Honesty, Age and Loss

Wow! I’m catching up on my blog! But when the ideas and feelings finally come it’s important that I get them out (I’m told anyway).

In August I had a very BIG birthday. Not a big party, but the number is a big one. Why I won’t share that number is my own problem. I should be thankful for this many years. I am, I just don’t need to share it.

I do love this age however. Like my sweet mother told me long ago, the older you get the less what people think of you matters. So, is this true? For me I have to say YES. But, strangely so, I continue to try to please everyone, tell them what I think they want to hear, allow others to use my inability to say “no I will not come out and fix your computer.” I only have myself to blame though. A simple, “I’m sorry but I’m not up on these new operating systems, I’d do more harm than good” would work better than getting upset that there’s always a reason for the call and it’s not to just say hello and invite me to lunch. I run around helping everyone with whatever they’ve asked of me. They all know I’m sick. They all tell me to take care of myself and be good to myself. But I’m needed (I can fix computers!) so that makes me feel I have a purpose I guess. Yes, at this age I care less of what people think of me BUT I continue to try to please everyone to the point where I make myself more sick by stressing to get there and fix something.

I decided to try something new, to actually ASK a friend for help. It was tough to get the nerve up to do so. But not only was I needing someone to talk to, a part of me felt curious to see if 1.) I had the guts to ask for something and 2.) they’d say yes or would help. So, I finally told my close friend that I’m depressed and in a dark place. I’d never struggled with feelings like this before and didn’t know how to help myself. That this Achalasia thing was taking a real toll on me, more so than Lupus ever had, and I’m spinning my wheels. I texted her actually, because I didn’t want to call her in case she was busy, or interrupt her day (a huge part of people pleasing is never be a burden….my own take on people pleasing etiquette). Texting always seems like a sure fire way to communicate with people and not “interfere “ with their day! Yes, I know, I’m doing that “caring what people think of me” thing I said I don’t do since I’m older now. So I texted her my big “I’m depressed…” share.

She texted back later that day (see, I knew she was busy or she would certainly had gotten right back to me since I never talk about myself but instead I make light of everything, and joke around about this symptom or that. When my truth is, I’m hurting, afraid, exhausted and at my wits end) and her text response was, “just hand it over to God. He knows your heart.” followed by a request to come visit her and could I fix a technical issue they’re having with a computer.

I think, well that was helpful (sarcastically) and how do I hand things over to God? I’m a visual person. I visualize ideas, comments, opinions. I believe in God, but I have to be honest, the visualization of me handing my depression and the reasons I’m depressed over to the picture I have of God in my mind, that has come from illustrations from childhood Bibles seems fake to me. My relationship with my Creator is a personal, private belief that He indeed created me, is my higher power, but it stops at the “give Him your troubles, He’ll help you” because He’s GOT to be super busy with everyone asking Him for this and that. I prefer going to Him in private prayer and thanking Him for blessings rather than asking for help or “handing” my troubles over to Him.

With that text I’d put myself out there to my friend and that’s all she’s got? Why I would certainly had probably called her right away if the situation were reversed and said I’ll be right over, we can make some lunch and talk if you’d like or how can I help? However She’s not me, nor is my way the right way to handle such a situation so I’m learning as well that along with expectations DO COME a sort of disappointment that the person didn’t respond as I thought they should. Who am I anyway?! To get upset she didn’t call in the troops and sound the alarm that Susie needs a shoulder to cry on and it needs to happen NOW.

I really care about this friend, I respect her. As I thought about her text I realized that I told her a heavy secret. That depression and dark places call for honest and sincere thought, not a quick text response. That what she said did mean a lot, she’s right, many times she’s shared with me that during the grief process after her husband died from cancer she found solice in talking to God. That many times when she was overwhelmed with grief, anger, pain she would tell herself that she always feels His presence in difficult times and it always helps her to talk to God and say, “Lord, I don’t know why or how, but I do know you’ve got the answers and by Faith I trust you’ll lighten this load in your own way and time. I’ve only to hand it over.” So I was able to stop the “well that’s not what I wanted from my best friend……” and realize that what she texted me didn’t require a 500 word essay, with footnotes on what she Googled to find the cool quote she didn’t attach to the text of the blue sky with clouds and a bright light shining through from the sun, but rather those few words spoke volumes and reminded me of why we’ve been friends for so long. She knows me well enough that my feeling depressed and sad called for the only help she knows she could give at that moment; reminding me of my belief in a higher power, and for me it’s God, and that we don’t have all the answers to all the things we see and feel on a daily basis. But I’ve shared with her many times what my beliefs are, that I don’t expect everyone to agree with me nor do I judge anyone who’s higher power is a different religion or light. Which ended up helping me to see that she is a good friend and isn’t always needing something from me in exchange for being my friend.

