In our youth, we have no perspective of the value of our lives and the time we are given. We often think there is always time for this or that or the other thing we’ve been putting off –whether it is a project, a travel opportunity, or a big decision.
After my trip to sort out my mother’s house for palliative care due to her condition (Dementia with Lewy Bodies – LBD), I found myself thinking back on her life and her choices – feeling wholly saddened by it all.
Back in the day, I used to be angry about it. A witness to her living in a protective cocoon completely dependent on her parents after the divorce. It was simply irritating to me, wondering how a person can give up on life so completely.
She married at a very young age (17). I was under the belief throughout my childhood that she was younger (16) and did not graduate High School. Though, recently I found that she had graduated High School. I had found her diploma and commencement program.
When she married in 1960, I believe she and Dad moved around a lot due to his military service. Ultimately ending up in Munich where my sister and I were born.
Some stories from Aunts and Uncles confirmed there was love between them early in their marriage. My mother indicated their marriage was abusive and she was the victim of the abuse. Although there were rumors that my Dad suspected she was seeing someone else and they fought a lot over fidelity issues. I’ll never know for certain now as Dad is long since passed and Mom’s memories are fading or nearly broken.
Her life post-divorce was under the roof of her parents where she swore off men altogether and berated the very idea of the pursuit of a relationship or self sufficiency. She was entirely jealous of my father and often made us feel very guilty for speaking with him; let alone seeing him.
She held only four jobs in her life and did not learn to drive a car until her mid-thirties. Strangely, Dad did not drive much at all either. However, he lived in the city where driving wasn’t a necessity.
She had a fear of stepping out of her comfort zone, so learning to drive and getting her license was a huge deal.
Her parents were the ones who stepped in to parent when she retreated. Her mother was the one pushing ever so gently to keep her employed– going so far as to enroll into cosmetology school with her to ensure she finished and ultimately gained employment.
How did I get from anger to sadness after all this time? The symptoms of this disease and imagining all that she had the potential to do at age 74 had she not had the disease. That’s what did it.
We were looking through photographs of her time in Munich one evening and she commented how she would like to travel there again but then her voice trailed off to a whisper of defeat, “I guess I can’t now, because…”
She never finished that sentence. I knew what she meant. Because of this disease, she lost any opportunity to be travel worthy and nothing would be the same in terms of her ability to enjoy the trip – savoring the scenes, the food, the music. She could barely walk without falling. Eating was more of a challenge now and as a result, she would never finish a meal. She would just give up.
My heart breaks for her now in this stage of the disease; for all her ancestors who escaped this could travel at her age and enjoy the sunset of their lives with new memories and adventures. For my mother, every minute is like a grain of sand slipping to the bottom of an hourglass of loss.
I remember in my youth admiring the mothers of my friends. They worked, they went out and socialized, they were not paralyzed by their past failures. By comparison, my mother’s stubbornness to “get out there” and “live life to her fullest potential” was embarrassing and frustrating. When she did get out there, somehow it would end in a drama that resulted in a burnt bridge and her resolution to never try again.
Does that last bit sound familiar?
Did you know she painted? She drew? She was quite good at it and yet never pursued it seriously. Now, she cannot hold a pen to write her own name.
I know introversion runs deep, but even the most introverted pursue their passions and don’t give up on living life on their terms.
And yes, she processed a deeply damaging blow to her self esteem due to the divorce something which could have been worked out through therapy.
To further address future arguments that everyone dies of something somehow. It is where I offer the following:
Everyone does dies of something, somehow and at some time. It could be any time (today, tomorrow, 60 years from now) Should one assume they have time for all the things and experiences when they truly don’t?
What holds you back from
- trying new foods?
- saying “Yes” to new experiences?
- going someplace you’ve never been?
- making new friends?
- learning new skills?
- providing for yourself?
If the answer is based out of fear, past failures, or stubbornness; ask yourself why you are wasting the precious time you have in this life, holding yourself back from having the best life experience filled with joy, grand memories and lovely people who will enrich you.
I cannot promise you that you will not get LBD, or Alzheimers, or Coronary Heart Disease, or Clinical Depression, Diabetes. Nor can I predict you will get any of these. You may escape them all and live to be 100+ years of age like your two times great cousin Grace.
I simply want you to take calculated risks, get out there and never waste a minute of your life. Do not cheat yourself of opportunities when they present themselves.