Senior Isolation

I had a horrifying realization the other day. It’s one of those things that you should spot right away because it’s right in front of you, but somehow even with all those clues I was maintaining an old and dangerous idea.

778 Relax and Succeed - It's the oldest story in the worldIf you were to ask me how my essentially never-unhappy father could possibly be depressed, I would answer that the only thing I could imagine doing that would be prolonged isolation. He just loves people too much. He loves to talk, he’s a great joker and he’s just a generally super-helpful person. And then it struck me.

There had been a bit of a pattern forming around Dad. I can always feel when one of those realizations is coming–it’s quite distinctive. A few times while I was over doing my daily visit I noticed that Dad wasn’t participating like he usually does. He hadn’t added many jokes lately. Just something was… off.  At first I attributed it to his stroke and then I realized that he looked sad for the first time in my life.

Sadness was so odd–so strange, so baffling–that it really stood out. And then I realized that through body language he’s told us what’s happening. He used to try to participate, but with his hearing aids that’s hard. We can use our brains and ears to hone in on individual speakers in a busy room but people with hearing aids generally can’t.

778 Relax and Succeed - The quietest roomThey aid delivers a different sound pattern to their brain than their ear did, and so they can’t do the filtering with their old wiring. And so my Dad–and I’m sure many others–eventually gave up. So now that he’s not making the effort we didn’t know we needed to change what we were doing. We have left him essentially alone in every room even if he’s with people. And I said, the only thing I can ever imagine making my Dad sad is if he can’t engage with the human beings he’s always loved so much.

The moment I realized that I was driving to my parents to play cards with my Dad. It’s one on one, he can hear me no problem, and he loves beating me at crib–which he often does. Two deals in and there’s my smiling Dad back, making jokes, teasing me, teasing my Mom and seeming younger and less like a stroke victim every hand. My only regret was that I couldn’t plan for it and I only had time for one game. But I’ll be playing against him again tomorrow.

I now know at family gatherings, my Dad hasn’t lost interest. It’s just too difficult. So from now on I’m his crowd-Sherpa. I’m going to lead him through those events so that he knows what’s going on. Even if it’s mostly just him and I–at least we can still have the same fun we always had.

778 Relax and Succeed - Remember that everyone you meetI don’t think older people would decline anywhere near as much if they were engaged with often. Too many institutional seniors homes look like warehouses and not enough like activity centers. We should stick playschools and kennels in the same facility as seniors and get all the love-sharers and fun-havers in one place.

When you see older people on the street remember: there is a lifetime of wisdom there. They’ve felt all the highs you’ve felt and all the lows too. As we age I think we like to think that things get easier but life is pretty consistently steep throughout all ages. A great attitude helps, but you might still have to carry your urine–or your lungs–in a container with you. Getting old is not for the weak. It’s some heavy lifting.

I’ve always been sensitive to seniors, but this situation with my Dad has really raised my awareness. So from this point forward I hope you will join me in trying to acknowledge and engage with more people who are not only younger than me, but older than me too.

We all have a lot to offer each day just by being ourselves. We should take more opportunities to do that. And we should make sure that wheelchairs, distorted voices or even hearing aids never get in the way of us being connected, generous and caring.

Have a wonderful day connected with everyone around you today.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #37

Winner: Scott’s Top Other Perspectives of 2014 #1

510 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Someday you will find the one

Orand here’s Scott being all harsh and everything again—or you might stay single your whole life. Yep. Sorry. Could happen. And you know what? That could easily be a wonderful, full, rich life filled with love and tenderness. But it still might not include a “permanent” relationship. In fact it’s that very concept that gets so many people in their 30’s and 40’s to throw away their lives while they analyze their existence against some impossible invented standard. Then they end up feeling like they’re failing when really they’re just being human. You’re not supposed to be in a relationship, you want to be in one. Well as this blog has clearly stated many times, wanting creates suffering whereas gratitude creates love. So it’s not the lack of a relationship that’s painful—it’s the fact that you want one. Stop waiting for your life to start after this or that event takes place. There is no destiny. You create it with the verb of your life. You have free will. Create a life. Make choices. Move forward. Live boldly. Do that and you will feel the love that is the basis of our universe, and there is no greater love than that.

peace. s

00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

Blinded by Choice

When I divorced seven years ago I expected to be married and having kids within two or three years. I got obsessed with getting remarried but I went on so many bad dates with so many stupid horny guys that I have given up on the idea of being with someone. The challenge now is that I can’t decide what to do with all of this time in my life. Now that I can see all of these non-relationship choices I have I’m overwhelmed by them. I am scared. What if I pick the wrong thing? How do I figure out the right direction for me?

signed,
Blinded by Choice

433 Relax and Succeed - Maybe the journey isn't so much about becomingDear Choice,
(The person who wrote this was very self-conscious about their English and so they asked me to re-write the question, so that’s my phrasing not theirs.)

Okay, so when it comes to your “problem,” I believe this is what the term embarrassment of riches was meant for. I’m very happy to hear that you’ve started to look at what’s there rather than what you perceive as missing. Nothing is ever really missing. We just get attached to certain ideas of permanence and then we act like something is wrong when our ideas don’t align with the ongoing, roiling action-of-being that appears to us as the outside world. In the end nothing is permanent, the only question is, are we present for its transition or some aspect of that transition?

I will not lie: you have every ability to continue returning to that same old bundle of lonely thoughts for the rest of your life if that’s what you choose. You could re-live that identity forever and no one could do anything about your choice of thoughts but you. But you’ve got to ask yourself, why would you choosing those ones? I mean really; that’s worthy of some serious meditation. Because those thoughts hurt. So why choose to think them when they’re so incredibly painful?

433 Relax and Succeed - Find ecstasy within yourselfTo escape this cycle of painful thinking you don’t need a whole new life. You just need to live your current one more consciously. You don’t need some big decision and a grand master-plan for change. You just need to—moment by moment—choose thoughts and experiences that feel good rather than choosing ones that lead you to feel some form of suffering.

All thought-habits are basically addictions so I’m not going to pretend I’m doing anything other than getting you hooked on feeling good, but that’s how we made it here. That’s how mankind and every other animal got the way they are. That’s how the world works. You just move toward what feels good and it all jostles out. It doesn’t need us figuring out some over-arching plan. We just do our bit moment by moment.

Great lives aren’t lives of note. They are lives well lived. If some guy makes all kinds of sacrifices and as a result he wins an Oscar or a Nobel or a Pulitzer or a Tony, you can’t look at him and say, “Oh that guy’s successful. If I would have been as dedicated as him I could have done that.” That may be true. But why would you do that if that’s not what you felt compelled to do?

433 Relax and Succeed - So what if instead of thinking about solving your whole lifeFor all you know that “successful” guy could go home to a marriage that makes him want to club himself to death with his own awards. He could have a debilitating disease. Or a horrible sex life. Or ungrateful children. Or any number of things that would make his life not so impressive to live. It’s not how notable you are that dictates how good your life is. The only measure of a good life is the percentage of moments that were spent at peace or loving, as opposed to how many were spent in torment, or not-loving.

You don’t build a great life by making one that compares well to others. You live a great life by moving boldly and certainly toward your own interests. Don’t waste your precious existence on anything other than discovering all of the wonderful intersections between you and this remarkable world we co-create to live within. And you don’t need a big plan for that.

You just need to be fully in the moment you’re in and choose what feels right for you then. That will still leave you with challenges in life but at least this way you don’t overthink them, and it really is the thinking that’s painful not the living itself so live boldly and have fun.

peace and a big hug. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.