Acceptance

A year ago I was busy thinking about a Word Of The Year (WOTY) to define my personal tempo for 2020.  I eventually chose the word “engage”.  In retrospect it should have been “acceptance”.  I think we can all accept 2020 as a tumultuous year requiring acceptance of so many changes to our way of life, as a Black Swan of massive proportions, altered everything we accepted as normal.

Yet, on this last day of 2020, I sit by the fire looking out a window at birds fluttering around the feeders.  Snow melts off the hill.  A pot of three bean turkey chili bubbles on the stove.  Portia cat insists on snuggling against my thigh while my laptop occupies her usual space.  Miles Davis plays softly in the background.  I’m writing again.  I feel better than I have in years.  This peace was a long time coming in an unpredictable year.

Doe raiding the bird feeders

Staying faithful to my WOTY, as January gave way to February I arranged for home care help, allowing me a weekly respite to engage with my new community.  During January I joined several local organizations for both Martin and me.  I planned for yoga and art classes at the Community Center as well as a bookclub.  Being the social creature I am, I reveled in the anticipation of making friends. I similarly planned for longer timeouts from caregiving starting with an April spa visit and winery tour at The Grand Traverse Resort.  That was to be followed in June with a long trip to storied Mackinac Island.  

Then, as we all know, the unthinkably devastating bug known as Covid-19 took over our lives.  By early March I became a presumed positive as a local hospital triaged me.  There weren’t enough test kits for everyone. Tests were reserved for the worst cases.  Mine was mild.  Having spent January recovering from bronchitis using a regimen of Prednisone, my doctor later suggested the steroids may have made the difference.  Regardless, the experience heightened my awareness of the consequences of the virus.  I canceled the trips and home care help.  The Community Center shuttered its doors.  During the next month we went nowhere, saw no one, excepting our daughter dropping off groceries.

Yet here I sit feeling peace, serenity.  I could ask the rhetorical question of why, but I know why.  Acceptance.  I’m paraphrasing here, but the Dalai Lama said if you can’t find a solution to a problem, then the solution is acceptance.  It took me several months to accept even the idea of acceptance.  I don’t like change anymore than anyone else. I mentally kicked and screamed a lot.  As a result, the thought of acceptance steeped in my consciousness for quite some time before the morning in late November when I awoke to feeling lighter, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

In the months previous, there were plenty of days playing victim, especially as Martin declined.  Feeling emotionally defeated by his disease, wanting to think about anything but that, I indulged myself with negative thoughts about the state of the world, political divisions within the United States, my inability to focus long enough to write anything other than my journal, how much I hated the style of the house we bought, missed my South Carolina social life and anything else that came to mind.  But, whenever I have felt this way in my life, I get moving physically.  And, that’s what I did.

Despite feeling exhausted after recovering from Covid, I stripped more wallpaper and painted more rooms.  I’m becoming quite good at painting walls and ceilings.  Looking at the ceilings one day I realized the great room ceiling showed a huge leak coming from the master bath above.  I didn’t know whether to cry or do the happy dance.  The bath was in dire need of updating.  Old toilet plumbing caused the leak.  Ick!  While I saw dollar signs, lots of them, if the floor had to be torn up, I also saw an opportunity to replace the entire bathroom.  I went shopping.  Mostly virtually but also in person to a showroom open by appointment only.  As a bargain hunting enthusiast I was thrilled to leave paying 20% of retail price for floor models, which just happened to fit my plan.

My son-in-law, the builder gutted the master.  In the process, we could see mold where the leak found its way into the hall.  Ick! Ick!  Carpet was ripped up.  New hardwood and tile flooring was laid.  My oldest granddaughter ran the table saw while my son-in-law and grandson laid flooring.  I tried not to think about the cost.

While the interior was being completed, I stained and sealed the front porch deck.  Another new house maintenance experience for me.  Then, I began digging out the old gardens, dividing plants to spur renewal and settling them into spaces more attuned to their needs.  Martin helped with the gardening, moving soil, digging holes and spreading mulch.  By this time I had lost 15 pounds.  Yippee!  And, the style of the house was being transformed. I was beginning to like it.

