I just spent a few days with my 94 year-old mother. She has a very nice apartment in a beautiful assisted living facility about 4 hours south of where I live. We’re coming up on the first anniversary of my dad’s death and she is still very sad and very lonely, so my siblings and I do our best to ease her burdens.
For the past couple of months, my mom has been obsessive about her photo albums. She keeps telling us that someone is taking her pictures.
I’ve had this discussion with her at least 20 times, as has my brother who lives about 15 minutes away and sees her several times a week. I always say that I don’t know what’s happening to her pictures and point out that she still has thousands of photos, spanning all of her life and even some from before she was born.
The truth is that over many decades, things get misplaced or we’ve removed a photo here and there for various celebrations and photo compilations. Or maybe one of us just liked a photo and snagged it for our own memory. Who knows, but it’s a frustrating déjà vu every time I arrive, to be grilled as to “who is taking all of my pictures?”
This last trip, she sent me home with a little album of photos from my wedding. This was after she made me promise that I wouldn’t throw them ‘in the trash’. I assured her that I would not. I told her that they mean as much to me as they do to her. But, that wasn’t quite true.
It’s not true because I finally realized that her obsession with the photos isn’t about the photos. It’s about proof that her life was as full and happy as she believes that it was. These volumes of thousands of photos are what she has left of her life. They are photographic evidence that she and my dad had 70+ years of love and happiness and family.
Having spent a fair amount of time around elderly folks over the past few years, I have seen how their lives shrink as their mobility and abilities shrink. At this point, my mom’s life takes place in a two bedroom apartment. The things in that apartment are of paramount importance to her. She is surrounded by what is familiar and that is her only comfort.
The photos are part of that. They represent the time when her world was big and full and juicy. Photos of parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, family, houses, cars, many, many trips and vacations. Photos of people who are long dead and photos of grandchildren, who now have their own children. She looks through the albums and admits to me that she can’t remember many of the names that go with the hundreds of faces. She often can’t remember ‘which kid belonged to which other kid’.
But, she knows that these people were in her life at some point in the past 94 years. She sees photos of my smiling and handsome Dad and is assured that they were happy and loving and that he really was by her side, as her partner, for 72 years.
We all need this reassurance. That we matter. That we loved and were loved. That we’re here for a reason and that when we’re gone, someone will remember.
Friday is the Spring Equinox. A time for saying goodbye to things that are weighing you down; for leaving behind the things that aren’t working in your life. Make a list of those items and burn them, preferably Friday. And then move on. I sat down and wrote this in my journal this morning, so it’s kind of stream of consciousness:
Today is the day that I am letting go of my burdens. I’ve been carrying around my sadness and loss like a huge backpack of rocks for a long time. It has weighed me down; I gained about 20 pounds and let my body go to hell carrying this junk with me. No more. I’m moving toward freedom, light, joy, renewal and all of the good stuff. Enough is enough.
I’m an optimist. I know that things work out for the best. Yes, there is a lot of pain in the world; so much suffering and some of it by people that I love, but I cannot absorb that and allow it to ruin me. I have to rise above it, see the good and the beautiful. I need more music and movement and nature and sunshine and beaches and water and walks. I want to learn to play the guitar.
I’m going to slowly let go and shut down my Jane London Facebook page. That is no longer me; I no longer need that affirmation and adoration. I will write my blog and hope that it resonates, but I won’t be obsessed with views and comments and pats on the back. It’s a beautiful thing to connect and help others. I love that people compliment my writing and I hope that I get better and keep writing, but I have to focus on what’s in front of me.
I’ve spent more time on the feelings and lives of people I barely know than on my own household. My husband is neglected and needs me. My mom needs me and I need to re-connect with my siblings in a way that isn’t about just grief and caring for my mom.
So, this is the way forward. Leave the old ways that were not working and were conspiring against my growth and happiness and freedom. In the end, I will die. Will all of the things I worried and obsessed about really matter? Some will, but most will not. I guess it could be argued that none will matter.
