As it became more clear that the pandemic would be around for a while, I began to think more critically about how I use my time in positive ways. I continued to engage in the common practices–exercise, time in nature, organizing closets, finding new recipes to try etc. All have become part of my household practice. Except that is for baking sourdough bread…that’s a story for another time…
Still, I wanted to push myself in an intellectual way that would allow me to continue what I preach–life-long learning. And, then it happened. A Facebook friend was asking for book recommendations. You see, she had read 72 books since the pandemic! 72! I had read….well, that’s not really the point. The POINT is I was going to read books, a practice that was not part of my regular activities.
I do read. I read a lot, just not books. I research interventions and strategies for clients. I delve into information about my topics related to practice. I teach children how to critically read. I just don’t read books. I encourage my students to read and I had made a decision to practice what I preach.
Book reading is a complex activity. It requires sustained attention, use of memory and visualization skills and advanced processing of ideas. It is good for the mind to engage in pursuits like reading. I chose to read non-fiction and began with reading books from my favorite authors. I found a comfy chair and a quiet time in the evening. One of my sons also joined me for reading time and there we each sat, with a cup of tea and a book. I was beginning to enjoy this and getting into the groove. I had already finished a few books.
I purchased a new book Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self which I had been meaning to read. The cost for a new book was high so I decided to buy a used copy. I remember the description “Good condition, contains some underlining”. This didn’t bother me in the least.
I began the book and I saw the first underlined section on page xxxvi.
I remember thinking “No problem, the underlining was neat and it was something that I would highlight” so I did.
As I went through the book each underlined section made sense to me. “Wow, this person and I are really in sync and they seem to really understand the art of underlining important parts of a book”. I was a feeling of satisfaction in more ways than one.
And then it happened. On page 58 there was an underlined sentence “The psychodynamic work of mourning….is a way to remember more than it is a way to say goodbye”. But, there was also an arrow pointed to the sentence. I paused-not because of the sentence, it was a powerful sentence-but because of the arrow.
Why was there an arrow?
What was the reader thinking?
Was I missing something?
My reading for the night was officially done but I was not done with the book. I now spent my time going through each page looking for the previous reader’s personalization on page 99 there was a”x” on page page 116 there was a “?” and on page 117 and 143was written “wrong!” and “that’s not me!”, respectively. I was now officially consumed with thoughts about the previous book’s owner.
I may never know who owned the book before me of why they chose to write or annotate as they did. Based on what little I did gather, it seems like this person is a person of faith and most likely an only child. But the unexpected journey I took with this book was fascinating and personal since the book is all about what happens to us after a parent or both parents died. In some ways I feel a kindred spirit with this anonymous reader.
I truly wish them well.
I did eventually finish the book and I am on the hunt for a new book. I might even buy another used one.
Oh and if you happen to have owned, underlined, annotated and sold a copy of Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self, I’d love to have coffee sometime…
This is one of my favorite views in my house. It’s taken from the perspective of my leather recliner looking through the living room into the dining room. I sit in this chair each morning and watch the sun rays fill the dining room with light while I contemplate the day, meditate, pray, drink my coffee…
It’s my own “outside looking in” moment.
I have another “outside looking in moment” from many years back when my mom was in a board and care facility. I arrived for a weekly visit and instead of just walking in, something in the universe had me pause and I peered in through the little opening in the door.
Here was my “outside looking in” moment”:
All six residents–some in chairs and some in wheelchairs- were sitting at the table eating lunch. My mom was seated at the head of the table. In some ways it was a rather nice scene but at the moment I couldn’t fully appreciate it. My mom had the equivalent of an adult bib around her neck and my focus went to that. I will confess that there was some sadness with this “outside looking in” moment. I remember a small sigh before I turned the handle to enter.
This memory is still vivid for me and I reflect on it from time to time. Years later I can appreciate more about that moment–she was safe, part of a community, and engaging in a daily life ritual.
I also realize that perhaps this moment wasn’t just my “outside looking in” moment, it might have belonged to her as well. Maybe she too had moments of thinking about how different life looked. Might she have glanced at the table from time to time from favorite seat in the living room to ponder as well?
Hold on to those “outside looking in” moments. You never know when they will give life more meaning.
Providing care for your elderly parents can be demanding, but it can have joyous opportunities. Here’s some motivation for creating positive memories with your parents, as well as practical ways to get started.