Roses flourish in their new sun drenched position

By the end of August I finally had a much needed respite. Not 15 minutes from the house I rented a cabin from Michigan State University.  Quite by accident I discovered the rentals in an email from the MSU Bird Sanctuary.  With about 4,000 acres bequeathed to MSU by W.K. Kellogg, it’s used for various types of research including the Kellogg Research Center on beautiful Gull Lake.  The Center boasts the former mansion of W.K. Kellogg along with three cabins for rent on a private beach head.  I rented Cabin A, took long walks in the research gardens, swam in white sandy bottomed Gull Lake, laid in the sun. Best of all, thanks to Covid, I was the only guest.  However, these pleasant surroundings sans caregiving duties renewed me for but a few days.  

Gull Lake Respite

Upon my return home I was struck by another virus.  Sent to the ER for a Covid test, which came back negative, I received the dubious diagnosis of having a virus of the brain or spinal cord.  After a week of fever, stiff neck, excruciating headache, extreme exhaustion and soaked sheets, I recovered.  

Also, Martin’s neurologist, for many reasons, recommended committing him to assisted living.  During a pandemic?  With people dying in residential facilities?  My soul and heart screamed, “Noooooo.”  But my mind and body started going through the process of finding a suitable residence.

Still tired in every way imaginable, by late September, my frayed emotions gave way to a cosmic meltdown.  Geez.  The loss of my husband to his dying brain, the move to another state, my illnesses, the isolation, the worldwide pandemic, the division within my country all collapsed inward on me.  Logically, I knew I was better off than so many in so many ways.  That didn’t help.  I felt guilty for feeling this unshakable sorrow. A pall settled over my immediate world.  But days of crying, introspection, journaling did help.

As I settled upon an assisted living residence, an entry date was chosen.  It was to be a Wednesday.  I would have scheduled weekly visits as long as I had no Covid symptoms.  Then the Thursday prior to admission, I received a call from the Executive Director.  They were in lockdown due to a Covid outbreak.  Of 20 residents in the building, 14 had Covid.  Although there were separate apartments, communal meals and activities allowed it to spread.  Subsequently, even after the residence was cleared of Covid, I made the decision to keep Martin home until there was widespread vaccinating.

If you can’t find a solution to a problem, then the solution is acceptance.  We are universally in a difficult situation.  Some days it’s intolerable.  We all have a story about how the pandemic has upended our lives.  Though isolated, we are not alone.

Although I spent many months attending to my material surroundings, what I miss most is not material.  I miss other people.  The material things were just to occupy time.  It’s the touch of a hand, a real hug, not a virtual one, a smile not hidden by a mask, a meeting over lunch with friends, sharing thoughts about a recently read book or another students work of art.  That’s what I miss.  I accept it may be a while longer before those acts are again normal.

Yes, for 2021 my word is acceptance.  Within that word lies inner peace and outer calm, the capacity to be comfortable with oneself, the freedom to look at our current state with an open mind.  

I wish you all a Healthy, Happy 2021.

42 comments on “Acceptance

  1. A very heart filled letter. Yes I am a sociable person who misses the hugs, the socialization and love of family and friends. At first angry to loss of travel, etc. I have come to accept the beauty and wonders I overlooked in the past. My 92 yr old parents struggle with isolation and I’m there most days. Amazingly they are safe and self caring most days. My children and grandchildren I see at the dog park, their home or FaceTime. My heart aches to hug them but I am grateful for my health and whatever God has in store. God bless you and Martin. May you find strength and acceptance in 2021. Sincerely. Deb

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  2. I’ve missed your posts, and I am delighted that you are once again sharing. Your strength and humanity is an inspiration. Wishing you and yours renewed strength and health in the New Year.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Happy New Year Kathy! So happy to see you are posting again. I was concerned that something awful may have happened and for you it did. I’m sorry that Martin is declining so much to need assisted living. Life is hard sometimes (as you well know) but things will get better. Maybe very different but better. I wish you a Happy Healthy 2021 and look forward to your next post.

