Monday, November 19, 2007
Many of the residents are going home for Thanksgiving. As I mentioned, in a facility like this one everyone is on a path to somewhere. It’s interesting, the ‘stories’ they tell and the hopes that propel them from one day to the next. The transience underlying everything is also striking: not only will the healthier move on to a new home, the not-so-healthy have an unspoken destination which hangs over them like a dark cloud. What’s clear is, we are all moving.
How many times have I felt ‘stuck in my life’? And gone whining —“Is this all there is”? And worked myself up into a self-indulgent midlife crisis or two? Usually I self-medicate myself out of this mood with a new ‘project’ or a lavish purchase: there’s the motor home for my wanderlust stage, and the Datsun 280Z for my pause-from-men stage (read divorce), and the sun porch, the hurdy gurdy collection, and the Eleuthera get-away cottage. Every one of these marks a turning point, a self-created re-ordering of my life resources and priorities.
Now, as I simplify my life and management my ‘retirement’ (read ‘re-invention’), I find myself making some critical choices: do I need seven hurdy gurdies or 20 Irish whistles? Will I ever make those sculpted leather masks, or can that equipment go? Is there any value in a 4 year-old portable GPS system which I haven’t used in a couple of years? Some choices are harder, of course…they involve causes, people, pets, values. Some decisions I can’t (or won’t) make—they will resolve themselves.
Here at the nursing home, there are lessons for me to learn about this process. This morning I listened to a conversation (doors are usually open here) between a husband patient and his wife. He’s here following surgery, total hip removal because of infection. Sven is an alert, articulate, well-spoken 85-year old with a lovely family who obviously cares about him and visits him daily. Now his wife wanted to know what to do about the cars. “You have two,” she said, “and I can’t really see you driving again.” How casual the observation, made to a man who almost died from infection and who now lies in bed with no hip on one side of his body. Sven said something affirmative, and the conversation moved to the weather, or the lunch menu, or some such. But I couldn’t help thinking, here is a defining moment in this man’s life. There is no anger, frustration, or sadness—just a calm acceptance of what is, inevitable and unchangeable forces which impact our lives. There is no waste of energy in confrontation of that which will not move. Sven will continue to enjoy his lunch, rue the cold and rainy weather on the other side of the dining room window, go to physical therapy to develop the muscle skills he needs to survive—one of which is not driving a car.
The chocolate promise for this evening says, “Go to your special place.” I am growing into a more profound understanding of where my ‘special place’ is. And I am learning to go there with Sven’s tranquil acceptance.