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.

Dad, me, Beth

My Dad, me and my sister

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.
Mimi looking out the window

Mimi looking out the window

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.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: (Winding Path) © PetarPaunchev — Fotolia
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26 Comments on “Different than I Expected

  1. I very much felt your anticipation of challenges ahead. I cared for both my parents and had much of the same feelings about losing them. Even though that kind of loss is “expected,” it’s still hard. Loss is hard. It does heighten appreciation for things but that uncertainty can cast a cloud.
    This reminds me of a wonderful friend who supported me with my blogging. She worried a lot about me and told me she was learning a lot from my experience, which she felt would help her in dealing with her elderly mom. A few years later, I was deeply shocked to discover in reading a newspaper obituary that she had died of breast cancer. She never told me she was ill. She died at age 64 and her mother is alive at the age of 94. I miss her so much and it sure was a twist that I didn’t expect.
    I believe “saying goodbye” is hard, whether it’s a long goodbye or without one. Both have their unique challenges. I guess what also comes to mind is the “new arrivals” in our life that help us cope.
    Thank you for sharing your honest feelings. It’s great that you can write them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of when I wrote this post. I’m sure losing a child was something you never anticipated either, and that loss is greater than most of us can imagine — or want to think about. I appreciate your honesty and openness in your writing and music about all you’ve experienced.

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  2. Mimi’s got a great mom! (My cat every once in a great while would do the same thing. No explanation. Cats are people too…we all have our moments). Life…time…they certainly never stop moving ahead whether we want them to or not. Our plans often doesn’t go as planned so we – as you note – have to adjust accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always, the honesty and the way your write your anecdotes are both engaging and educating. I can feel the fear, as well as the surprises brought by life’s ironies. Great piece, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the post, Belinda. I have to say that you explained life in a way that I can appreciate, especially as I get older. My mother died in January of 2014. We had the challenge of two years of dialysis and relapse several times, as well as the rehabilitation that only seemed to last briefly. Hence, the cause of the relapse. Both my parents were diagnosed with diabetes and my mother followed the medical protocol and father did not. We thought he would go first but did not. One of my sisters was able to be her caregiver until she left. However, my father (stubborn, you say) is now in a home. I believe my sister couldn’t do it twice. She was the only one of us single without children. Life and it’s unexpected twists and turns as well as those we see coming. Very well done and thanks for posting. Cause us to take a pause, it does.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perfect example of what I’m writing about here! Thank you for sharing, and bless your sister for her care with your mother. You’re right, doing it twice would have been too much, I think.

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  5. I can relate to many of the feelings you mentioned; I suppose it has to do with reaching middle-age, among other things. When we’re children we form these expectations and often life turns out very differently. In some ways better, but sometimes not. I guess we have to let go of those past ideas of how things “should be” and recognize the beauty in life as it is. I’ve begun listening to Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddist monk, and find his words very comforting. Writing about our thoughts/feelings, as we know, is another great way to understand ourselves better and live with more peace and contentment.

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  6. Mimi is a cutie😍
    Yes, we all face the same thoughts at some point in our life but we have to replace the thinking with God has a plan and His own timing🙂 The devil wants to cause us to fear the unknown but we trust that God will bring us through whatever He brings us to👀 And our loved ones and friends that go to heaven before us, just get ahead of us and what we all are striving for in this life! God bless you and enjoy your time now with them And love on your Mimi😍❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all the kind thoughts! Yes, trusting in God is by far the greatest thing we can do in times of doubt. And loving on our pets is a good second :).

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  7. Pingback: Different than I Expected

  8. Don’t think anyone looks forward for the day that a parent will pass….
    Need to evaluate why the cat was terrified, perhaps a spirit was intruding on you; animals are sensitive to pick up on it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Something to consider. I appreciate your thoughts, I hadn’t heard that before — about the spirit intruding my cat. You’re certainly right about no one looking forward to losing their parents. It’s a painful prospect. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the time you’ve taken and the thoughts you’ve shared!

      Liked by 1 person

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