    Best, Joan

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s always wonderful to see a blog post from you pop up in my email. This post brought me to tears. My situation is different and nothing quite as dire; yet I recognize the emotions in your writing. Thank you for sharing. I hope you’re able to fully embrace acceptance in 2021. My word is “no excuses.” It seems like 2020 constantly interfered and I let it. I’m moving forward in 2021. My best to you.

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  5. Kathy, I was overjoyed to see your email just now. I’ve missed your Blog posts. I knew you and your husband had been dealing with his health issues, but reading this Blog about your experiences of 2020 was staggeringly difficult. Your decision to accept is truly amazing. Acceptance has been slow to come to me, and although my year has not been anywhere near as challenging as yours, I believe 2020’s purpose has been to teach me acceptance. There are moments when I understand this. There are moments when I accept this. Thank you, Kathy for this post.

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  6. Thank you for this inspirational blog post. We’ve all lost so much this year, and it’s heartening to think of acceptance as we move forward with hope into the new year.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Acceptance is also a gateway to empowerment.
    Wishing you and your family love health and joy in the coming year.
    Eileen
    NY

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  8. Kathy, it is so good to hear from you. You are in my thoughts and prayers often. You are correct that in life we sometimes have to accept the impossible or the improbable, as difficult and ‘unfair’ as that might be. Life can be so sad, difficult and disappointing at times, and even scary. In my family’s case, it was my dad’s illness/diagnosis of ALS that was sad, difficult and scary to accept. A man who was once the strongest of men, became bedridden and unmovable. What cruel illnesses are both ALS and Alzheimer’s; one robs the body; and one robs the brain. Acceptance is difficult, but once dad was set free of his illness in 2006, the process of slowly remembering who he was, before the illness, blessedly began for the family. Wishing you acceptance, peace, calmness, resilience, and a better 2021 for both you and Martin.

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  9. Kathy, during these months at home I’d been wondering how you and Martin were. I was hoping that all was going ok. Now I know how diverse the year has been for you ! My 2021 wishes for you are, that you fully gain your good health back and that soon you are both vaccinated and able to hug the ones you love. Thank you for reminding me about having a key word for the year. Acceptance is a perfect choice. For me, it would also be Grace because even though I’m over 60, I still struggle with change and having good grace in the face of adverse situations. 🙏🏼

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  10. I am glad you are writing again and feeling better. I’m sorry the year of lockdown and Covid was worsened by decisions about your husband. I have never chosen a word of the year. Your choice, acceptance, is perfect. I have been toying with choosing a word this year. The word I am considering is opportunity, a word which you remarkable used in this post. “I also saw an opportunity to replace the entire bathroom.
    Hope you have a peaceful year of acceptance.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kathy, Have thought of you and your husband in recent days so was glad for your blog. Am sorry for your husband’s further decline, but hope you retain and find peace in remembering the shared, wonderful times. Happy New Year to you and your family. And your WOTY is truly inspirational. Truly, Tia

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  12. Thank you so much for your honest experiences and insight to this last year! This has definitely been a difficult year for all of us! I liked what you said when you don’t know what to do is have acceptance! A lot of this is out of our control with the exception of keeping yourself and other s as safe as you can! My 92 year old mother is in Assisted Living and doing quite well. Just 2 cases early in and they were sent to other facilities but not being able to visit had been rough on all of us! So we accept and connect and do FaceTime and phone calls! Happy New Year with hope that we will beat this terrible disease by getting vaccinated!😊💕

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  13. Kathy,
    My heart and soul are with you. My husband I are are both healthy, but family, all 3 of my grown children, have severe problems. Acceptance is a great word. We can’t fix everything. I am looking forward to doing all the things we miss in 2021. I’m ready to kick 2020 down the road.

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  14. Your post took my breath away. You’ve had so much to deal with, yet you’ve found things to be grateful for. I think we can all find someone worse off but it’s OK to sit with our own feelings of loss, hurt, and disappointment too. I hope the new year brings you joy and peace, acceptance and engagement. Stay healthy and safe, Kathy.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Kathy, 1st thank you for posting. I first read one of your posts over 4 years ago when I was personally struggling with what my life could be post-retirement. Your comments helped a lot and got me involved with an organization that allowed me to make new friends in a new community and engage in a yearlong volunteer project.