Making Family Memories
Improves the Quality of Life. Older people benefit from remaining mentally active and connected to others. Help them share their wisdom, and let them know they still make an important contribution to the family. Everyone wants to feel recognized and respected. Your efforts will add to your parents’ quality of life.
Finds joyful moments. Pressures build up when you’re caring for your parents and your own children. Sharing positive memories is one of the best rewards for all this hard work. Looking back may also help you to heal past conflicts that might interfere with a closer relationship.
Creates memories for children. Keeping precious family customs, traditions, and rituals going strong from one generation to the next is a gift. Grandparents enrich your children’s lives with an abundance of love and attention. Make the most of the time they spend together.
How to Capture Your Memories
Reminisce. Encourage your parents to talk about their lives. Select a comfortable setting and a time free from interruptions. Ask open-ended questions and listen attentively. Remember to be sensitive to their reactions as some subjects may be sensitive or painful to discuss.
Record your sessions. Video and audio recordings create priceless reminders of your loved ones. Make sure to get their permission first. Some people may find audio recordings more comfortable than video. Others may prefer filming the whole family rather than being the sole subject.
Eat together. Family dinners are a powerful bonding ritual. If you live close by, set aside one night a week for dining together. For longer distances, take full advantage of holiday gatherings and other special occasions. Really spending time together savoring the food and reflecting on memories spent is a wonderful way to nourish the body and mind.
Cook together. Go one step further and prepare special dishes together. You’ll be ensuring that all those favorite family recipes get passed along. For a lasting memento, assemble a cookbook with step-by-step instructions and photos.
Go on outings. If your parents are up to it, include them in planning your next vacation. Even with limited mobility, there may be day outings that you can all enjoy. Look for family movies or lecture series at local museums.
Take a trip to your parents’ hometown. For an unforgettable outing, take a trip back to where your parents grew up. This adventure is bound to trigger a lot of memories, so you may learn interesting things you never knew about the people who raised you.
Plan a family reunion. Maybe your parents would be thrilled to bring everyone together in one place. The internet makes it easier than ever to locate distant relatives. Delegate responsibilities so everyone can participate without getting overburdened.
Organize old photos and home movies. Sit down with your parents and sort through the old albums and movies a little at a time. With a home scanner, you can digitize the images yourself or save time by taking them to a photo lab. Store the originals in archival quality albums or boxes. Using acid-free paper will slow down the deterioration process.
Fill in your family tree. Sketch out your family tree and ask your parents to fill in as many names and details as possible. If this whets your curiosity, there are many resources online or at the library to guide you through further research.
Enjoy keepsakes. Ask your parents for the stories behind the objects they collect and the souvenirs they’ve accumulated. Look through the attic for forgotten treasures.
Sharing family memories draws us closer together across the generations. Help your parents enjoy their elder years and share their wisdom with you and their grandchildren.
15 Ways to Help Grandparents and Grandchildren Stay Connected
Much has been said about how COVID-19 affects the health of older generations, but family relationships are a concern too. Many seniors feel cut off from one of their greatest joys in life, their grandchildren.
Since the end of March 2020, 69% of grandparents haven’t met their new grandchildren face to face. Another 76% haven’t hugged or touched any of their grandchildren. That’s according to a survey by the grandparenting organization Gransnet.
While visits and hugging may be too risky for a while, there are other ways to stay in touch.
I’m in many online groups. It’s a way to see what the “hot” topic is, learn about new tools and strategies and connect with others who have common interests.
One group had the following post the other day “Every few years popular buzzwords come around and get overused. Anyone else ever tired of hearing/seeing certain words?” There were many responses 73 to be exact and included such words as “authentic” “unprecedented” “pivot” “manifest” etc. But there was one that caught my eye “self-care” *. And…I was a little sad to see this.
You see, self-care is what got me through the marathon of losing who my mom was. It was what fueled me so I could make thoughtful and reflective decisions. It’s what allowed me to wear all the hats–a parent, a child, a colleague and a friend. It was what saved me during the three extraordinary heavy months of hospice care. In short, self-care and I are deeply and forever connected.
For me, self-care will never be a buzzword. It’s a part of who I am and something that belongs in my life.
If you are not passionate about self-care or maybe it’s a buzzword for you, that’s OK.
Just consider this–there are many types of self care: physical, spiritual, rest, mental, social, financial, professional….pick just one and give it a try. I think you will be glad you did.
* I went back and found the original post and reread all the comments. I KNOW I saw self-care as a comment, but try as I may I could not find the comment. This is my blog and I am sticking to my narrative. ! Onward!
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