Bringing it all home: trials of aging and degenerating

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There’s nothing like bringing it all home…friends, family, old favorites, reminiscing of the past, blending it with the present. Then there comes those dark moments of bringing it all home; a little too close to home where your whole core is shaken. My trip home to Colorado has been filled with both…the comforting hugs and heart-felt conversations AND then there’s the deep and difficult reality of aging relatives and painful life struggles. As hard as it is to face and not turn away, the truth is home = family and family = unrelenting challenge. Meaning that being home presents those uncomfortable, anxiety-building situations where you want to run faster than ever before. For me, being home = intensely real.

My grandfather is peaking on the summit of releasing his self-independence. With my life now in SF, 1200 miles away from the daily process of this happening, I wasn’t ready for what I walked into…frail weakness, exhaustion, confusion, and uncontrolled natural body processes all at the same time. The change in his voice, loss of weight in his face, and most of all, the lack of recognition of my presence was heartbreaking. Having to change his soiled clothes while my eyes selfishly avoided looking around at the chaotic simplicity of his room, I felt my heart gain five pounds. How did we end up here? I’m not a kid anymore is all I could think!

On top of the hardship of watching my grandpa lose control on his independence and overall awareness, I had an extremely raw and brutal conversation with a relative regarding a longstanding chronic pain issue. Although this isn’t new news to my ears, the face-to-face conversation sculpted the truth deeper into my soul. The hard part is no matter what, I knew I can’t relate. Although my ligaments are beaten and torn, my body is yet to degenerate and continually worsen with each day. At this point, I can only listen and offer my attention and wholehearted love. The harder part is that the pain is so extremely inhibiting and rare that really no one can relate, leaving me feeling helpless to discovering a wider network of professionals to resolve the issue. The overwhelming sadness is all I’m left with at the end of the day, but I fall asleep without the relentless pain…For this, I know I am grateful but I couldn’t help but wonder, how did we end up here? I’m not a kid anymore is all I could think!

During this trip, I am being presented with depressing yet manageable struggles. The heartbreak is harder than the actual conflict. I am filled with abundance for my personal health and huge support network here in Colorado. Being surrounded by wretched deprivation is emotionally exhausting. So how do I continue to support and not run away? How do I bring it all home and still find comfort amidst the struggle? The struggle of existence is heavy…it’s not easy nor does it make sense. It’s not fair, it’s uncomfortable, bold, gut-wrenching, and painful. So we have to find courage to fous on one thing that is breeding success and multiply momentum based on that tiny piece of hope.

Supporting the pain of aging or degeneration from the outside is much different from living the physical pain. I feel helpless in my ability to know what is right or give advice because I am so over my head. Bringing it home is tightening my grip on reality, reminding me that life is precious and despite the minor injuries in my personal life, it could truly always be worse. It is enlightening and humbling — stripping me from my first world perspective by broadening my awareness of all the suffering in the world. And the one thing keeping me from closing my eyes and pretending I am somewhere else is (like always) the deep breaths and warm hugs from my family…bringing it home, hopping up the steps and knocking on my door….

…anyone home?! I cannot hide under the couch! I have to open the blinds, let the sun in and tend to my garden. I have to continue to dust off the dirt, pull the weeds and muster up all the courage possible, despite I have NO idea how to handle this. I don’t think we are ever prepared to watch someone die from age or pain. Love can only go so far before our efforts are exhausted and the power of the process of life prevails. It is easier to run away than stay. I soon will board a plane to go back to my thriving life in San Francisco and soon to be Lake Tahoe. So I have to stay present, love from a distance and accept the harsh circumstances of decay that exist in my family. And not for one moment can I deny that there is still wonderful growth happening amidst the break down. It exists in all families! The yin and the yang. I came to Colorado empowered and confident and I leave naked and defenseless. My heart feels stronger but also a little bigger. I am not a kid anymore, that is all I can think!

One response »

  1. It’s a hell of a shock to confront this stuff. I had that moment last year when I went (from NY to BC) to see my mother, which I did once a year. She was a total mess; she’d been drinking for years but has become someone almost unrecognizable to me. Within three months, she was in the hospital for four months, had several surgeries and is now, at 76, in a nursing home.

    She is my cautionary tale.

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