We can really become full of ourselves sometimes when we take the, “My God’s bigger than your God” attitude and not humble ourselves to respect the diversity of what “higher power” means to different people. And THIS is when I truly feel the “I do not care if that person does not like me or does not want to be around me because I have an open mind and an open heart to others who may think differently than I do, as long as they are kind and caring.” And it’s taken many years to reach this point in my own life that my beliefs are mine and I’m so glad for the blessings I have and the faith in knowing God. It’s ok if someone believes otherwise. My friend did help me, she made me feel like she knew my heart and what I needed to hear at the moment and, the feeling I got when I read her response was genuinely, “yes, I do need to. It always helps me. He always helps me.”

Back to my age…. this all fits together I promise. It appears I’ve got a lot on my mind. My recent birthday made me stop for a moment and take inventory. Which in doing so helped lead me into depression. I’d lost my sister this year, and lost her husband as well, also lost my ex-husband who was 20 years older than I, just suddenly passed away. They were 3 of the most caring people who watched over me and worried about my worsening Achalasia symptoms and my overall health. I’m still here, running around, they all have passed away. Of course I’m going to be in a dark place, I was suffering from the worsening Achalasia too.

I was able to help my sister when her husband became terminally ill. He was such a wonderful, funny and faithful man. They’d been together since her senior year in school so almost 60 years? After he had passed after a very difficult 6 months on hospice, I worried about my sister. I could see it, her heart so broken. But she would check on me and tell me I need to “get that surgery, fight for it! I need you to get healthy, I need you!” But I could see her declining but I didn’t know what to do but be with her, talk, make her laugh by retelling her some of our finer moments of being sisters who were considered the clumsy ones in the family. The day before I left to go to the city 2 & 1/2 hours away for a long awaited doctor consult for my Achalasia my sister visited me to wish me luck and to tell me how excited she was that I was going to get going on getting the surgery. She told me to call when I got there, to call after my appointment, and to call when I got home safely. But I ended up in the hospital after I got there due to severe pain and malnutrition. While I’m in the hospital I received a call from my niece that she’d had to take my sister to the hospital because she wasn’t feeling right, and it escalated quickly into being placed in ICU for congestive heart failure. I was frantic, trying to get discharged but being told by family that I wouldn’t make it back home in time, that she was quickly deteriorating and that she wouldn’t want me leaving the hospital. I got to speak to her as they held the phone to her ear but I don’t think she heard me, there was no response. The guilt was overwhelming. She passed that night. I would go on to stay several more days in the hospital and then discharged to go home and prepare her service.

So, I’ve had a lot of alone time to look at my life honestly. To see that life isn’t scripted. That lupus and Achalasia are annoying and painful but I need to see that each day I wake up is a day full of blessings in the husband who tries to fix me and advocates as he can for me, in the daughter and her loving husband and my 3 perfect grandsons who see me as the cool “gram” and not as an age or a chronic illness. In the friends I have that know I have a good excuse for flaking out on lunch or a visit.

I think of my sister and her husband when I’m exhausted trying to make appointments to proceed with Achalasia surgery but hit dead ends constantly due to red tape or lost lab results or images from endless endoscopies. That I want to just give up and learn to live on sips of flavored water, and hope the Barrettes Esophagus’ pre cancer cells don’t morph into cancer or the pain gets any worse. I am reminded of how badly they wanted me well. That giving up isn’t an option, rather it’s selfish. This is where people pleasing is a blessing, when you know you honestly do matter and not only is life a wonderful gift, but that my grandsons only know a grandmother who is funny, always at their events, is always available when they have problems that are huge to a 3 year old or an 8 year old and they want to talk to me about it. That I need to fight this dumb illness because it is a fightable one. Unlike Lupus, which has no cure. Achalasia has treatments and a surgery that can fix my esophagus. I only need to keep fighting to cut the red tape and mix-ups and not bury my head in my pillow and say, “it’s just not working out, everything keeps going wrong. I’m tired of all this stuff!” That’s not an option! I’ve got people to please and more birthdays to deny I’m really that number! I’m sure I’ll have future posts where I’m complaining again or I’ve seem to have lost my way in the journey, but now that I’m as old as my 3rd grade teacher was when I asked my mom why they let people that old still teach, isn’t there a law about really old people working?? Ha! I believe I want to continue getting really, really old!

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