Only a few Christmas decorations still hang at our house. By this time tomorrow, those few will join the others in storage, and the entry of 2019 will see no remnants of the 2018 winter holiday décor. Visiting family members have returned to their homes, and we are all getting back into our normal routines and comfort zones.
This happens every year – the month of December invigorates me with a combination of deep, quiet reflection and consumption-laden festivities, leaving me with just enough energy in its last days to shut down all the holiday hoopla and pack it away for next year. I have no regrets and make no apologies; I just plan for it to be that way, cuz it happens every year.
This year, however, December brought exceptional challenges and gifts that were life-changing for me. This December, my mother moved from Independent Living into Assisted Living at the retirement community where she has lived for seven years. The physical move from one dwelling into another took the entire month of December; and the emotional, mental, and spiritual transition is still in progress. It’s been a difficult process for all involved in her move, and we find ourselves regaining our balance and bearings, as we heal, adapt, and carry on. We are grateful for endings.
Growing old sucks. Ask any octogenarian (or the child of one), and she will testify to the truth of this statement. My mother, who turned 82 this week, has proclaimed this reality numerous times over the past several years. I don’t blame her, because I believe her. If the suffering that she’s experiencing is anything like watching your parent grow old and increasingly uncomfortable and decreasingly capable, then I will add my own testimony as well. My mother’s aging and her move into Assisted Living have been hard on everyone involved.
Yet, in the struggle, we are discovering our gratitude for the ending of things:
- My (and my siblings’) worries about our mother’s safety and well-being in her Independent Living apartment, alone (i.e., single), with a dog and a dwelling that increasingly overwhelmed her and dragged her down into constant survival mode.
- Our collective agony of waiting for the other shoe to drop, the final event that made it official: “It’s time to move into Assisted Living.”
- Our mother’s departure from her Independent Living space that had become so unmanageable to her that it became – by most everyone’s standards – unlivable.
- The relentless clutter of her too many possessions and too many unnecessary purchases.
- Her illusion of independence, and the battle to maintain that illusion.
- My illusion of savior daughter, and what my constant “I can help you with that” mode cost me, energetically.
- The infliction of our worst behaviors on each other, triggered by the constant duress that endings-in-progress create.
- Our tight grips on what used to be true. In particular, our individual assumptions about whether she will be able to visit my home again (I predict that she won’t.), or that she will see her 83rd birthday (She predicts that she won’t.).
This December was a knothole that we – my mother, my siblings and I, and all at the retirement community who helped with the move – have been pulled through. We’re a little worse for wear, picking the splinters out of our skin. The healing balm of gratitude seeps to the surface from within, and we ease into a long-awaited, well-earned and gradual exhale. It will carry us into a new year, and a new way of being in relationship with each other. And here on the other side of the knothole, we sense it. Here on the other side are new beginnings, awaiting our unburdened selves.
Maybe it wasn’t a knothole we passed through, but a birth canal.
Thank you, Beginnings.