Quality Of Life

One of my many sources of guilt since my mother’s stroke revolves around my decision to move to Florida.  If I had stayed in California, obviously, my mother would also have stayed.  It isn’t that I think that she wouldn’t have had the stroke if we had stayed in California.  It is just that she had a much more active, independent life when she lived in California.  She drove.  She ruled the docent world at the local reservoir like Glinda the Good Witch ruled Oz.  She had friends.  She worked full time for the school district during the summers. She had my brother living close by.  I hate to think that my mother sacrificed what was to be her last relatively healthy year and a half of life to make sure I didn’t postpone creating the life I wanted in my retirement. 

My original plan was to stay in California while my mother was still alive.  I know my mother had no burning desire to move to Florida.  I know she chose to embrace the move so that I would not put my life on hold.  The irony is that neither one of us wanted the other to sacrifice.  I guess that is a sign of a loving relationship, but it doesn’t preclude pain or guilt. 

Of course, I struggled with the guilt born of the decision to move long before my mother had the stroke.  I’ve argued to myself that my mother is a grown woman and she was the one who made the decision.  I’ve tried to provide as much care, company, entertainment, and love as I could to compensate for the amusements and activities she left behind.  I’ve acknowledged that there are many practical ways that her life improved when she moved to Florida. 

If anything, these months since the stroke have shown the wisdom of the decision to move.  If I had stayed in California, I would have been living over 150 miles round trip from my mother.  Here in Florida, I was only 15 miles from her mobile home before the stroke and I am only 7 miles from the long-term care facility now.  I don’t think I would have been able to do as much for her as I do now if we had stayed in California. That would have been a huge loss to both of us.   

All that aside, I still wrestle with the guilt.  It is always hard to know what the best answer would have been, even with the benefit of hindsight. 

The other day, I was responding to an email from one of my mom’s California friends.  I mentioned that I hoped that the benefits I provided in Florida compensated for the life my mom gave up in California.  The friend replied with a reassuring message about how my mother had always talked about all the fun things we did in Florida.  I decided to use that email as a starting point for a conversation with my mom.  I read an edited version of the email from her friend.  I said to my mom that I hoped she truly had enjoyed the activities and adventures we had together in our new home.  She looked a bit bewildered, so I continued.  I said that I sometimes wondered if I did the right thing moving to Florida because I worried that she gave up so much to move with me.  A light went on behind her eyes and she sputtered, “no, no, no.”  I forged ahead.  Looking around at the nursing home room, I said, “This is no one’s idea of fun, I know….”  She cut me off, insisting, “no, but HAPPY, HAPPY.” 

I think my mother’s cognitive and communicative abilities are no longer anywhere near sophisticated enough for her to try to say the “right thing.”  I have to assume she was genuine in telling me what she really feels.   

It was a gift. It was especially a gift in that my mother could not have that same conversation today, just a few weeks later.  The decline is so gradual and so ephemeral I don’t often realize it as it happens.  However, when I compare her condition today to what it was a few weeks ago or even a few days ago, I see the disintegration.  This ooze down the horribly rough road is so difficult to watch, it is hard for me to understand the “happy” response.  She is so frail and weak and disconnected, I don’t know how she can be happy. Her life has become so small and limited, there doesn’t seem much left that could inspire happiness for most of us.   On the other hand, my mother has always had a talent for happiness.   

Maybe, when you boil happiness down to its very essence, loving and being loved can be enough to generate joy.

What does “quality of life” mean to you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Enjoy the quality of your life today!

Terri

 

Trapped Inside My Own Mind

The other day, I left the house exclaiming, “I hate this house.  I just want to sell it and move.”

