For those of us who will be lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, life will come full circle. For those of us who have not yet reached the golden years, comes, instead, the challenges the circle of life present.
There is a good reason that we refer to life as coming full circle.
We are born helpless and totally dependent. Our basic needs are met by others. That is if we manage to even communicate what it is we want by crying, screaming or laughing. That is if we are lucky enough to have parents who are capable of taking care of us.
We want attention. We want to be loved by our family.
We grow and time passes. We learn to crawl and to walk and to talk. The terrible twos come along and with them we learn to start exerting our independence. We make friends, we start to learn, we learn to communicate. We start school, and we learn what it is to be a part of a group. We learn what it is to be a part of society. We learn to read and to write. We are inquisitive and ask a lot of questions. Sometimes we ask the same questions over and over again. Sometimes we say the same things over and over again.
We want attention. We want to be loved by our friends.
We struggle through adolescence and try to figure out who we are and what our purpose is in life. We vow never to be like our parents and to do what we love in life and what thrills us. We begin to internalize that what we give is what we get. Even so, we do find it hard to think of others before ourselves. We are egocentric, because as teens the world obviously revolves around us.
We want attention. We want to be loved by everyone.
We get an education, either formal or informal and we become part of the work force. We are busy, and we have no time, or so we tell ourselves, to do the things we want to do. To do the things that are important to us. If we are lucky, we find that one person who makes us whole. We fall in love, and we get married.
We want attention. We want to be loved by our spouse.
We have children and we raise them the best way we can. And like our parents before us, we make mistakes. Lots of them. We want to give them all the things we didn’t have, both emotional and physical. Sometimes in our quest to right all the wrongs we do wrong by our kids. Sometimes we find the balance.
We want attention. We want to be loved by our kids.
Our kids grow up, in what seems like no time at all, and we are once again left on our own. We start once again to think about the meaning of life and the purpose. Some of us go through mid-life crises and make major changes. Some prefer to leave the boat as it is, in known water, in calm water and with no waves. Yet, still staring out to the horizon and wondering what could have or still could be.
We want attention. We want to feel loved by anyone.
We age over the years, slowly at first. Gray hairs and minor aches and pains come first. It becomes harder to maintain the same weight, and the years take its toll. One day you look at the mirror and don’t recognize your reflection. Sometimes chronic disease takes hold, sometimes disease cuts life short. It’s harder to get your stiff body out of the bed in the morning and your step is missing a little bit of its bounce.
New technologies rapidly replace the old, and you find it hard to keep up. You find yourself asking your kids, and maybe even your grandkids, to explain or just help you out. And because you are still independent in everything else, asking for help in one area is not such a big deal.
Until slowly, you find yourself needing more and more help in more and more areas. And you find yourself resisting the loving help offered by those who know you best and love you most. Because you want to be independent. More importantly, you don’t want to be dependent. You don’t want to be a burden. You want to feel like you still have something to contribute to society. You want to feel useful.
And you want attention, but not like this. And you want to be loved, but not like this.
Because you are slowly being made to feel irrelevant. Not only isn’t your opinion sought after anymore, people are starting to tell you what to do. Like you are a child. So what if you memory isn’t what it used to be? Everyone forgets things now and then, don’t they?
The circle of life is starting to close.
Why are people telling you what to do? You, who have done so much over the years. You can still think. You can still do things for yourself. Sure, it takes you longer, but you can do it. And why won’t anyone let you? What are you supposed to do with your time if people keep doing things for you? And at the same time, you find yourself becoming more self-centered. Why don’t people have time for you?
You need your family’s attention, you need your family’s love. But you want it on your terms. You don’t want to be coddled like a child.
And that is the circle of life.
We start helpless, and as we age we gain independence. If we live long enough, life comes full circle, and we start to become dependent again. Slowly and insidiously at first. For those lucky to have their memory intact, returning to “childhood” as an old person is a difficult and heartbreaking process to go through.
And for those of us who are only halfway down the path of returning to their “childhood”, comes the challenge of how to care for the older generation in a respectful and helpful way. How do we balance the importance of independence with the importance of keeping someone safe.
How do we know when stepping in is the right thing?
How can you not be concerned when someone you love lights a stove to get the kitchen warm faster? When they leave the match they lit the stove with on a wooden counter, and it leaves a singe mark? When later in the day they insist they would never leave a stove lit without something coking on it?
Yet that same person can walk up three flights of stairs to their apartment faster than you can. They can still do their laundry and bake and cook.
But they are forgetful and frail, and you worry.
And you thank goodness that this one time the decision as to where and when to step in is not yours, because she is your grandmother and you live 6,000 miles away.
In the 3 1/2 years since you saw her last, time has taken its toll and the circle of life is beginning to close.
How do you keep someone safe, while making sure they still feel independent and relevant?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Susie Newday of Israel. You can find her positive thoughts on her blog, New Day, New Lesson.
Photo credit to the author.