Monthly Archives: October 2017

Silence and Stillness

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

Monkey with hand over mouthA friend recently mentioned that she had attended a retreat on the topic of silence and stillness.  What a concept!

All my life I have had trouble with being silent and being still. My interpretation of silence on the part of others in my presence meant that they were unhappy or bored with me. So, to ease my discomfort, I would fill the silence with chatter.  Of course, that meant animation–the opposite of stillness–even if just body language.  It was an exhausting enterprise, but I had no control over it; I did it without thinking–a compulsion. 

I remember the turning point.  I was driving with my then boyfriend when I noticed that he had become very quiet.  I thought he was angry at me, because that’s how my ex-husband used to behave–the silent treatment, a cruel form of punishment.  I went through a mental back-and-forth with myself, vowing not to be the first to speak.

Who does he think he is?  He’s not going to get away with pulling that crap on me.  I’m not going to have that in my life again.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I was nervous, anxious, and worked myself into a defensive state.  After a little while, my boyfriend made some inane remark such as, “look at that tree over there.” I was amazed.  What I thought was going to grow into a big argument was just him being quiet.  I had never realized that anyone could be quiet deliberately with no other motive.

It is very difficult to change a behavior pattern that took years to perfect.  Although I’m still a work in progress, I’ve slowly gotten better with being quiet.  My inclination is to fill those silences, but now I can stop myself.  Sometimes, it requires a mental dialogue (I do a lot of those) that my role doesn’t have to be the entertainment committee–that it’s okay for me to just remain silent.

These days, I seem to crave quiet and calm more and more. I cherish my down days where I can pad around my house alone with no appointments, deadlines, obligations, etc.  The space to spend my time reading, writing, thinking, and whatever else strikes me has become precious. I surprise myself with this new outlook; it’s so different from my former self.  There is a peacefulness I didn’t have when I was younger.

Try adding periods of silence and stillness to your life.  Schedule time for it if it doesn’t come naturally.  Embrace it instead of fighting it.  It is cleansing, calming, and healing.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: Eric Kilby via Visualhunt /  CC BY-SA
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Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, second acts, seniors, successful aging, wellness

Taking Care of the Caretaker

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com

Now, on to my blog:

PICT1615Some of us go willingly into the role of caretaker, and some of us are thrust into it without being consulted. Examples of voluntary caretaker roles are: parent, teacher, nurse, pet owner (yes, owners of sick pets have been found to have more than normal stress, anxiety, and depression.)

Some people deliberately choose caretaking involvements, and thrive on them. But, what about when the role of consuming, full-time or almost full-time caretaker ensnares us when we hadn’t planned on it, hadn’t desired it, and it does not fit our personality type?

A typical scenario might be when an ailing spouse requires ongoing, long-term care. There may be no one else available to step into the caretaker role other than the remaining, healthy spouse. Other examples might be when children have to care for an aging parent, or when parents have to care for a child who has become permanently disabled. We’re not talking here about just bringing them lunch in bed. We’re talking about hands-on care of their bodily needs and functions, entertaining them, transporting them, and maybe even supporting them financially.

You might be a caretaker from afar. Maybe you are responsible for someone in a placement of some sort or who resides a long distance from you. Perhaps you’re the go-to-person for any problems, crises, concerns, questions, etc. Although your life is not necessarily hampered on a continual basis, that responsibility is always capable of demanding instant attention from you, superseding anything else you had planned. You live with an underlying tension, never knowing when your remote caretaker duties will kick in.

You may feel overwhelmed and no longer able to cope with that role no matter how much you are concerned about your charge? You might find yourself becoming resentful, angry, bitter, impatient, irritable, stressed out, etc. This can lead to negative behaviors toward your dependent such as yelling, ignoring, pushing, or worse.  After that, you may feel guilty as he/she did not choose to require caretaking and is helpless to help you. Cyclical emotions such as these can spiral you into depression which renders you less capable of being an effective caretaker.

To the outside world, sympathy and attention usually goes to the sickly or helpless one. People rarely have much left for the caretakers, or even think of them as needing any. Yet caretakers burn out. Caretakers may become sick themselves simply from the job of caretaking.

So what can you do to break this cycle and stay relevant and capable in your role as a caretaker?  How can you take care of yourself, not only for you, but for your charge? Both you and he/she need you to remain strong emotionally and physically.

You can seek respite from time to time. Find outside activities that bring you pleasure and enjoyment. Take breaks from the caretaking business just as anyone with a job has weekends or other days off and takes periodic, longer vacations. In short,  refresh yourself on a regular basis.

To do this, you need someone or several someones to step in as a substitute caretaker while you’re gone. Start seeking suitable candidates. These might be your children; other family members; friends; neighbors; members of your church, synagogue, or temple; hired help; volunteers from an organization; home-health aides referred by an insurance plan or a governmental agency, etc. You must do this for yourself, even if you feel that no one else can take care of your ward as well as you can.

By taking better care of yourself, you are indirectly taking better care of the one  who is dependent on you. You return to duty refreshed, in a better mental state, and with a better outlook knowing that your next break will come soon.

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Please forward my blog to anyone who might be interested and post it on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To reprint any material, contact me for permission at:  gowergulch@yahoo.com. If you want to be automatically notified when I post a new blog, click on the “Follow” button in the upper right corner of this page and fill in the information. To read my other blog posts, scroll down on this page or click on “Recent Posts” or “Archives” under the Follow button. To opt out of receiving this blog, contact me at the aforementioned email address, let me know, and I’ll remove you from the list.

Photo credit: Cindy Funk via Visualhunt /  CC BY

 

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Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, second acts, seniors, successful aging, wellness