Today I am having trouble writing. I’m driven to write but it can be haunting and exhausting. Sometimes I don’t want to write or know what to write but I always feel that I need to.
There’s an evolution of thought and perspective as life changes and I see the past as a kaleidoscope that continues to bring new meaning, an on-going alchemy that changes me even now. My father died of Alzheimer’s 10 years ago and yet the effect continues to be as alive as I am today.
Coping with a loss is like kneading dough. As you push and pull on it, stretching it in different directions, the form it takes may surprise you. But if you let it, dealing with a loss like this can be an enriching experience. If we don’t knead the dough, it becomes a floury paste that’s good for nothing and we must start over, as if this powerful experience of caring for a loved one never even happened.
My reason for writing is not money. I do it to explore, connect and share experiences that have made an extraordinary difference in my life—a practice I believe everyone should embrace as one of life’s treasures. Writing shouldn’t be reserved for those who do it publicly; we should all write as an exercise in self-reflection. This self-reflection can help us understand why we’re here.
I’m not special or different than you. I’m just trying to pay attention to the knock at the door, the sign posts, the faint light showing the way to life’s meaning. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to understand that or to act upon it.
As I age, I’m driven to understand more than I used to. Living longer gives us more experiences and more time not only to reflect upon these experiences, but to also exercise the privilege of responding to these experiences.
In terms of the caregiving experience, our generation could make a pivotal difference, providing perspective to the younger generations who are so preoccupied with “me, me, me.” How we respond to the challenge of caregiving could change their lives. By interpreting the caregiving experience as an opportunity—and not as an obligation—we can teach our children how to value us as we become more dependent upon them. We can show them what we mean to each other in this life as human beings.
Life is always about how you view what happens and how you respond. Those of us over 60 are not the disposable generation; we’re not just those who are inconveniently living too long. We’re the generation that can right the world at a time when humanity is being squandered on reality shows that sadly demonstrate our disappearing values.
We don’t have to become more irrelevant as we age; instead, let’s lead the way. As our aging parents require more and more of our care, a pivotal opportunity is knocking. Let’s become an agent of change that moves the next generation closer to compassion, kindness and to finding their own humanity.
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