The Problem Of Isolation

Isolation is an interesting word. To isolate someone or something is to set apart from others, or to place alone. It is akin to the word solitude, but it carries the idea of something that is done, not chosen.

I am sitting here tonight in my suburban home. It is a nice small ranch style house on a quiet street. I know my neighbors and speak to some of them regularly. But I am sitting here tonight isolated from my neighbors as they live their lives and I live mine. Tomorrow morning I will drive to work in my SUV all alone. The roads will be full of other vehicles, but most of them will be occupied by only one person. Isolation according to some studies is epidemic in America.  Loneliness that is not limited to isolation but not helped by it either is a huge problem in our communities.

Some of this is due to social engineering and fads of social scientists from years ago. So we cannot just blame people for living isolated lives, since this is the world that we were given. But it does not lessen the impact of isolated living on our psyches.

What is the answer? Marriage alone is not a cure-all. You can be isolated as a couple as easily as by yourself. Keeping your kids at home forever? That is wrong on so many levels. Church is fine until you see all the married couples and young people who are all around you and not interacting with you. I often leave church fed spiritually but drained emotionally.

I doubt there is a one size fits all solution to this problem. But community will be at the center of any legitimate solution. Not driverless cars or electric cars or urban sprawl, but communities where we interact with people from all backgrounds, even some we may butt heads with. There will be bumps and scrapes and bruises, but in the end it will be community.

The God Factor

I have written before that church people can be some of the most well-meaning but hurtful people when it comes to grieving. Like Job’s friends, they think they have the answer, and they are so wrong that God has to step in to fix their mess.

If everything happens according to God’s plan, then it was God’s will that Kathy died. Do you see the problem with that statement? God is so wise and so kind that he took my dear wife from me robbing me of her company through the best times of our lives together. Or is it that I am such a dope that I cannot see the wisdom in the Divine plan? Or is God so just that He does what He does regardless of how it will affect us?

I am not a theologian, but I am a Christian, and I have settled Kathy’s death in my own heart. But when I hear church people talk so glibly about God did this and God said that and God is active in every microscopic detail of every person’s life on Earth I cringe. That means God is involved in everyone elses life but mine.

I have no answer to this dilemma. But if you love Jesus and if you love me please do not insult me or hurt me with talk of a God who is there to help (except when I really need Him).

I Am Grateful

It is a beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning where I live. No work today, nothing pressing to do. So I got myself another cup of coffee and thought it would be a good time to jot down a few thoughts.

I am grateful that grief does not last forever. I see cars with messages on the back in memory of a dead loved one. One I saw this week said my eyes will never stop running with tears. Mine have stopped. It is not necessary or helpful to grieve perpetually. Life has moved on, and the dead person doesn’t care. Sorry but that is the truth.

I am grateful that I do not have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. There was a time when that was necessary. But not now. I am not rich, but I have enough.

I took a week off from working out this past week. I was tired. Usually that is no excuse. But this week it was. I will be back on track starting Monday.

If the American Dream is having your children be better off than me, than I am seeing the American Dream for my two children. They are both prospering, buying nice homes, and living much higher up the food chain than I ever have. I am grateful for them.

I am grateful that I am not an obsessive house cleaner. I keep my house clean. When something starts to bother me I clean it. But I do not fret or stress over dust or dirt.

I am glad that as I adjust to the new normal of my post grief life, things are becoming clearer. I do things that please me, and I avoid doing things that displease me. My desires have changed, my appetites have changed. I am not driven to succeed. I am not addicted to pleasure or exercise. I am happy just living my hum drum life and enjoying life as it is, not as someone thinks it should be. Should is a four letter word to me.

I am grateful for a sound mind, a peaceful spirit, reasonably good health, and a bright future. And I am grateful for you who read my blog and take time to respond.

God bless you and make His face to shine upon you today and every day.

My Juggling Act

As I get older I more and more find myself in a juggling act. A part of me wants to retire and step aside so the next generation can take us all forward. But another part of me says, hey, I’m not dead yet. Don’t count me out.

It is harder to retire than I thought it would be. I thought you just quit working and do something else. But most of the retired people I talk to either have a new job or they talk about what they used to do. Old people who talk endlessly about what they did when they were young. Successful people who talk about their careers and their contributions.

The problem with past successes is that you may find that the world has moved on and your success doesn’t even matter anymore. The problem with living out our youthful past again is it makes us look pathetic. This is an unwinnable exercise.

So back to my juggling act. I still work full-time, though this may be the last full time job I ever work. And I have no big plans for my next career. But I have learned a few things in life that may be of some value to someone if only we could connect.

So don’t look for me at the adult day care any time soon. I won’t be active in the senior center next year. I may travel to your part of the world and would love to meet you. But no matter what I do, I will not live my life looking in the rear view mirror.

The Untethered Life

Are you old enough to remember the time before mobile phones? Before cell phones? Before technology created the strange 24/7 connected life we live now? I do. For decades the only phone was the one hanging on the wall in the kitchen. If it rang when you were home you answered it. If it rang when you were not home it rang until the caller hung up. No answering machines or caller id or anything. This worked fine for me my whole life. Until cell phones came along.

