I’ve found life isn’t getting harder, or more challenging, or more difficult than I expect it to be. But it’s getting more difficult in ways different than I expect.
I seem to be able to divide my life today into several parts:
making the same mistakes with the same predictable results; facing the same problems but with new challenges; blazing new, hopefully more productive trails; and dealing with the unimagined, some of it wonderful, some of it sad.
Then there’s always the predictable, of course. My parents are aging; both will turn 80 this year. On my dad’s side of the family, that’s nothing. On my mom’s, it’s a little more meaningful. While today they’re healthy, the reality is, it doesn’t matter what you might reasonably anticipate, they are at an age when death might be unexpected, but you can never truly say it’s shocking.
I don’t worry about them dying, but I’m acutely aware they will someday, and I’m not looking forward to it. From time to time I’m made aware of the possibility that something I never thought of could happen, and one of them would be gone, just like that. I can’t dwell on those thoughts. Awareness it could happen is enough.
My friend Sandy, looking at family history, had no reason to believe her mother would live past her early 70s.
Now her mama is 90, and in reasonably good health, but little by little, her memory is diminishing. Sandy didn’t anticipate facing all the problems of finding care for her mother, who’s become increasingly incapable of caring for herself.
Fortunately, she found a good assisted living residence, and that will greatly take the burden off her shoulders. Believe me, she’s happy to have these problems, thrilled to have her mother with her. When she gets a chance to put it in that perspective. So often, she’s so tired.
She’s also dealing with the declining health of her husband, who’s doing well at this point but could turn at any moment. Or, live for years. That man is stubborn. In the back of my mind (okay, I have said it out loud once or twice) is the thought maybe we should worry a little more about Sandy’s health. She’s almost 70, but you forget it to look at her. If she died, a lot of things would fall apart for her husband and mother. Quickly.
That’s the sort of twist life seems good at turning. We expect her mom to go, we’ve been preparing, mentally, at least, for her husband to leave us, but one day she could just be gone without warning.
Many years ago my then-boyfriend’s childhood friend Dan had a rare form of cancer and was given months to live.
Because of his prognosis, he was asked if he’d be willing to take part in an experimental drug treatment. He did, and it extended his life long enough for another experimental drug program to come along…and then another. Eventually, Dan was cancer-free.
Dan had been prepared to die. He was left instead struggling with how to live, and floundered while adjusting his thinking.
Some days the little things throw me for a loop.
Today I reached over to scratch my cat Mimi behind the ears, and she cowered, terror in her eyes. I had no idea what was wrong. I held out my hand so she could sniff it, but she would have none of it. She walked away and sat five feet from me, staring in apparent deep contemplation.
That was three or four hours ago. Just now I got up from my desk and walked over to her, and she was fine. I have no idea what was wrong before, and I likely never will know. It upsets me. It’s never happened before.
If my cat is terrified of something, that’s not a little thing. Certainly not to her, therefore not to me.
I didn’t expect my life to be the way it is today,
and sometimes I’m at a loss with how to deal with the sense of sadness that surrounds me when I think of what I did expect and did want from life. Those moments don’t last, however, or dominate my thinking.
I’m proud of the skills I’ve developed in dealing with the pain and sorrow I’ve felt over the years, in the unexpected as well as absolutely foreseeable events that have transpired.
So now I’m going to cuddle with my cat. If she’ll let me.