After the saga of the sod and related lawn issues, the demise of the clothes washer, and the snake incident which also prompted spending a lot of money getting the garage door refurbished and rebalanced, I was about at the end of my tether.  I was on my way out to go pick up a prescription and eat a well-deserved bagel.  I pushed my garage door opener button to close the garage as I pulled out of the driveway and the garage door started to do the hokey-pokey.  It was spontaneously closing partway and then reopening, over and over again.  In retrospect, it may have been user error.  Perhaps my blood sugar was low or my finger was just stuttering.  At any rate, I was done in by this garage door malfunction.  I yelled for Max and he was not able to get the door to work properly either.  There was either something wrong with the door opener or I had just given it a case of terminal confusion with my manic button-pushing. This was early afternoon on Friday. I called the garage door company, thinking they could maybe give us a hint of what to do, since they had just been out THE DAY BEFORE to finish the $1500 refurbishing job to protect us from garter snakes.  The “assistor” told me he could not give me any advice and scheduled a technician to come out on Monday morning…. Approximately 70 hours later. 

I explained that I was not happy about it, but would certainly like to see the technician as early as possible on Monday.  I also left pretty explicit feedback when I received the rather ill-timed email asking me to take a customer satisfaction survey immediately after I hung up with my oh-so-unassisting assistor. 

We closed the garage door manually to prevent unwanted reptilian callers (or should I say “crawlers?”)  Max could tell I was getting unhinged, so he sent me off to get my drugs and bagel.  As I left, in my moment of despair and defeat, I exclaimed, “I hate this house.  I just want to sell it and move.”

To be clear, I don’t really hate my house.  In fact, I love my little house and I quite enjoy living in it.  So, what prompted this temper tantrum?

I think the problem is really that the past year has been filled with so much change, both positive and negative, that the cumulative stress has been building up inside me, whispering, “Feeling this discombobulated can’t be good…. Moving was a huge mistake.”  Verbalizing the sentiment was actually a relief.

The concept has been lurking around in my brain for a few months now, but I have been pushing the whisper away whenever it got too close to the top of my brain. I was terrified that, if I allowed myself to entertain the notion that moving was a mistake, I would have to do something about it.  Now that I had actually uttered the words, “I just want to sell it and move,” the cat was out of the bag.  When nothing tragic happened when I said the words, it somehow felt safer to let myself analyze the possibility of changing course.

As I munched my bagel, I felt the carbohydrates surge through my bloodstream.  I began researching costs for buying a condo in a smaller town in my old state or in another town in the new state.  I also researched renting.  No matter how I looked at it, the economics of moving were horrible.  Even considering all the unexpected money I was spending, moving would be a bad financial decision.  At the conclusion of my analysis, I muttered, “great, I’m trapped.” 

Then, another thought struck me.  Maybe the research wasn’t telling me that I was trapped in a bad decision.  Maybe it was actually supporting the fact that the initial move across country was a good financial decision.  Maybe if I felt trapped, I was simply trapped inside my own mind.  Yes, my new living situation has not been perfect. I do miss elements of my old home.  My psyche is fairly scrambled by the amount of stress and change I’ve experienced in the last year.   That’s all okay, though. It doesn’t mean that the decision to move was a mistake.  I did not expect all the costs and annoyances associated with my new home, but that is pretty typical of new homeowners.  Also, I have been able to afford them and my financial situation is still much better than if I had remained in my old state.  As to the other elements of my old home that I miss, distance does lend some enchantment to the view.  There are things I miss, but there were also things I hated that I just don’t think about any more. Planes do fly both east and west.  I can take one of those planes west to see the friends I miss and eat a decent pizza.   As to my scrambled psyche, maybe I just need to cut myself some slack and acknowledge that it needs some tender loving care.

When I arrived back home, Max was triumphant.  He had the garage door working.  I was skeptical, but everything operated properly throughout the whole weekend.  When the technician called on Sunday night, I explained what happened and we agreed he did not need to come out the next day. 

Things won’t be perfect, no matter where you live, but you can usually create a pretty happy life.  Especially if you maintain some perspective, let the people who love you help overcome the challenges, and eat a bagel now and again. 

So what do you think?  Have you ever struggled with whether a decision you made was the right choice?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