I won’t go into the evolution of mobile phones. But now with my iPhone I can not only be connected through calls or texting, but I can access the internet from anywhere. It’s cheap and easy and it is a great tool until you begin to feel like a slave to your phone. Have you ever lost or forgotten to take your phone with you? Did you panic?

This morning as I was getting ready to go to church I had an idea. I left my phone at home. I went to church, and the only thing I missed was the time. But hey, it’s the Lord’s day, so let Him take as much time as He needs. Looking at a clock never made time speed up. Never.

So starting today I am untethered from my phone on the weekends. No work calls, and only answer calls or texts when I am at home. Some people put their phone on airplane mode on the weekends. I still need to have a phone, just not all the time. And not at church.

Life As It Is Today

It has been a long, busy week. I have things that need to be done around the house today but they can wait a little while longer. I just finished my Dutch Brothers coffee so I’m ready to write a little.

I have two friends who are also widowers and who have remarried. Both Dennis and Charlie were widowed 7 years before the remarried and they seem to be happy in their new relationships. I thought about that 7 year number. Is it coincidence, or is there something to that? I don’t know, but I am studying it more.

I had hoped that I could beat the rap or bypass the process, but as it looks at this point in my life I still have 4 more years before I can even hope to enter a new relationship. It is so easy to write 7 years, but you still have to live those years. There are times when 7 years sounds like forever.

One thing I did discover is that I need to stop beating myself up over not having a girlfriend. That female companionship may be in my future, but just like in gambling, if you are desperate, you will lose.

I know I am not alone in my unwanted singleness. But it is my singleness that I have to deal with every day, not everyone elses. I wish I could settle this issue one way or another and move on to bigger and better things. Fretting over my status is a distraction and it keeps me from enjoying life as it is.

No matter what, today I am single. Tomorrow I will still be single. There are no prospects in my little world. So instead of worrying about what I cannot change, I will focus on life as it is today.

Still Single

Since my wife died I have been going through relationship withdrawals. From 40 years of marriage to being newly single. But I have worked through it and had begun to like the idea of being a single guy.

Until this week. All week I have been troubled by a nagging need for female companionship. Darn it, why did that come up? So since we were having a big church event this week I thought this might be a good time to test the waters a little. But here it is, Friday night, and I’m still alone and no closer to having a female friend than I was when I was still married.

I know that women I have known for a long time may have a hard time thinking of me as being single. But other women who don’t know me don’t know my history. But the myth that you will see someone across a crowded room and it will be love at first sight  sure didn’t happen to me.

This is part of the roller coaster ride of grief. Mixed up emotions and unstable and untrustworthy feelings. And all of that one flesh stuff means that there is still a lot of Kathy clinging to me. I thought I could beat the 7 year mark for remarriage. But maybe not.

Feeling Guilty About Feeling Better

One of the strange things about the grief process is when you finally start to feel better and you find you feel guilty about that feeling. You yearn for peace and happiness but when it comes you find a nagging voice in your head telling you it is wrong to feel good when the person you loved has died. I find that when this voice talks to me it uses that awful word should.

You hear a voice whisper in your ear, it is wrong for you to enjoy life. You should be grieving. You have no right not to continue to grieve. How dare you be happy!

You hear a voice chanting in your ear, You should feel good about feeling bad. Don’t you love them? You should show you love them by perpetual mourning.

A word of warning. Whenever you hear a voice in your ear telling you what you should do or how you should feel, tell the Devil to leave. You did your duty, you showed your love by your grief. You did all you could do, and no more can be done. Till death do us part has happened, your obligation to that person ended when they died.

Finally, a day will come when you will little by little feel better. It will be light the sun shining after a bitter storm. It may surprise you. But in the future you will find life as you now are full of surprises.

Moving Forward Through Grief

Moving forward is the ultimate goal of grieving. Grief is not our permanent place of living or our new normal. Grief is something we experience, something we cannot avoid, but it is temporary. I copied some thoughts from the Griefshare daily emails I get and thought they may be some benefit to you as well. The subject is Moving Forward through grief.

Moving forward does not mean …
you forget the person.
you never feel the pain of your loss.
you believe that life is fair.
Moving forward does mean …
you experience a lessening of the pain.
you can treasure your best memories of the person who has died.
you can realistically accept the different aspects of your loss.
you can form new relationships, try new things.

There is more that could be said. But if you need a little push to get unstuck, this may just be enough. I can testify that there is life after grief.

 

Gratitude

It’s a warm summer day where I live. I am just taking it easy today, doing some household chores. Later once it cools off I will go get some groceries.

I kept a gratitude journal for a while, trying to reset my thinking from complaining to being grateful. But as you can see from my opening statement, I live a pretty boring life. As I looked back on what I had written I noticed that a pattern had developed. I was grateful for the same things over and over. I remembered the circumstances for some of the things I had written. But mostly it was the same things day after day.

I suppose I am no different from most people. Life is not one thrill after another. At least not for long. Even a roller coaster ride gets boring if you do it often enough. So I thought, why go through the exercise of writing three things I am grateful for if I have already written those things down many times before?

I am grateful to have a sound mind, a reasonably healthy body, and peace. I am grateful for joy when it happens, for friends, and for wisdom to make good decisions. I am grateful for those who read my blog and who share their blogs with me. And I am grateful that the monsoon rains have started falling here in Arizona. It may be a dry heat, but it still gets hot.