I will die and turn into pure energy and love. Why not try and do that while I’m here? We all have that potential, but modern life conspires to keep us burdened and scared and confined. Not me. I’ve done all of that. Freedom. Letting go. Let’s do this.
I got a reiki session yesterday to begin to clear away some of the grief that has settled into my body. Reiki is sort of like a massage for your energy field and is designed to dissipate or dissolve any blockages and get the good stuff flowing again.
During this session I received a very clear message that said: “You have got to stop carrying all of this baggage. Stop carrying both you and your husband’s burdens.”
It came through clear as day. The interesting thing is that I’ve been suffering with elbow pain for months and none of my practitioners could figure out what was causing it. Lugging around heavy baggage, perhaps?
I believe that we carry all of our emotions in every cell in our bodies, meaning that over time, the bad stuff builds up and causes pain and disease. Chronic and very serious disease. Like cancer and auto-immune afflictions and diabetes and arthritis. Biggies. We carry around lots of guilt, regret, unexpressed anger, rejection, abuse, both verbal and physical; all of the things that add up to a lot of pain in our lives.
So, I sat down to make of list of what I’ve been carrying around that was resulting in psychic pain and sore elbows. It was quite a long list, but a big, glaring one happened recently and so I figure I would just unpack it and see if you can relate.
I am trying to balance being honest and authentic with being kind, to myself and my fellow humans. I’ve always been quite blunt, but that doesn’t always mean I’ve been honest, but now I’m trying to ask myself how I truly feel about friendships, obligations, invitations etc.
A few months ago, a close friend from long ago, popped up on my Facebook page and we re-connected. She reached out to me and quite honestly, when I saw her request, my first words were “Oh, shit”. Our relationship ended about 10 years ago; it was one of those that just wilted. No big bang or blow-out. She was not responsive during a difficult time with my husband’s health and I decided it was time to “weed my garden”.
Now, I will admit that I never really heard her side and wasn’t all that interested. In my view, the friendship had just run its course. We texted and messaged for about a month and she was going through a difficult time, having lost her mother a few years ago and more recently her father. She wanted to talk and I just wasn’t ready, so I told her that I had been angry with her for about 10 years.
Let’s just say my timing was not good and it turned very ugly, very quickly. As I was writing my note to her, explaining why I just wasn’t ready to talk, a little voice was whispering…okay screaming in my ear, this will NOT go over well. She will NOT react well or take this in the spirit you intend. But, of course, I hit ‘send’ anyway.
Add this to my bag of guilt that I’m toting around, causing my elbows to scream in pain. I wanted to be honest and tell her that I wasn’t quite ready to fully resume our friendship. I had hoped it would open a discussion between two grown-ups, but it did not. I am afraid that I was unkind and selfish to dump it on her. However, I felt it needed to be said.
How on earth do we all navigate this stuff? How do we communicate our truths and our feelings without bruising others?
This is one, minor incident, but it illustrates the stuff that burrows into our cells and make us feel small or cruel or mean. That is baggage. It’s not necessarily the huge, glaring mistakes that we’ve made, although those weigh very heavily as well. But, I’ve found that I can sort of stand back and get some perspective on my big-ass screw ups. It’s the little ones that take me down.
We all say we prefer honesty, but I think that’s a lie. We don’t. Which is probably why we have such a hard time being honest with ourselves and why we often don’t say what we mean or ask for what we really need.
I was not ready to resume this friendship and my sneaky way of expressing that was to say something that I KNEW in my gut, would end it. So I did and it worked and now I feel crappy about it.
Kind of. Part of me said Thank GOD that’s over. So, there are two sides to every action, but I tend to only focus on the part where I can beat myself up. That is what clearing baggage is about. It’s when you can look at a mistake in judgment or a moment of unkind behavior and forgive yourself.
My affirmation for today is: I forgive myself. Try it. My elbows feel better already.