now you have an OPPORTUNITY to reinvent yourself without the confines of work. Most of us struggle with this challenge and change. It’s why I started the blog. You are not alone in your panic. Let me know how it goes for you. Other readers may also have some thoughts on this. Congratulations on your retirement! K

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  20. Kathy,
    Thank you for your wonderful response.
    You are dealing with such a challenging situation as caregiver
    for your husband. It’s Valentine’s Day. What a love story !
    Your honesty, optimism and outlook on life are inspiring
    I hope I can put into action some of your suggestions.
    There is certainly comfort to be found in realizing that others are
    struggling too – even some who are financially secure.
    My husband and I will have a very modest retirement ( he hasn’t actually
    worked for the past 2 years ) and I am missing 20 years of pension
    contributions as part-time nurses did not have the option
    of joining the pension plan for many years.
    I plan to be a regular reader of your blog to try to keep myself positive
    on this, thus far, very difficult journey.
    Who would have ever thought that through technology we would be
    able to encourage and support one another regardless of geography.
    It’s wonderful!
    God bless you and your husband and I hope you keep writing for many
    years.
    Gail

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