    2nd, I am so sorry for Martin’s condition. Your post detailing your move from South Carolina to the north, helped me to gather the mental energy to move from sunny San Diego to winter filled Philadelphia to be close to our daughter and her family and help care for our 2 year old granddaughter. An unbelievable joy in this year of Covid.

    This year has been a trial to all of us, but you have dealt with more than your fair share. I can’t imagine mustering enough physical and emotional strength to handle what you have addressed. But because you have shared your triumphs and trials, I know that I can manage what ever I might have to face. I have looked forward to your posts this year wondering how you and Martin were doing. Thank you for updating your followers, we all are sending you good wishes. TSterling

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  16. Wow! A difficult year for you and your family yet you have somehow reclaimed the inner peace which makes life precious. I wish you new and unexpected blessings in 2021. Thank you for your blog.

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  17. Wow, Kathy, you’ve had quite a year. Despite everything, you’ve been able to recover from illness, improve your home, and protect your husband. That’s a lot to be proud of. Let’s hope a new year brings many good things for all of us. I hope that will include your trip to Mackinac I, truly a magical place. It’s filled with fudge so how can it miss? Very best wishes and thanks for sharing your life.

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  18. Wow! I wondered why I hadn’t seen a blog in a while from you. My year has been mellow compared to yours yet I struggled emotionally with both my parents in Long Term Care near me, both with dementia. Getting worse. Wonder what your word for 2021 will be? I put down ‘harmonious’ for me on a Facebook post the other day. I need to find the harmony deep down in my soul when visiting with parents and in everyday life with my husband who sometimes does things that make me very concerned. Well, best wishes for 2021 Kathy. Heather in Canada

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  19. Hi Kathy, just to let you know I hear you and can appreciate what you are going
    Through. Here in Perth W.A. WE have been virtually untouched by Covid but we were
    In lockdown for six weeks in Feb. none of the social groups for the whole year and
    Very little chance of exercising or volunteering. The nursing of an ailing husband adds
    A very different dimension as is living alone. Acceptance is the only way to free ourselves
    Of over thinking all that could have been. This was supposed to be my travelling
    Year before I turn eighty. Two overseas trips have been cancelled. I find myself having to
    Accept the fact that I am in a very safe place and be grateful. I’m sorry you have had to
    Cope with health issues as well. I admire your initiative to keep blogging through all
    This and love to hear about your life. Juanita x

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  20. I smiled when I saw your name in my in-box, like I do when I receive news from any longtime friend!
    I’ve always loved your writing, how you draw your reader into your everyday day with honesty and integrity! I lost my oldest daughter to cancer last year, and acceptance was probably my word as well!
    Enjoy all the Happy moments that 2021 will bring and, as for the rest, let’s just try to accept!

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  21. Please keep blogging. Your insights into the human condition are unique and wise.
    I have followed your blog for over 6 years now…I retired 5.5 years ago at age 62. I’m so glad that I retired when I did!
    Acceptance is a good word. You are a true warrior…God’s speed.

    Tom

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  22. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing this update on your world. I’ve followed you since you started your blog. Today, I appreciate the solution/acceptance advice above all.

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  23. Kathy, this is a beautiful piece… I will share it with my retired music teachers in a future e-newsletter. Thank you for bringing us all hope… and acceptance! PKF

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  24. I’ve also been dealing with difficult things this past year and COVID-19 has made everything worse. There are days I want to escape and not have to deal with anything. Like you, I know others have it worse but I still find time to feel sorry for myself. I’m never sure which version of myself will wake up each day. Acceptance would be good for me. My WOTY for 2020 was Adapt, which I think will carry into 2021. There’s more work to be done. I’m happy you’ve found some inner peace.

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  25. Blessings to you for 2021! It’s good to read your blog again. Your perspective on a very tough year is insightful. Stay warm and safe and know that others are thinking of you.

