Comfort: A right or a privilege?

I’m not sure why, but every time I hear a certain commercial, I feel some frustration. I’m sure you’ve heard it. A famous actress comments on a well-known brand of furniture by imploring the listener to “live life comfortably.” Something about the tone of the ad just comes across like there should be an expectation of comfort. So that we’re clear, I’m not against comfort. I like my comfortable bed, my recliner, my sofa. I appreciate having a comfortable, adjustable chair to sit in at work. I even enjoy a level of comfort in the vehicle I drive, despite its age. But I think there is a difference in wanting those things and expecting them.

Maybe it’s the month I spent in Papua New Guinea back in 1982. Seeing people satisfied with the very little earthly possessions they owned changed me. The way the people sang with uninhibited strength was energizing, to say the least. People walk for miles to get to a church service or carry heavy loads of produce or wares to care for their families. I watched a nurse clean and bandage the burned belly of an infant who had rolled into the fire kept going the majority of the day for cooking. As a layer of skin peeled off in her hands, I made an effort to hold back the tears. Then she told me that the child would most likely have serious scars due to the parent’s not understanding the need for changing bandages to prevent infection, as well as the lack of clean supplies.

Maybe it was the trip to a remote village in Alaska with a group of teenagers. It was clear that I take so much for granted when we were required to refrain from flushing any paper down the two toilets to which our group of 21 had access. And the only showers were a quarter mile down the road. They were coin operated and we tried to get two or three people rotated through on the $1.50/10 minute sessions. (Quite an interesting planning maneuver that was! I learned a lot from those teenagers and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.)

Or maybe it’s the occasional trips I get to make back to the place I call home. Seeing how simply people live and the strength they show by being satisfied with what they have gives me perspective.

I am not preaching here. I’m not saying you must turn your back on all things comfortable. I’m sharing my own new desire to live more simply. To not be drawn in by “stuff.” To always appreciate what I have and the wonderful people in my life who touch, move, and inspire me to be better each day. To even appreciate the people who have made me uncomfortable enough to grow and not be satisfied with anything less than my best.

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Baby Boomer Sandwich 

Many of the details regarding my generation category fit the majority of people born in the era called Baby Boomer, with some exceptions for myself and my cohorts who were raised in a conservative atmosphere. I am at the tail end of this generation, sandwiched between the Mature/Silents of The Great Depression and Generation Y, also known as Millennials. I am watching a child mature into adulthood and an adult decline in health and awareness simultaneously. One is taking on more responsibility, making decisions for her future, and another is finding the need to release independence, which must be heartbreaking and uncomfortable. One is not 100% clear about a career choice, while the other spent 35 years working for one organization.

 

This sandwiched feeling is proving to be uncomfortable at best and stressful as well. Making choices regarding where time is spent, while trying to manage a relatively new career, is a nerve-wracking, hair-graying, exhausting experience. (That hair-graying thing is for a friend, okay.) I’m not saying I desire to be free of the responsibility of caring for a parent. I’m just saying that it is not only physically exhausting, but also a very emotionally-draining experience.

 

In 2001, my father passed away after a stroke that left him unable to do anything for himself for 14 months. It was excruciating, watching a man, who had survived many health problems and the loss of his only son, who had spent his entire adult life showing and preaching God’s Love, who never met a stranger, not be able to speak or sing. I could see in his eyes how painful it was, and in his last week felt it necessary to tell him it was okay to let go and receive his heavenly reward. I promised him I would take care of Mom and I will keep my promise. 

 

Since then, Mom has been diagnosed with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Her hands that once held a paint brush, pen, or wood-burning tool to create beautiful artwork are now gnarled. She struggles to put on any shoes because her toes are crisscrossed. Walking, standing, or sitting in a hard chair can last only minutes, and she sighs often in pain and frustration as her body fails. She feels like she is only a burden to me. And in an effort to simplify my life and be less stressed to handle the caregiving role, a downsizing move and purging of things caused a reliving of memories that felt somewhat like I imagine an airbag deployment might feel.

 

In addition to the immediate reality of pain and weariness, the news of my parents’ peers having significant health issues and passing from this world are ever present reminders of my mortality. I see the look of “when will it be me?” in my mother’s eyes. Since I’ve already lost one parent, I feel for my own peers when I hear they have lost theirs. And I wonder how long before I’m without my remaining parent. I also ponder why two people who used their talents for God would have the ability for sharing those talents taken away. That’s when I remember a quote from Erma Bombeck. She said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” My parents certainly used all of theirs. It’s the only thought that comforts me when I am aware of my mother’s pain and remember my dad’s. 


I realize that parent-child relationships can be challenging and that aging and pain can increase those challenges dramatically. I only pray that God gives me wisdom and helps me show a gracious spirit in whatever time my mom has left. I certainly don’t have what it takes to fulfill this responsibility on my own.


Erma Bombeck. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ermabombec106409.html  

A time to help, and a time to be helped.

Things have been a little crazy in my life. Many of you read my post about the emotional conflict of moving, and moving is exactly why I didn’t write last week. I’m reposting this because asking for help was a painful experience as well. How is it we (and I really mean “I”) think that mentioning to friends and coworkers a challenge ahead of us is really communicating that we need help? Why is it so painful to actually admit we can’t do something alone? For so long I’ve been pretty independent. I really do love learning to do things on my own. I used to change the oil in my car. Because I could, and save money. I have primed the water pump on an evaporative cooler and changed the pads myself. (Those of you living not living in the Arizona desert might need an explanation regarding said evaporative cooler, aka swamp cooler.) I’ve change the O-rings on a pool backwash valve because paying someone to do it was out of the question. I’ve installed shower doors by myself. I’ve taped, dry-walled, and skip-trowelled a room. I’ve installed a ceiling fan, changed a ceiling fan light switch, and many other outside-the-box tasks. Asking for help is like nails on a chalkboard for me, so having to ask for help in moving last week was beyond difficult and way outside my comfort zone. But I had to do it. There was no way I could do it alone. And although there were many who couldn’t help because of the urgent-last-minute-nature of my request or the distance, those who were able to help, did so with a gracious spirit. I am extremely grateful and humbled by some who came a significant distance to help. Others worked throughout the night because it was cooler. Still others worked in the hot sun with no complaint and genuinely-giving attitudes.
So, that double dare? That came back to bite me. And I very nearly fell under the weight of it. Eating my own words was a bitter experience. In following through, I have grown and become more compassionate toward others who need my help. Hopefully I can remember this lesson the next time I need help.

journalmehealthy: is what i see in the mirror real?

“There is a season, turn, turn, turn…”

“No! Me do it.” Recognize those words? You must have heard them before from a toddler, recently finding his or her voice and discovering independence. We get aggravated with them because the additional time it takes for them to complete the task will most likely take  significantly longer than if we did it for them, yet we secretly cheer at the thought of one less task on our agendas. We feel the sweet smell of success when our children can do things for themselves. For me, that independence took on a life of its own in adulthood. Why is it so difficult to ask for help? Is it the fear of looking weak? Like someone will think we can’t “handle” things? We’re somehow wasting their valuable time?

I love helping others. It’s why I became a counselor. Helping is just part of my nature. And it was…

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