“I’m an eternal optimist almost to a fault.” That was the short phrase I’d chosen to describe myself in my 15-person Mindscape group. Although only two people in the class knew me previously, everyone nodded.
I’d realized it only the day before. This weekend course began on Friday evening but the reason I was only introducing myself on that Saturday morning was because I’d spent all of Friday readmitting my Mom into the hospital. By then, that had become more routine than either her or I had hoped. This was hospital stay number five in three months. It had been weighing on her for a while by now. For whatever reason, this hospitalization felt heavy, although it was not for any graver reason than her original rush to the emergency room that started the whole saga.
“In your mother’s condition, there’s a 90% chance she won’t make it through this surgery but if we don’t operate that blood clot, she’s going to lose her leg and end up with a surgery she may not survive anyway.”
These were the comforting words of the anesthesiologist at close to 1:00 am after a whirlwind evening of trying to figure out what could possibly be going on with one of the strongest women I’d ever known.
Even with that grim news and seeing the fear in my husband and my daughter’s eyes, I felt at peace that she was going to be okay. It broke my heart that I saw tears of fear in her eyes as they wheeled her in. Even through the next five hours of prayers in a freezing cold OR waiting room, I knew she was going to be okay.
The recovery after the surgery had us sighing with relief and gratitude. God and her surgeon had pulled off a miracle. She was indeed going to be okay. Nothing to worry about here except that, while in rehab, my Mom began refusing food. She was eating what could be considered “normal” to most who didn’t know her, but she wasn’t eating eating like we expected her to.
Her appetite declined. With every trip back home after a hospitalization, I kept lowering the bar to a new level of normal. Perhaps it was a coping mechanism, but it worked for me. I became an expert at administering meds and checking blood pressure. I hired private nurses for the days I had clients and meetings. I wanted the best physical and occupational therapists for her in-home visits. She was going to get better, I just knew it.
Having my mother admit out loud that she was tired of it all was unacceptable. Many family members talked amongst themselves about my needing help. They said I was naïve to think my mother would recover. It fueled me to prove them wrong
Ha! They don’t know my mother like I do, I thought. If I can just get her to start eating, she’ll be back to herself. Like my family, my clients are always accusing me of being too optimistic. When we’re setting goals and metrics and it seems almost too easy, they often say it won’t work. My reply is always, “I dare you to try it and prove me wrong.”
On that Friday before the Mindscape class, I couldn’t tell if my faith was feeding my optimism or vice versa. I really, really wanted to be a realist on that Friday. I wanted to feel what was really going on.
But I can’t fight it. My realism is inextricable from my optimism. I wanted to accept that my mother was tired. I always knew God’s will would triumph, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe his plan didn’t include her recovery. I thought I was broken; try as I might, I couldn’t be pessimistic about this situation. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, either. I journaled, trying to extract some kind of honest, realistic reaction to the situation, but I couldn’t do it. I really am optimistic to a fault, whether that’s good or bad.
As I numbly walked around exchanging hugs with so many loved ones during my mother’s celebration of life, I was overwhelmed by a rush of lessons God had blessed me with during this entire ordeal. I shared a few of those with the guests that evening and want to share them with you today.
My mother spent her entire life making deposits in the hearts of everyone she knew, never expecting to make a withdrawal or expecting anything in return. She was always willing to help and spent most of her retirement just being where she was needed. Although that’s not why she did it, the return on her investment was immeasurable. Everyone showed up for her in prayers, in visits, in batidos de trigo, senoritas or any of her favorite sweets just to get her to eat. She was constantly surrounded by love. Please be sure you are making those deposits in the hearts of everyone you meet, never intending to make a withdrawal or expecting anything in return. Make those deposits because it’s what God asks of us.
Those of us in the middle of the generational sandwich, caring for our elderly parents and our children (and even our grandchildren) should feel honored to be in this spot. We are not responsible for our parents. Even as an only child I knew I was not responsible for my mother. She was responsible for me until adulthood because she chose to bring me into this world, but she was not my responsibility. I wasn’t obligated to her because of some invisible debt I owed her for bringing me here.
What we do to care for our aging parents shouldn’t come out of a sense of responsibility or obligation but rather from a place of honor and love. For those of you in this situation or who may be heading toward this situation, consider that it’s an honor to be able to care for them from a place of love. Seeing it from a new perspective removes the weight of burden when the going gets tough; it can get tough very often. The patience and compassion that God will grant you from this perspective shift will be priceless. I just realized that my husband and I have graduated to that top bun. Oh, Lord, have mercy on our kids. Alabao!
My Mom was not used to being in bed, having anyone have to take care of her and in that process she’d lost her will to live. She lost her autonomy. God agreed that it was time for her to go Home and God’s will triumphs over everything. My optimism couldn’t help my mother survive but I found that it helped me survive to see this process for what it is, just part of the circle of life.
While I’ve always believed in the power of will, I’ve come to understand that will exists for success and for failure. We tend to associate it with success, but will can steer us into failure as well.
We’re in this beautiful season of love and giving and putting into practice that commitment we have to gather with loved ones. This season will also make way to a beautiful new year. What we are do with it is up to us. Is your will for 2020 going to be to continue to do the same shit over and over again expecting different results?
Or are you going to finally start doing what you already know you’re supposed to be doing to live life to your full potential? The choice is yours. You can decide today to love more, diet less, eat more chocolate, write down your goals, assign the tasks you need to achieve them, let go of those bad habits that no longer serve you and replace them with winning habits, get to work, and succeed. If you don’t believe me (that that's all it takes), I dare you to try it and prove me wrong.