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  26. Kathy – your post is full of so much humanity and caring – whether it be for your dear husband, his children, your cat, your garden, and most importantly yourself. Thank you for continuing to write your blog. I am always reminded about how generous you are to share your life and thoughts with me – a complete stranger! I admire your acceptance and I also admire your resilience, your fighting spirit, your deep personal insight, and your courage to tell us about it. My own year has been infinitely easier despite this miserable pandemic. I recognize the same the longing for human contact – real in person contact – but your blog post today delivered as close as you can get to that. May this year see you continue to thrive. Peace, health, happiness – Fiona

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  27. I am tearing up reading your trials this past year…you are truly a very strong person to come through all of that on top of this pandemic. I started following you when I retired in 2012 and was so grateful that there was someone else out there who felt the same way about retiring and all the feelings and changes that entails. You helped me so much in processing those feelings. I like your word “acceptance” and is something that is so very hard to do in the face of adversity and loss, but I have learned that the only way out is through with “acceptance” being the gift we receive in the end. Happy New Year to you and yours.
    Marianne

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  28. Happy New Year! Your words brought tears to my eyes. I pray that you and Martin not only survive but thrive in 2021! My word for 2021 is Gratitude for surviving 2020 many did not. God Bless!

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  29. Thanks Kathy, we love your writing. And your word for the year is perfect. Acceptance it will be as we strive to return safely to some normal.

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  30. Way to go! You get platinum medal for enjoying moments of peace and serenity! I am so inspired by you sharing your story. We do indeed create or exacerbate our own misery when we can’t accept the present. Lots of love to you and Martin.

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  31. Kathy – Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Both your strength and honesty are so inspiring. I too miss the hugs, the long in-person conversations, and even live theater. And yes, I am amazingly fortunate in so many ways that even typing that I feel guilty. Acceptance has often (to me) felt like “giving up” but I am coming to realize how much courage acceptance takes. That’s my WOTY – courage. The courage to accept myself, to release deeply held beliefs, to face my fears, to change (or maybe that should say to become who I am supposed to be). Wishing you peace.

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  32. Kathy, It has been a year! You are so right about acceptance (the first line of the serenity prayer — “accept the things I cannot change”), but it can be hard to achieve. I think you probably made a good decision in keeping Martin at home. I moved a friend with dementia into a nursing home in mid-December. Once I was no longer able to visit her beginning in mid-March and all the staff had their faces covered with masks, her dementia spiraled out of control very quickly. I hope that 2021 brings some easing of burdens for both you and Martin.

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  33. Thank you for your post and for the update. My year has not been nearly as challenging as yours, but “acceptance” of the limitations of old age (84) is an ongoing issue for me. I can no longer perform most of the physical tasks that you mention in renovating your home, nor can my 91 Y/O spouse. Physical pain and decline are a reality. Fortunately, we have adequate (not ample but, we hope, adequate) resources to shelter-in-place and have so far managed to avoid catching COVID-19. For this we are grateful. Still, fear and hesitation to venture out even as far as the grocery store have been daunting. (I am the shopper since, being somewhat younger, I am at relatively less risk for COVID complications. I use curbside pickup as often as possible.)

    I wish you a better 2021 and will try to work on “acceptance”. Like “Retired Introvert” (which I am also), my WOTY must also be “adapt”.

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  34. I just read this post for a second time-it is so moving and relevant in many ways. Also the first time I read it, my 2021 WOTY came to me! Isn’t that the most meaningful way to find it, when not racking your brain over it.
    Best wishes to you!

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  35. Greetings Kathy,
    Sending you warm wishes for Strength in the year ahead.
    I admire your resilience and willingness to share your personal experiences with us, your readers. That takes courage to lay bare your thoughts.
    Perhaps you would consider some online Yin Yoga, which is gentle and allows one to gather energy to carry on. The effects are deeply restorative. One source of these classes is Gaia.com
    Wishing you and Martin Peace.
    Imogene

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  36. Thanks for your honesty and encouragement, Kathy. I appreciate hearing from someone who has had a really tough year, and yet is strong and moving forward emotionally. You are inspiring.

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  37. I so appreciate your “real” comments in a world of so much BS. Your first blogs helped me with retirement questions and now with caregiving duties. Sharing insights lightens the load. Thank you.

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